He was tall, lean, and young. When he approached me, he hugged me. Then, his mother hugged us both. A three-person club sandwich.

He must’ve been a foot taller than I was. His voice squeaked with adolescence. His skin was freckled. He had a long neck.

He recognized me.

“I liked your books, sir,” he said, through a nervous stutter.

Sir? No way. Such titles are reserved for men who wear penny loafers when fishing.

“I read them all when I was in the hospital,” the boy went on. “I kinda got to know you, and it was like we were friends.”

His mother tells me his story. It’s a long one, and it’s not mine to repeat. He has the determination of a saint and a long road ahead of him. He suffers more than other kids his age. And he might not survive his struggle.

Before he walked away, he told me something. Something that stuck with me.

“You know what I do when I’m down?” he said. “I list ten things I love every day. I write’em on paper. My dad told me to do that.”

He tapped his finger against his head. “Gotta keep on thinking ‘bout things I love.”

I was mute. I couldn’t seem to find words. I noticed a large moon-shaped scar beneath his hairline. I tried to say something, anything, but I just smiled like an idiot.

He hugged me one more time. His mother took his arm, they walked away. The boy walked with a pronounced limp, holding his mother for balance. And I can’t quit thinking about him.

On the off-chance that he is reading this, I’ve come up with a few things I love:

1. I love Mexican food. In fact, I have had a lifelong love affair with it. A Mexican man I used to work with with used to make a dish called “chilaquiles verdes.” Before work, he would fry corn tortillas and scrambled eggs, then crumble enough cotija cheese on top to short-circuit U.S. Congress. This heap of food would be served, covered in green sauce his wife made.

2. I love sweat. I know that sounds bizarre, but if I go too many days without breaking a sweat, I feel like I am not quite human. Yes, this creates more laundry for my wife. Yes, my wife threatens to string me up by my tongue if I change my shirt one more time. But I like sweating.

Once I was in Phoenix, Arizona, on business. A land where sweat evaporates before it accumulates. I didn’t have a good sweat for two weeks. Five minutes in the sun, your skin burns. Ten minutes; you’re Lot’s wife.

3. Stray dogs. Sometimes I go to animal shelters just to visit them. There is an extra special place in my heart for elderly dogs who live in shelters.

4. I like old movies. I don’t go for new movies. I don’t like special effects, blood, realistic explosions, or music that sounds like two chainsaws having a cussing match. I enjoy Bogart, Hepburn, John Wayne, Shirley Temple, Randolph Scott, Don Knotts, etc.

5. Cheese.

6. Hank Williams. Don Williams. Willie Nelson.

7. Old books that smell like dust and history. I like to hold them in my hand.

8. Love stories. I got an email yesterday from an old friend of mine. He got married to his high-school sweetheart after thirty years of beating around the bush.

9. Old folks. Last week, I met a woman who was one hundred years old. I hugged her neck. She was sipping a glass of wine with dinner. I asked her what the secret to a long life was.

She answered, “Just try not to quit breathing.” Then she had a coughing fit.

10. You. You might not know this, but I think about you a lot. I know we don’t know each other, but that’s inconsequential—and may I point out, that was a five-syllable word I just used.

We’re probably not that different. Maybe we’re even alike. Maybe sometimes you worry too much. Or sometimes you get so swallowed up with tiny things in life, you wonder if you’re going to make it. Sometimes you wish you had answers.

Lord knows, I don’t have any. But what I DO know:

I know that a wise young man is reading this right now. A tall kid, who told me he is grateful to be alive, no matter how brief his life may be. A kid who told me that every so often, he makes a list on paper, like the one you just read. A list of good things, to remind him of how much he loves breathing.

I wrote this for him.

If for no other reason, to tell him that his name is at the top of another very important list I have going.


  1. grantburris - October 27, 2019 7:06 am

    That was a good one, Sean. I know, the others were good too. This one really touched me. Thank you.
    Sincerely, Grant

  2. Carolyn from Georgia - October 27, 2019 7:30 am

    PRAYERS for your new friend!! The list is a great idea!! ♡♡♡

  3. Connie Havard Ryland - October 27, 2019 9:48 am

    God bless your new young friend. He’s on tons of new prayer lists this morning. And God bless you, for the love and empathy and the warmth of your heart. You have touched so many people with your kindness. Love and hugs.

  4. Joretta parker - October 27, 2019 10:58 am

    This really touched my heart this morning. I’m saying a prayer for this youmg man. Thank you for being such a kind man.

  5. Peggy Savage - October 27, 2019 11:33 am

    Thank you for sharing this young man’s story. Praying for the entire family.

  6. Sharon Allemang - October 27, 2019 12:13 pm

    One of the best ones you have written!! Brought me to tears! Thanx..

  7. Susan Kennedy - October 27, 2019 12:27 pm

    Thank you for this. Just precious.

  8. Luna Prestwood - October 27, 2019 12:44 pm

    Sometimes your writing just takes my breath away, this was one of those times.
    Your mother did a good job, I’m 80 years old and I should know.

  9. Steve - October 27, 2019 1:05 pm

    I’m a lot like like this kid too; and know exactly what you mean by “another very important list I have going”. I have one as well.

  10. Dave Wilson - October 27, 2019 1:09 pm

    Sean, you are the best!

  11. Keloth Anne - October 27, 2019 1:19 pm

    This was wonderful—what a blessing this young man is!! I have a “blessings jar” and everyday place one blessing from the day. At the end of the year I read each blessing—it truly makes me aware of all the things that were good in my life. Oh we could learn so much from this amazing young man. And hope you know what a blessing YOU are♥️♥️
    Thank you for another great writing ♥️

  12. Jeanette - October 27, 2019 1:52 pm

    Beautiful story and I too will keep this young man in my prayers. Loved your list and perhaps I too will make mine. Lots to be grateful for.

  13. Shelly Sherman (@shellart415) - October 27, 2019 2:32 pm

    Seriously touched by this… thank you and I’ve got that young man one of my lists as well.

  14. Amelia Chatham - October 27, 2019 2:43 pm

    What a wonderful young man, you are in my thoughts and prayers.

  15. Lita - October 27, 2019 3:03 pm

    Beautiful. I’m crying. <3

  16. amurphy2320@gmail.com - October 27, 2019 3:05 pm

    Wow, You are an Awesome, Thoughtful person. This entire story… The boy, the List, the ending, really touched me. Smiling..😊

  17. Marge Hutsell - October 27, 2019 3:09 pm

    Your words touch my heart every day! I pray this special young man will know the ripples of gratitude for our daily life, began with his daily list☺️

  18. Dee - October 27, 2019 3:30 pm

    One of your great gifts is that you inspire me to write. If I am ever stuck for a blog idea I just read your excellent blogs! You inspired me this morning: https://deescribbler.typepad.com/my_weblog/2019/10/what-do-you-love.html

  19. Linda Moon - October 27, 2019 4:25 pm

    To the Good Boy: I love that you list things you love, even though I don’t know what’s on the list. I love to think ’bout things I love, too. I also like your list, Sean, except for the sweat. I’m not as old as the 100-year-old woman, but I’m still breathing after a 14-year-long battle with cancers. I learned just yesterday that one of my daughter’s friends has a young daughter who was recently diagnosed with cancer. I don’t know the story of the boy’s illness, but I know he’s struggling. Sean, thank you for writing “GOOD” for the boy. Keep him on your important lists, and I’ll add him to one of mine.

  20. Kathy White - October 27, 2019 4:41 pm

    Dee, I clicked on your link and read your blog. Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing with Sean’s readers and fans. The content of Sean’s post was so touching. Just think; because Sean shared this young man’s journey with his readers, so many people have put this young man on their prayer list. A needed reminder of how precious each day of life is and to take the time to think and write about the 10 things you love everyday. Thank you for sharing Dee.

  21. Shelton A. - October 27, 2019 4:43 pm

    Great one …very moving and very consequential.

  22. jstephenw - October 27, 2019 7:52 pm

    Once again Sean, you hit the mark. Beautifully written and so moving. Thanks to you and the young man. I am already working on my list.

  23. Pat - October 27, 2019 9:14 pm

    This is a treasure! Thank you….and I think we all should look for 10 things each day to love and to be thankful for!

  24. Wanda in Alabama - October 27, 2019 11:07 pm

    I just said a prayer for the tall skinny young man, and I will say many more. I don’t know his name or his situation, but God does. Thank you for sharing. I love the idea of writing down 10 things I love. I am making my list right now and hopefully will continue to do this each day. “Count your blessings, name them one by one.”

  25. An. - October 27, 2019 11:57 pm

    My BIL sent me one of your posts several years ago and I was hooked with the first reading. You’re a philosopher ala Mark Twain. All your writings are poignant, wise learning experiences, full of the secrets of living a caring life.
    I taught English for thirty years. If you had been my kid, I would’ve been so proud of you!
    As a fellow human, I thank you for all you’ve done to make the world a better place!
    Oh! The power of words!

  26. LaVera Seymour - October 28, 2019 12:15 am

    Perious! 🤗

  27. Janice - October 28, 2019 1:01 pm

    I don’t remember how I found you, but so glad I did. Since I’m a new reader, don’t know about your prior writings, but I don’t see how you can ever top this one! Janice

  28. Tim Koehler - October 28, 2019 2:57 pm

    As a 54 year old man, I’m not prone to crying over too many things. The exception is when I look at my young children at night when they are asleep, sometimes wishing I would’ve had them sooner in life, but those are tears of joy. This one brought some big tears to my eyes and I’m not exactly sure why, definitely for the boy, maybe for the elderly dogs in the shelter or for the “old folks”, or just for the way you ended this one. Whatever the case, thank you for writing these every day. I don’t always like every column, but the ones I do like, I like more than anything I will read that day and that means they are something special. Thank you Sean!

  29. Judy Cobern - October 28, 2019 7:43 pm

    Love to read your blog… It always makes me feel! (either good, or sad or happy or glad)..The important thing is to Feel.. It connects a person to the world around us

  30. Gail Jordan - October 29, 2019 12:59 am

    Very wise young man, and a wise column. From a new reader in Pennsylvania. Thank you.

  31. Mary Ellen Hall - October 29, 2019 12:48 pm

    BEAUTIFUL (and sad) ARTICLE Sean! What a PLEASURE & BLESSING for you to have met tbis INCREDIBLE YOUNG MAN!💙💚He ALSO is at the Top of a VERY IMPORTANT List I have going!💚💙


  32. D - November 21, 2019 5:25 am

    You’re easily our favorite thing to read in the hospital… although I promise I don’t reserve it for only there. 😉 Ok, ok… you’re good to read anywhere. I just don’t like reading your columns when my makeup is fresh. Dang IT!!!

  33. Martha - November 21, 2019 4:57 pm

    “We’re probably not that different. Maybe we’re even alike. Maybe sometimes you worry too much. Or sometimes you get so swallowed up with tiny things in life, you wonder if you’re going to make it. Sometimes you wish you had answers.”

    Oh yes, we are. You list could have been mine. I think you dig right around my heart everytime i read your post. Your writing neans so much to me. As an old woman Im finding my companions are dwindling away and few youngervthan me care to talk with me, but in your writings I find a friend willing to talk & give me some time.

    Sometimes I fear I feel too much too deeply, too easily & I suspect you do as well, but Ive come to feel it’s the really only genuibbecwayvto live.

    Thanks for your time & your takes, my kindred soul.

  34. Beverly Blakeney - November 22, 2019 5:58 am

    Smiles & tears.i love this story, and I love making lists. I’m starting a new one in the morning with the 10 things I love, but I’m adding that sweet boy to my most important list right now. God bless you & your kind heart. 😊🙏

  35. Wendy - November 24, 2019 12:49 am

    No words. ❤


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