Fried bacon pieces set. Hand drawn watercolor illustration isolated on white background

The Cracker Barrel is slammed. And loud. Inside, there isn’t much in the way of elbow room. There are heaps of people eating dangerous amounts of biscuits. And I am trying to master the wooden Triangle Peg game.

The object of this game, of course, is simple. Leave the fewest pegs remaining on the triangle as possible.

Let’s say, for instance, you finish a game and only one peg is left. This means you are a NASA-level genius. Two pegs; you are moderately clever. Four pegs; your parents are first cousins.

I love it at Cracker Barrel. But then, I have a long history with this institution. I’ve eaten at Cracker Barrels from Beaverton, Oregon, to Prattville, Alabama. I’ve eaten here on Thanksgiving, the day I graduated college, the morning after my wedding, and the day after my father died. The food suits me.

The overhead music always has steel guitar in it. The people in the giftshop always ask how you’re doing. And if you’re bored, you can always embarrass your wife by buying a Davy Crockett hat and wearing it into the dining room.

Today, an elderly couple is sitting next to me as I fiddle with the peg game. The old man is skinny. She is frail. They are shoulder to shoulder. The man is wearing a hospital bracelet. His entire lower leg is in a medical brace. His face is bruised purple. There is dried blood on his forearms. He is resting his head onto the old woman’s shoulder because it looks like he’s been through hell itself.

She is helping him drink his Coke with a straw.

“I love you, Judy,” he says between sips.

She just pats his head.

On the other side of the dining room is a table of paramedics. They are young, wearing buzz cuts, clad in cargo pants, with radios mounted on their shoulders. Their eyes are drooping, and the coffee isn’t helping. It looks like they’ve had a long night.

I eavesdrop on their conversation:

“What’re you doing for Easter?”

“Sleeping,” says the other.

“My kids wanna hunt eggs at church,” says another.

“Yeah, well, I’m just gonna give my kids 20 bucks and go back to bed, I’ve worked two ten-hour shifts. I’m about to start hallucinating.”

These men are modern day saints. I don’t care what you say. You can have your reality TV stars and your social media influencers. Show me an EMT, and I’ll show you the embodiment of all that is good in America.

Meatime, behind me is a young family with several kids. Four boys. Three boys healthy looking. One is not. One child is small and slight, with a colostomy bag. He has a device mounted on his head, just behind the ear. I believe it’s a neuroprosthetic implant for those with hearing problems.

The boy stares at his older brother’s plate and says, “Can I have some of your pancakes, J.D.?”

The older boy rolls his eyes. “You mean, you already finished your pancakes? You old pig.”

“I was hungry, J.D.”

J.D. does something incredible. Although he is a teenager, and although he is at that age where kids are notoriously selfish, the teenage boy relinquishes his pancakes and places them onto his little brother’s plate. J.D. hasn’t even taken a bite of his pancakes yet, and still, he gives them away.

The little boy’s face glows like a landing strip. “Thanks J.D! YOU’RE SUCH A GOOD BROTHER!”

Across from me, I see the elderly woman is now feeding the elderly man. She is administering spoonfuls of grits to his mouth, blowing on them to cool them down, then dabbing his chin with a napkin. Occasionally, she kisses his forehead.

Then, the room fills with a loud beeping sound. Everyone’s heads turn to look at the EMTs, whose radios are squawking and hissing. The paramedics stand. They leave cash on the table. They slam their coffees. They jog out of the restaurant and we all see them through the windows. Off to save a life. They pile into their vehicles, sound the sirens, and speed toward hell itself.

Genuine heroes, I tell you.

As it happens, I’m not smart enough to conquer the peg game, but I know a few things.

I know that people are beautiful. I know that life is a treat that does not last half as long as we expect it will. I know that the elderly couple beside me embodies the purest of love known to humans. I know that all EMTs deserve a giant pay raise. And above all, I know that J.D. is a very good brother.

I sincerely hope you have a Good Friday.


  1. Pete Foley - April 15, 2022 4:04 am

    Happy Easter, Sean. Great piece … as always.

  2. Peggy C. - April 15, 2022 4:07 am

    Another really good one, Sean.

  3. Trudy - April 15, 2022 4:28 am

    Happy Easter to you and Jamie. Christ has risen indeed.

  4. Judy Tayloe - April 15, 2022 4:45 am

    Great story, Sean, today and always. The show in Clayton, NC was wonderful, and thanks for the bear hug afterwards! Happy Easter to you and Jamie!

  5. Steve McCaleb - April 15, 2022 5:01 am

    People are much kinder, thoughtful and compassionate than the national news media would lead you to believe. After all, “ if it bleeds it leads” is still the mentality. I think most people are kind and good at heart. I believe that. I desperately WANT to believe that. God help me…I’ve GOT to believe that. We weren’t made in His image for no reason.May God bless and keep us all.

  6. Byron F - April 15, 2022 5:01 am

    I wouldn’t call us heroes. I would say most of us are proud of the work we do. Helping hands when people are having some dark moments. Thank you for the nod in the story. Paramedic from KS.

    • Ruth Mitchell - April 15, 2022 1:33 pm

      I agree with Sean. You are definitely heroes!

  7. Joyce Hagy - April 15, 2022 5:09 am

    My husband was also a fan of The Cracker Barrel. We would go at least two or three times a month. He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in October of 2018. The first thing he said when we were leaving the doctor’s office was I’m hungry let’s go to Cracker Barrel. We traveled 150 miles to Barnes – Jewish hospital in St. Louis where he received 12 chemo treatments and 15 radiation treatments over 9 months time. We stopped numerous times at The Cracker Barrel. He was doing so good. His tumor markings had gone from 238 to 3.7. We, along with our family, went to Florida to celebrate. Two days after our return home he began to have pain in both arms. The doctor said it was his COPD and neuropathy. Wrong diagnosis. He died from a heart attack the next night on July 31, 2019. I haven’t eaten in a Cracker Barrel since. Don’t know that I ever will again. He would have been 78 years old in 10 days. We would have been married 56 years in October. On a lighter side I enjoy your stories. They either leave me with a smile or a tear. This one left me with a tear.

    • PurpleIris - April 15, 2022 6:41 am

      God bless you, Joyce, and give you strength.

  8. PurpleIris - April 15, 2022 6:45 am

    Sean, you are a good and kind man, that’s why you are able to see the good around you.I love your tender heart.

  9. Sandi. - April 15, 2022 7:57 am

    Sean, sincere thanks for this heartwarming post … for all your posts. Wishing you and Jamie a blessed Easter this coming Sunday.

  10. Ed - April 15, 2022 8:27 am

    Thank you for seeing the good in humanity. Your words make my day.

  11. 🇿🇦🇿🇦Norma Den - April 15, 2022 9:07 am

    Sean you bring out the best in so many people. Todays story was a tearjerker in some ways. I know you’ve written about Carer’s before but please may I add them to your list of unsung heroes. My husband has late stage Alzheimer’s & getting more difficult by the day. Frustrated, angry, stubborn oh anyone in the know will understand. If it wasn’t for the two caters, coincidentally both named Sarah, who live in week & week about I’d have cracked completely by now. Family a great blessing too, but it’s hard going 24/7. God bless all Carer’s, who need to be paid much higher rates too. It’s a calling from God that they spend their lives caring.

  12. Nell Thomad - April 15, 2022 10:16 am

    A Great portrayal of a real life setting.
    Have a great Easter in your new home.
    Give Jamie a break. Take her to Cracker Barrel.
    Enjoy the wooden pegs and pancakes.
    Happy Easter in Birmingham!

  13. Linda Willson - April 15, 2022 10:22 am

    Ok. This one made me cry but then this day will be filled with tears anyway so I’m off to a good start on this Good Friday, the day our Lord gave his life for our salvation.

  14. David alsley - April 15, 2022 10:48 am

    “I can think of no more stirring symbol of man’s humanity to man than a fire engine.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut

  15. daniel beck - April 15, 2022 10:55 am

    wonderful reminder, thank you !

  16. David Grant - April 15, 2022 11:06 am

    Sean may you have a blessed Easter week-end. I so enjoy your articles.

  17. Joy Jacobs - April 15, 2022 11:10 am


  18. Donna - April 15, 2022 11:29 am

    “…….and the greatest of these is LOVE.”

  19. Marianne Bryan - April 15, 2022 11:38 am

    God bless the EMT’s, that couple, J.D., and all they represent in this world. Never enough of the goodness, kindness recognized.

  20. Paul McCutchen - April 15, 2022 11:39 am

    Happy Easter to you and your wife. I hope Birmingham is everything you are hoping it will be. All you need is a Cracker Barrell and a Waffle House and you will never go hungry in your stomach and your heart.

  21. Wanda - April 15, 2022 12:00 pm

    Thank you! It’s good to be reminded by your story — and my tears — that there is still sweet goodness and decency all around us when we take time to notice!

    As I read, I realized that CrackerBarrel is where my husband and I always go after our doctor appointments. Gives new meaning to “comfort food!”

    And he has mastered the triangle! LOL!

  22. Lucretia Jones - April 15, 2022 12:07 pm

    Thank you, Sean💗🌻

  23. Janice - April 15, 2022 12:16 pm

    An EMT saved my life on 9/17/21, and I also think God knew my husband still needs me. I’ll make sure his grits aren’t too hot … whatever he needs. I’m still trying to find our the EMT’S name or at least the firehouse she works out of. I feel I must thank her.

  24. Karen - April 15, 2022 12:21 pm

    Happy Easter. Our fellow humans are amazing.

  25. Wes - April 15, 2022 12:27 pm

    Thanks man. That was good. The world is full of beauty when you heart is full of love.

  26. Kim delfing - April 15, 2022 12:38 pm

    You made me cry Again! Happy Easter to all.

  27. NancyB. - April 15, 2022 12:54 pm

    Two of the best places to people watch–airport waiting areas for incoming flights and Cracker Barrel. As you so masterfully described, at both you will experience little slices of society that will help you forget the last news program you watched. Thank you, Sean, for actually seeing and then sharing your Cracker Barrel experience. Think Cracker Barrel will be my late lunch stop today–need the inspiration. Wishing you and Jamie a most blessed Easter!

  28. Shelton A. - April 15, 2022 12:55 pm

    Thank you for all the good you share. EMTs and teachers both deserve huge pay raises…so that they make more than their state legislators. God bless J.D. and the older couple. And God bless you and Jamie (and your pups!).

  29. Shelton A. - April 15, 2022 12:57 pm

    And a blessed Good Friday to you, too!

  30. Jan - April 15, 2022 1:05 pm

    Love this! Finding the good in the world is something you do the best of anyone alive! Please don’t stop …
    Hope you and Jamie have a blessed Easter weekend!

  31. Al Cato - April 15, 2022 1:27 pm

    Continue to preach Pastor Sean! Goodness and good people are everywhere! Just have to sort through the noise of the bad and evil to find them. Watch War Room and the final scene of Miss Clara’s prayer “Raise’em Up”. A prayer that should be prayed from every pulpit and home. Let us worship this Good Friday and especially the Resurrection of Jesus from the grave this Easter morning! Blessings to you and Jaime.

  32. imcdbw - April 15, 2022 1:28 pm

    Amen! Happy Easter to you and Jamie as well!

  33. Ruth Mitchell - April 15, 2022 1:32 pm

    Thank you for noticing these special people and introducing them. Not only did you show the beauty of humanity, but you proved it can be found in every age group. You just made my Good Friday a better Friday!

  34. DAVIS DAVIS - April 15, 2022 1:43 pm


  35. elizabethroosje - April 15, 2022 2:07 pm

    Yes. So much, yes. And it’s amazing that this Friday became GOOD in the end. Praying for you and Jamie as always!

  36. GARY - April 15, 2022 2:58 pm

    Agreed !

  37. Naomi Smith - April 15, 2022 3:44 pm

    Always look for the good! You do a beautiful job of that. Happy Easter

  38. Patricia Gibson - April 15, 2022 3:53 pm

    Sean, God bless you for helping me remember that people are still good! You do not realize how much good you do❤️❤️❤️

  39. Susie Flick - April 15, 2022 3:59 pm

    Good story – spectacular human beings – cherish each moment & share your pancakes!

  40. Sheilla Boyd - April 15, 2022 4:59 pm

    I so enjoy your blogs. My significant other had been in the hospital for the last 8 days and I read your columns to him every day. He is now a big fan as well. Happy Easter and thank you for your words!

  41. Linda Moon - April 15, 2022 5:22 pm

    It’s comfort food with a beautiful story. Thank you, I plan to have a Good Friday, and I hope you and yours have one, too. It’s very beautiful here today with a view of hills and valleys surrounding me, just like LIFE does with all its ups and downs.

  42. Jim Sirmans - April 15, 2022 5:30 pm

    Happy Easter to you and Jamie!

  43. David Trewolla - April 15, 2022 5:30 pm

    Sean, I am sharing your Dumplings column this week with my Methodist Sunday School Class as a boost to mental health. Your comments about growing up today compared to the mid-20th century are dead on. You did not mention the risks we took with fireworks back then, which included the now banned M-80s, TNTs and Cherry Bombs. And we walked through underground street sewer pipes 75 yards in length never considering disease or snakes. And older kids were always beating us up. Rough house was the primary form of footall. We rode our bikes on all types of terrain, including downhill gullies sans helmets of course.

    Love your writing and hope you and Jamie will soon be fully acclimated to Vulcan City.

    Everything is OK in Mayberry!

    Floyd Lawson

    • PurpleIris - April 15, 2022 7:48 pm

      Dear Floyd,

      You always did have a keen eye out for goings on in Mayberry. I still see you outside your barber shop. Watching, contemplating. I’m so glad you are still there. Thank you for taking care of things in Mayberry.

      Thelma Lou

  44. Steve Scott - April 15, 2022 5:36 pm

    The Cracker Barrell Story – Man, you bring sunshine every day. I am so glad I know you and your supervisor Jamie 🙂

  45. Gloria Wright - April 15, 2022 5:38 pm

    Beautiful and I agree. EMTs deserve a pay raise.

  46. Carolee - April 15, 2022 5:52 pm

    Thank you Sean! I loved that! So positive!

  47. Jocelyn piccone - April 15, 2022 5:57 pm

    Your writings remind me to remain humble. Thank you. Happy Easter

  48. pattymack43 - April 15, 2022 6:21 pm

    Thank you for your kind and sincere good wishes! Yes! I agree! People are basically good, hard working and devoted to loved ones in even the smallest of gestures. I’ve never been to a Cracker Barrel, but wish that I had been. Keep lobbying for EMT pay raises. They are the best!! May you and your dear wife have a most blessed Easter!!

  49. Ken Pearson - April 15, 2022 7:30 pm

    On Thursday, 09/13/01, I used the map on the back of a Cracker Barrel paper place mat to get me from Baltimore, MD to I-40 in Knoxville, TN. The map showed all the Cracker Barrel locations across the U.S.

    I was stranded in Baltomore following the 09/11 attack. I knew that if I could get to I-40 I could make it home to Little Rock, AR. I-40 runs right through Little Rock. Cracker Barrel is a life saver.

  50. Laurie Kellman - April 15, 2022 10:07 pm

    I enjoy all your stories so much Sean. My husband is a retired firefighter/EMT. He saved countless lives while on active duty. I am proud he was there to come to the aid of so many people! EMT’S & Paramedics are all lifesaving angels in uniforms!

  51. Peter - April 15, 2022 11:30 pm

    Americans are beautiful people. I am proud to be one. The three young men in my platoon who died in RVN in 1966 are heroic Americans.
    God Bless America.

  52. Leah - April 15, 2022 11:37 pm

    What a great writer.. great writers write about GOID things.. especially on GOOD Friday (I think you must be beautiful too!!) Hope you have a very Happy Easter♥️✝️

  53. Donnie Barnes Perry, Fl - April 16, 2022 2:26 am

    When you work the peg game right you will end up with one peg. My son gave me one of those games and ti took me two months to finally get to where I could win it every time…. Thanks for the things you write about. Lots of times you cause me to tear up..

  54. Julianne Hendren - April 16, 2022 2:58 am

    Bless you, Sean Dietrich. Your writing touches my soul and I pray that YOU have had a peaceful Good Friday. On Sunday, the tomb is empty and we can sing again!

  55. Katie McCarty - April 16, 2022 12:23 pm

    Such sweet stories. Thank you! Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Oh most importantly Love our Father. Love you!❤️

  56. Lee Taylor - April 16, 2022 2:36 pm


  57. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - April 16, 2022 5:00 pm

  58. Nancy Griggs - April 16, 2022 7:17 pm

    Thank you, Sean, once more for a warm slice of life to help us align with what is true and good. I was thinking that if you had been at the Cracker Barrel on I81 in Woodstock, Virginia on January 15 you would have encountered my husband, my sister-in-law and me having our own Cracker Barrel experience. We were traveling from our home in Pennsylvania to Charlotte NC to our daughter’s home. We always stop at a Cracker Barrel because they are clean, consistent, good choices and there is always one along the way. After being seated, I noticed my husband had an intense look on his face and when i questioned him if all was well, he had difficulty articulating what he wanted to say. This was extremely unusual and out of character for him. After going closer to him and leaning in to try to hear him I could tell that this was enough out of the ordinary to suspect something serious. I went out to the front counter and said to one of the women, “I think I need to call 911 for my husband. I think he may be having a stroke.” This sweet woman immediately leaned over the counter, took my hand in hers and said we call for help.” The EMTs arrived in minutes and although his speech was returning to normal, they monitored his vitals and were concerned about some of the readings and advised him that he should be checked out at the hospital. My husband was adamant about NOT going to the hospital with a threat of an ice storm approaching later in the day and still having four to five hours to drive to our daughter’s. The EMTs were patient, kind and listened attentively to everything. Despite our fruitless pleadings to him, we decided that we would concede and continue on the trip. The MOD at the restaurant stayed with us throughout this process and also followed up later to check in on us. With my sister-in-law driving, we made it to NC and eventually my husband was diagnosed with a UTI infection that had traveled and become septic. He eventually was hospitalized for five days to clear his body of this very dangerous sepsis. The Cracker Barrel and the kindness of strangers helped us to navigate a very intense situation and we will never forget them or be able to thank them sufficiently. PS. One of our beautiful granddaughters has recently become a certified EMT with the Charleston, SC EMS!

  59. Kathleen M Monfort - April 16, 2022 11:47 pm

    Thank you for this one.

  60. Becky Wiegers - April 17, 2022 5:15 am

    You know why I keep coming by to read this stuff? Because this is where the good stuff is, that’s why.

  61. Phoebe Harris - April 18, 2022 4:07 am

    Thank you for all of your inspirational insights to help us be more sensitive and loving as we journey through this life.

  62. Julie, RN - May 14, 2022 1:44 pm

    Bless you for teaching us that there is beauty all around…genuine heroes, good brothers, and examples of pure love, Just drop in at any Cracker Barrel. If I had been there on that Good Friday, I would have laid my money down on the EMT’s table…if I had been quick enough.


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