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. But he has the determination of a saint, and he still has a long road ahead of him. He suffers more than other kids his age. And as things stand right now, 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.

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 turn into Lot’s wife.

I didn’t have a very good time.

3. Stray dogs. Sometimes I go to animal shelters just to visit them. There is an extra special place in my heart for 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. 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. It was the perfect love story.

9. Old folks. Last week, I met a woman who was 100 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, “inconsequential” is a five-syllable word.

Still, 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 here’s what I DO know:

I know that a wise young man is likely reading this right now. A kid who told me he is grateful to be alive, no matter how brief his own 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. Simply 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. Nan - April 28, 2022 7:36 am

    Beautiful! I love your soul Sean, it’s a good soul…and thanks to you and the young man you are writing about, I am also going to start making that same list.

    • Bonnie Handsaker - May 4, 2022 1:54 am

      Gratitude journals help us focus on the good things. Love the story, the young man learned something to help through the tough days.

  2. oldlibrariansshelf - April 28, 2022 7:45 am

    Thanks [again], Mr. Dietrich, for reminding us how fortunate we are to share space on this orb with people like you and your newfound friend.

  3. Susan H Poole - April 28, 2022 8:52 am

    Thanks to that young man and you, Sean, I’m going to start making a list of things I love. Today, #1 on my list is how grateful I am to read your daily blog.🥰

  4. Connie Griggs - April 28, 2022 9:03 am

    AND now he is at the top of my list too!🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

  5. Connie Griggs - April 28, 2022 9:07 am

    AND now, he is at the top of my list too. 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

  6. Stephanie - April 28, 2022 9:16 am

    Love the new format I am able to read it on my iPad so much easier. Before I had to try to adjust the sizing to read while my husband snores at nite next to me

  7. Elizabeth Hayden - April 28, 2022 10:03 am

    Beautiful! I write down at least 3 things I am grateful for in my journal daily. One thing I am always grateful for is prayer. Now I can add this amazing teen to the list. Sean, you are already there. Your stories are a bright point in my day.

  8. Joy Jacobs - April 28, 2022 10:19 am

    ❤️ I know how this kid feels about you because I feel that way too. You share yourself in everything you write and I’ve read most of it. ❤️

  9. Robert mottet - April 28, 2022 10:35 am

    . You did it again. I’m getting used to tears in my eggs

  10. Donna George-Moskovitz - April 28, 2022 10:38 am

    You are doing good. And of course, I hope you are doing well. But most importantly, you are doing good. There are good and evil in this world. You are doing good. Thank you and God bless.

  11. Larry E. Notestine - April 28, 2022 10:42 am

    Thanks for today’s column, Sean. At the blood center in my town, they have pictures of youngsters who have received the center’s blood products. In all of those pictures, the children are smiling. I realized they all know some special thing. You entry reminds me again of that thing. Mind how you go.

  12. Carol from GA - April 28, 2022 10:51 am

    I’m driving through Birmingham today to go see my sister in Pickwick, TN and I’m telling (warning) you now…. if I see you out and about… I’m going to jump out of a moving car to hug your neck!

    • Deborah Walker - May 4, 2022 1:42 am

      Carol, sometime when you’re visiting your sister in Pickwick, make the trek 14 miles south and visit Iuka, MS. It’s a precious little town, and I think you would enjoy exploring downtown. My retirement job is at Pray Pottery, and I would love for you to stop in for a visit.

  13. AlaRedClayGirl - April 28, 2022 11:06 am

    Reading Sean of the South columns and books would have to be on my top ten list!

  14. Marie - April 28, 2022 11:14 am

    1-10….ditto!! I prefer to sweat while gardening! I love eating the results.
    If the story and actors are great, special effects are not needed!
    I could do 10 more but the tomatoes need uncovering. God bless you….and this young man.

  15. Mike Cranston - April 28, 2022 11:30 am

    You are wise beyond your years.

  16. JojoM - April 28, 2022 11:36 am

    Beautiful. He’s on mine too Sean.

  17. Connie - April 28, 2022 11:37 am


  18. Karen - April 28, 2022 11:40 am

    Sean, you continue to write such authentic stories. That young man will always remember meeting you. I pray he continues to thrive. I read your articles first thing in the morning to start my day. I am grateful you are in my life.

  19. Bruce Wolfe - April 28, 2022 11:42 am




  20. D Milita - April 28, 2022 11:55 am

    ….You Are Loved

  21. Tommy Neuman - April 28, 2022 12:07 pm

    As I lay here dying I am again struck by your words. You have a rare gift of touching souls in a very positive way. In my religion I would call you a mensch. You keep writing and I will keep reading- and breathing.

  22. Paul McCutchen - April 28, 2022 12:11 pm

    When people ask me how I am doing I would say ” I woke up this morning on the top side of the dirt”. I think I am going to change to the 100 year old’s quote: “Just keep breathing”

  23. Christine - April 28, 2022 12:31 pm

    Thank you and God’s Blessings Sean and young man.

  24. Robin George - April 28, 2022 12:32 pm

    Wonderful tool for all of us to use daily! I hope the young man reads this.

  25. Christine - April 28, 2022 12:33 pm

    Thank You Sean and God’s Blessings young man.

  26. Marsha Dunsker Yarborough - April 28, 2022 12:54 pm

    Sean, many years ago you came and spoke at our Genesis retreat in month,Al.
    T I have read your stories ever since. I have never committed before. This story made cry , laugh, and be grateful for this moment.

    Thank you for your gift.
    God bless you and yours
    Marsha Dunsker Yarborough

  27. Van - April 28, 2022 12:57 pm

    Very moving…now he’ll be on our lists as well.

  28. Jan - April 28, 2022 1:00 pm

    Two wonderful young men … the one who wrote this beautiful story and the slightly younger one who is living this beautiful story. Thanks to you both and to the Mother who is an integral part of the life story of this brave and wise young man!

  29. Bev and Claude McEldowney - April 28, 2022 1:05 pm

    Love this, Sean Dietrich! And I love you!

  30. Sandy Burnett - April 28, 2022 1:08 pm

    And those you love, those who you don’t know, love you. We love to read the thoughts you have, the things you’ve seen, the joys and sorrows which you share. Thank you for putting the worth and beauty of everyday life into words and down on paper (or on a computer and out onto the internet) for all of us.

  31. beachdreamer - April 28, 2022 1:12 pm

    You know this wasn’t a chance meeting. Look at the people who now have this young man in their thoughts and prayers. Beautifully written Sean…from the heart…and the soul. I believe that’s how your writing relates to all who read it….the depth and sincerity of the words. Not everyone has that. You are so blessed dear friend. So nice to know you and all those you write about. Thank you. May we all be thankful….and just ‘keep breathing’ ❤️

  32. Shelton A. - April 28, 2022 1:21 pm

    May God give healing to the young man and comfort, peace, and strength. And to his family also. God loves him and I’m praying for him, too. God bless and thanks for sharing this story!

  33. Te - April 28, 2022 1:28 pm

    There’s something about children who have faced death — and those who know their time is short. They have a special kind of peace and joy that the rest of us have forgotten. Often they are wise beyond their years, and the rest of us wish we understood it, too, because unless we’ve faced that kind of finality, we might not understand, or have that kind of faith, or find that kind of peace. You get it back when you get old, and you know the number of years left are finite. I found a special joy after cataract surgery and could see clearly again! I hope I measure up as well as this young man when I quit breathing. Thanks, Sean. You are my daily joy. Give Thelma Lou and your wife a hug.

  34. Roger D. Wells - April 28, 2022 1:50 pm

    Love the writing of Sean Dietrich along with many of the things on his list today. Keep it up Sean!!!

  35. Moe L. - April 28, 2022 2:14 pm

    I got to laugh and cry all in the same column, two of my favorite emotions… Thanks Sean😊

  36. Nancy - April 28, 2022 2:17 pm

    I’ve got to remember not to read these at work. IT doesn’t like tears on the key board.

  37. John Williams - April 28, 2022 2:19 pm

    Love your writings. Read them every day!! I forward them to family and friends from time to time. Keep up the good work!

  38. AL - April 28, 2022 2:29 pm

    Often after our Bible study while saying goodbye, we remind each other “Go forth and preach the gospel and sometimes use words.” Sean, your columns preach the gospel WITH words by sharing the many stories of good people doing doing things. Thank you and Blessings to you and Jaime.

  39. Lee Faucette - April 28, 2022 3:15 pm

    Keep working, Sean.

  40. Sarah - April 28, 2022 3:45 pm

    Sean. I am thankful for you. I stumbled across this blog a couple Decembers ago. Reading your words became part of my daily schedule when the pandemic gave us no schedule. I look forward to reading your words each day and marvel how you’re even able to accomplish that. All I can say is thank you.

  41. Tom Wallin - April 28, 2022 3:47 pm

    You are a good man.

  42. Deena - April 28, 2022 3:51 pm

    You are a good man, Sean, and l love you too, Stories like this one make me love you more, ❤️

  43. Victoria Bragg - April 28, 2022 4:04 pm

    Heard your interview with Andy Andrews and immediately ordered the audible version of Will the Circle be Unbroken. All I can say is “thank you” from the bottom my heart for being so transparent and real. Your story has not only inspired me but has deeply touched my soul. Your writing is a refreshing relief in these times.

  44. MaryAnn A Dunham - April 28, 2022 4:09 pm

    How wonderful that this mom and her son let you know how much your words affect his life. His outlook on his life’s challenges has been at least partially shaped by your writing, which he realizes are words from a good heart. You, Sean, are a BLESSING to this young man, and to millions of others.

  45. Vince - April 28, 2022 4:33 pm

    A beautiful column based upon a beautiful idea from a wonderful human being. I’ll be using the young man’s method and passing it along.

  46. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - April 28, 2022 4:35 pm

  47. Slimpicker - April 28, 2022 4:59 pm

    It is seldom we learn from a complete stranger how we have impacted their life, hopefully for the better. So as they say at Possum Lodge, “We are all in this together”.

  48. Ken Hart - April 28, 2022 5:16 pm

    I’m a little confused and therefore concerned. The comments associated with your column today appear to have been written before I am reading them but with a time listed AFTER the time I am reading them.
    That seems inconsistent to my understanding.
    Perhaps I am misreading them but it causes me to question there viability. And I don’t want that feeling. I enjoy your writing and don’t like this questioning feeling.
    If I am unclear, I apologize. I do want you to understand my question.
    Ken H

  49. Ann - April 28, 2022 5:47 pm

    We can all learn from this brave young man….wise beyond his years.

  50. pattymack43 - April 28, 2022 6:11 pm

    Funny! You and I “love” a lot of the same things!! With the exception of #6. Mine is more like Bach, Beethoven and Neil Diamond!! 🙂 My prayers are with the name at the top of your next list. Thank you for today’s message.

    • Rusty - April 28, 2022 10:34 pm

      Music varies from person to person just like food and a lot of things. I like classic rock and Mexican. Love Sean and read him everyday!

  51. Jack Raab - April 28, 2022 6:48 pm

    Sean, you don’t know me, now you do.

  52. oldandblessed - April 28, 2022 7:36 pm

    Sean, you obviously have a superpower that allows you to see things in your encounters with people that we normal folks just don’t have. I’m almost 72 years old, and I’ve seen a lot in my life. I’ve always tried to see the stories told and untold in the people I’ve encountered, but I don’t I have that superpower you possess. Thanks for the stories you share and the ability you have to pull these stories you tell from the depth of your encounters.

  53. Hazel Barber - April 28, 2022 8:52 pm

    Sean, prayers for this precious young man and his family. May he keep this glorious outlook on life and death until the end. I’m sure you are and will continue to be a light in the gloomy spot he lives. May God richly bless you both.

  54. MAM - April 28, 2022 10:18 pm

    You have a wonderful heart, Sean. Thank you!

  55. Linda Moon - April 28, 2022 10:53 pm

    I love big hugs. I love kids. So, if the kid reads your post today and my late comment he knows he’s loved. (I bet he already knew that!) My Guy and I love old movies, especially some with Randolph Scott. Thank you, Sean, for telling the kid’s story and thank you for the list you have going. Some folks I love have been on that list of yours, so keep “listing” and telling the stories.

  56. Carol - April 29, 2022 12:44 am

    Thanks again, Sean! Love Your List of Loves! Thanks for introducing me to yet another beautiful person!

  57. Bonnie - April 29, 2022 2:51 am

    WAIT…Tommy Neuman, did you say YOU are lying in bed dying as well?? If I read your comment correctly, you are on my prayer list along, with the young man Sean wrote about today. Peace to you.

  58. pdjpop - April 29, 2022 11:31 am

    Sweet. Heartfelt, Loving.
    Your love is deep for humanity. Keep us uplifted.
    I hope to see you in Athens.

  59. franfluker - April 29, 2022 12:29 pm

    try keeping a Gratitude Journal. Write in it every day: it might just be breathing, or sunshine, or Living in the US, but don’t fill up the page each day with all the hundreds of reasons we have to be thankful, just three or four is enough.

  60. Amy K. Ray - April 29, 2022 12:44 pm

    Sean – I wish you’d share your list with those of us who have our own lists 🙂 There’s miracles in powers and numbers, and I should know – I have been & continue to be the recipient of being on lists you speak to……and am always looking for ways to pay it forward.
    First names only needed – and this prayer warrior is on it!

  61. Cathy M - April 29, 2022 1:29 pm

    Oh, the wonderful things that children teach us and then you pass it on to all of your readers. Gratitude has become a very important word to me as I age. My daughter in law and I spent a lot of time together in Children’s Hospital at UAB four yrs. ago. Her youngest child has Downs Syndrome and spent a total of 12 weeks fighting for his life. He won the fight and it changed a lot of lives in many ways. One day as we sat together she handed me a little notepad. She told me it was a gratitude journal. She suggested jotting down a few things each day that I was grateful for and it might be the most important gift I have ever received. Four yrs later I don’t always write them on paper but I thank God for the good things in my life every single day. It never fails to make my day. That little boy is healthy and thriving. The least I can do is thank God for him and seven other healthy grandchildren. Endless thanks ❤️🙏🏻 You have a ministry and touch countless lives and hearts. Thank you

  62. Beverly - April 29, 2022 4:15 pm

    I want to write a brilliant comment, but, I’m crying……❤️🤟🏻☮️

  63. Tom Salter - April 29, 2022 5:22 pm

    Prayers for him.

  64. Patricia Gibson - April 29, 2022 7:57 pm


  65. Don - April 29, 2022 10:24 pm

    I knew you loved Willie and Hank music but was a little surprised at Don Williams. One of my greatest regrets was not buying a ticket at a local venue and finding out soon after of his death. I love his smooth, silky, baritone voice that makes him so easy to listen to.
    Glad you included him…I feel the same.

  66. Susan - April 30, 2022 2:24 am

    Praying for this young man🙏❤️


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