I stand behind them in the checkout aisle. It is a youth group, or maybe it’s a class trip. Either way, I know that they are excited to be on vacation because one boy actually shouts, “I’M SO EXCITED TO BE HERE!”
The boy who hollers is using crutches, the kind that clasp to his arms. He is using a cheerful voice and from what I gather, he is excited to be on vacation.
The adult chaperone who accompanies the kids looks stressed out. There is a look adults often wear when they are responsible for large groups of kids. It’s a look I can spot from a mile away because I have been a youth-group chaperone before.
Going anywhere with a large clot of young people is a test of your humanity. You can not walk into a grocery store without kids running the aisles like rabid cats.
And when you finally find the miniature heathens, usually they’re doing something like playing a game of Butt Swat in the produce section. The rules of Butt Swat are unclear to me, but apparently the game involves stalks of celery being used as weapons.
But these kids aren’t like that. They are happy kids, and well-behaved. They wear matching yellow T-shirts, and they smile a lot.
I talk to Peter, who is head chaperone.
“We’re from Atlanta,” he says. “We’re here at the beach for a vacation, these kids deserve a little fun.”
Peter explains that they are a homeschool group of kids who all have something in common.
“Most of our kids are differently abled,” says Peter. “We don’t like the term ‘disabled.’ We teach our kids not to use it.”
A few in the group have cerebral palsy, another has a congenital heart defect, others face mental health issues, and some children have mild autism.
“We’re a wild and crazy group is what we are,” adds Peter. “Any day we avoid burning down the house is a good day.”
I notice other people in our checkout line, too. The man behind me, for instance, holds his infant daughter. He tells me he is from North Carolina. He is in the military, and he hasn’t had a vacation since he can remember.
His wife is at home and had to work this week.
“She’s a nurse” he says. “She had to bail on us, last minute. Someone’s gotta earn a living.”
In another cashier line is a family of Russians. At least I think they are a family. I know they are Russian because I speak a little Russian.
I can say, “spasibo,” which means “thank you.” And “lokot” which means “elbow.” This concludes my Russian vocabulary.
I hear “spasibo” a thousand times among the group. From what I can tell—and this is only a guess—they are all contributing money for groceries.
I count four women, three men, and three children. They are all young, and each of them, except for the kids, wears a work uniform. One man appears to work at Burger King, another at a gas station.
When it is time for them to checkout, the family makes a pile of cash on the counter. The cashier tells them that they are a few dollars short. So one of the children digs into his pocket and takes care of it.
“Spasibo,” everyone says to the kid.
The boy in front of me, the one with crutches, starts talking to me. He tells me he has cerebral palsy. He says, “I see the world from a different point of view than other people because of my CP.”
I ask him what he means.
“Well, like, you know, you probably think it’s just no big deal going walking, but not me. Walking is so fun. I can’t always walk good because sometimes my legs get spastic and stuff, but when I can it’s fun.”
“Yeah,” adds a teenage girl who also has mild cerebral palsy. “Walking is the best.”
We are interrupted by loud voices behind us.
The man from North Carolina is on a video phone call. He is waving his baby’s hand at the cellphone. “We miss you, Mommy!” he says.
The Russians are pushing a cart together, laughing. A kid is riding in the front. And none of them are playing on phones.
The cashier finishes ringing up groceries and reads the total to the chaperones.
The boy on crutches pays the cashier. The chaperones don’t offer to help, even though it appears to be a struggle for the boy.
When the boy finishes paying, the cashier hands the boy change, and the kid looks proud of himself. The group of teenagers leaves the store. Some are running. Some are skipping. And I can see the boy with crutches walking through the parking lot on his own two legs.
I know he’s happy because I overhear him say, “I’m excited to be here.”
And the heck of it is, I’m excited for him, too. So excited that excitement is dripping down my cheek.
Don Bedell - January 27, 2023 10:22 am
Shriners help children with C.P.. My numbers maybe off but the results are the same. We will have a child walk 100 feet in a special room with lots of cameras. We will take about 900 pictures while they are doing this. This goes into a computer which turns this into a stick figure walking showing which muscles are still working properly. The surgeons then know where to re-attach the muscles to make walking more normal. As with everything that we do concerning children, there is no charge.
Cynthia Sand - January 27, 2023 10:38 am
Thank you Sean for getting my heart in the right place right off the bat this morning. This morning and every morning, whether it is with laughter or tears. Good on you, my friend.
Sandra Rowan Johnston - January 27, 2023 11:42 am
I join you in the excitement which is also now dripping down my cheeks. Thank you for sharing this experience so beautifully, and for the addition to my vocabulary of terms (differently abled).
Karen Bunch - January 27, 2023 11:58 am
What an observer and teller of stories of right and good.. a gift to our world that rarely looks outside self and tends to speak negative and ignore positive. Thank tou for using hour powers for good
Cindy Gallop - January 27, 2023 12:47 pm
A pure joy and wet cheeks story!!! God is smiling!
Richard Gudzan - January 27, 2023 12:51 pm
Thank you Sean and Don Bedell – I have C. P. – Now 70-years-old, I’ve been able to live a fulfilling, productive life thanks to the work and encouragement of Shriners Hospital way back when. Your story & comment today made me realize once again how thankful I am for Shriners. Being able to walk is a gift from God with an assist from Shriners. Happy to be differently-abled.
Dennis - January 27, 2023 1:20 pm
You have mentioned that the bad comments are too frequent. I’m writing to correct that balance: you are a persistent talent with a positive message that typically makes the reader better. Wow. I almost talked myself into being a writer after reading my comment about you. Well done, Sir. Well done.
DeDe H - January 27, 2023 1:22 pm
Renee Welton - January 27, 2023 1:43 pm
mccutchen52 - January 27, 2023 1:51 pm
Thanks Sean, That was a good one.
bruce rogers - January 27, 2023 1:52 pm
Oh my, how we take life for granted. It is glorious day when my eyes open and I can thank God for his Grace and the countless blessings he has given us. It is a glorious day when I can read about children with limited abilities and how grateful they are to be on vacation, to walk, to laugh, to say “how excited I am to be here”. I will count my blessings today Sean; than you for the few words that remind me how fortunate I am to be alive and able to say “I am excited to be here”, no matter where that here is!
Linda Halfpop - January 27, 2023 1:58 pm
Terri - January 27, 2023 2:06 pm
Wow…so grateful you shared this. So excited to be here. ❤️
Priscilla Rodgers - January 27, 2023 2:17 pm
Check out lines are the best places to strike up a conversation and now all the big box stores want to get rid of them. Go figure!
bjcovington - January 27, 2023 2:29 pm
Enjoy your observations of everyday life around you. 😍
kingswaydaughter - January 27, 2023 3:21 pm
I once took walking for granted. Then in my early 50s I was told the shots were over and time to get what I thought would be my forever knees. And in several years I found out there is no such thing. For one reason or another, total knee replacements can fail. In six years my right knee was replaced three times, and now I walk permanently with a cane. So far the left one is still hanging in there. The lovely thing is now I notice everyone who is mobility impaired and I am seeing the struggles as well as my own. Kind of like walking in another person’s shoes. And there are people with worse conditions, so I count my blessings.
Heather Miller - January 27, 2023 3:36 pm
I have a differently-abled granddaughter. She has Downs Syndrome, and is, what I call, the Perfect Child. God makes no mistakes. Next weekend she is riding in a Mardi Gras parade in Mobile, with a passel of friends who also have different abilities. Then, the next weekend she is attending Night To Shine; Tim Tebow’s wonderful prom night. This is a spectacular event, Sean. If you want to see the best prom night ever, where at a certain time in the evening every girl and every guy receives their tiara or crown, find a Night To Shine in Birmingham or come to Mobile. Tim Tebow appears on screens across the U.S. at a certain time to declare everyone Queen or King. Happy will glisten on your face.
David Britnell - January 27, 2023 3:43 pm
Spasibo Sean. It seems the folks who are differently abled have more of a zest for life than those of us who are completely abled. I loved this story bubba and I hope you have a great day!
Lynette Shiver - January 27, 2023 4:05 pm
Thank you , Sean, for the reminder of showing our gratitude for things we often take for granted!
Stacey Wallace - January 27, 2023 4:24 pm
Sean, spasibo for making my husband’s and my day. Love to you, Jamie, Marigold, Otis Campbell, and Thelma Lou.
Susie - January 27, 2023 4:33 pm
Simple pleasures et.al. are the best. Thank you, Sean, for reminding us.
Pubert Earle Bozemann - January 27, 2023 4:46 pm
Dang it Pone! How do you do it? You come up with the most innocuous stories and yep before you know it everybody’s eyeballs are rusting! The only way that happens is through genuine heartfelt sympathy and emotion. Write on with your badself(in a good way!)
Ruth - January 27, 2023 4:55 pm
Differently abled, how lovely. Thank you Sean!
Pubert Earle Bozemann - January 27, 2023 5:24 pm
privet Pone, menya zovut Pubert! Slava Bogu za Google Translate! spasibo
Joy DeLaere - January 27, 2023 6:13 pm
excitement is dripping down my cheek too…
pattymack43 - January 27, 2023 7:26 pm
ROBERT STORCK - January 27, 2023 8:11 pm
MAM - January 27, 2023 10:48 pm
Sweet! How do you do it every day, Sean? You make us see the good in the world, day after day. Thank you!
Julie Hall - January 28, 2023 2:12 am
George Robert Leach - January 28, 2023 3:28 am
George Robert Leach - January 28, 2023 3:35 am
As a special Ed teacher we learned a lot of good comments. My favorite is by a child who called us, partially enabled, because some day each of us would experience the use of crutches, wheelchairs, or other devices just like them.
Deborah Blount - January 28, 2023 6:29 am
I’m excited too. Spacibo.
pdjpop - January 28, 2023 11:40 am
Thank you, Sean. It is good to be reminded that in all experiences and circumstances in life there is reason to celebrate.
Let’s do more of that. We do take walking for granted.
I love this encounter you experienced. It’s is the everyday to which we need to pay attention.
Katrina.Butler - January 29, 2023 1:24 pm
Sean, your column has not appeared in my email the last two days. I am worried about you. You never miss a day. Are you okay? Or have I accidentally undone my subscription some how? I start my day ready your column.
Sue Bruins - January 29, 2023 4:20 pm
For some reason I am not getting Sean’s writing! The last on was “Good”. I miss reading his articles each morning! Can you help?
P.M. Norton - January 29, 2023 6:46 pm
I too have not gotten an email from Sean since Friday. We are missing you Sean. May God bless you and prayers for you and yours.
Linda Moon - January 29, 2023 6:55 pm
Same for me as with Katrina Butler and Sue Bruins. I’ll go read my bucket list book, “War and Peace”, while I’m waiting for Sean of the South’s post in to show up in my inbox!
Linda Moon - January 29, 2023 9:23 pm
…..and P. M. Norton too just now as I took a brief break from reading Tolstoy.
Linda Moon - January 30, 2023 4:46 pm
…just testing to see if the glitch I maybe fixed worked and tomorrow I will comment ….for real!
Fred Frederick - January 30, 2023 7:27 pm
One of life’s little snippets that Sean portrays so well.
Thank you, Sean
Judy - January 30, 2023 11:45 pm
Where are you Sean? No column for 3 days…please surface soon I am in withdrawal…
Marie Strauss - March 22, 2023 12:02 am
For just a few moments, I was intrigued with everything you said. What beautiful stories. Sean, hope you’re doing OK. Some of the messages say they haven’t heard from you in two days.