I wish I had the right words, but I don’t. I wish I could tell you how I feel about you, but we don’t know each other. You’d think I was weird.
So I’m writing you.
Two weeks ago, I saw you in a grocery store, in Texas. You were in the produce aisle. You had a son. Your son was bald, wearing a surgical mask.
He was riding on your shoulders, right in the middle of a store. You were giving him an airplane ride.
We talked. You probably don’t even remember me.
You told me, “I don’t take any moments for granted anymore. My family has really started living, we don’t wanna miss out on a single second.”
Before I left, your son high-fived me. He said, “Cancer sucks!”
He said it with a laugh and a smile. At least I think he was smiling—it was hard to tell beneath his mask.
Anyway, you’re why I’m writing this. You, and people just like you. You are the reason.
You—the woman in Cracker Barrel. I’m writing to you because I saw you. You were feeding your mother who sat in a wheelchair.
Your mother couldn’t move anything but her jaw. You helped her, spoonful by spoonful. She had fiery red hair—so did you.
You were there before I arrived. And you were probably there long after we left. You never touched your plate of food. You were too busy helping Mama.
I’m writing to the man I met yesterday, at a brewery. He was serving a crowd of young people at the bar. The man had a tattoo on his arm, I asked about it.
“This tattoo’s for my wife,” he said. “These are angel wings. She loved angels. We really miss her.”
She took her own life. She had a three-year-old son at the time.
But that seems like ancient history now, he tells me. His son just turned eleven. He talks to his son about his wife every day. He forces himself to remember stories. Good stories, bad ones, happy, or sad.
“I record all my memories about her on my phone,” he said. “Just so I don’t forget. If I don’t put them down somewhere, I’ll forget’em, and I don’t want that to happen. Stories are all we have left of her.”
And I’m writing to the thirty-something man who just met his real father this week.
All his life, he’d seen a name written in the back of his Bible. A name and a number: Dane, 25.
“I never knew what it meant,” the man told me. “But I just had this feeling it meant something about my biological dad.”
After thirty years, he finally tracked down his father—named Dane. The number, Dane’s age when he became a father.
The man made a four-hour drive to meet Dane. He found his father in a Florida nursing home, paralyzed from a stroke. Dane’s sister takes perfect care of him. I understand it was an emotional reunion.
“I don’t know what to feel,” the young man told me. “I feel lots of stuff, too many emotions to pick one.”
Yeah. That’s why I’m writing this. I’m writing because I don’t understand life, either. I don’t understand why good things happen to the undeserving. I don’t understand why heroes get hurt. I don’t understand a thing.
Even so, I believe something. And you don’t have to understand life to believe in it.
I believe this world is upside down. I believe the heroes of this planet are not the same ones everybody points at. I don’t believe heroes are award winners, or celebrities. I don’t believe in famous people, and I believe even less in press.
If you ask me, the greatest our human race has to offer is right here, right now. You.
You, in a Cracker Barrel. You, tending bar, or walking in a shopping mall, or teaching second grade, or in a wheelchair, or mopping floors at Wendy’s.
Or in the aisles of a grocery store. The produce section, maybe. You’re riding on your father’s shoulders, showing the world what the greatest human looks like.
You’re unbelievable, and you make me want to be a better man.
Cindy - June 19, 2018 6:37 am
This is one of your “many” best ones.
Dru - June 19, 2018 7:26 am
Yes, it does. Today we lost our brilliant little gray and white rabbit, Sir Robert de Grey, to it. He had lung cancer, of all things! He was our best buddy and loved watching football and golf on TV. Guess it was the green fields. He sat right next to our chairs, his cage on a table in front of the window to make him just our height. He brought us joy every day of his life. A small gray rabbit can be a world. We love you, Bobby.
Gary - June 19, 2018 9:30 am
We lost our 12 year old pitbull to cancer. I cried for months every time I thought about her. She loved to sit in my lap while I sat in my wheelchair. I never had the heart to tell her she was much too heavy to be a lap dog. Cancer sucks.
Jess in Athens, GA - January 29, 2019 8:26 pm
I sympathize with you, Gary. I lost my fourteen year old dog to cancer and it broke my heart. She was the most wonderful dog I’ve ever shared my life with. She was special and I miss her so. Bailey was waaay too big to be a lap dog too, but she would try to sit on my lap if I let her. She could run like the wind and when we played tag in the backyard I could never lay a hand on her…but she liked for me to try. I’ve got another dog now and I love her too, but I’ll always remember Bailey.
Jo Ann - June 19, 2018 11:01 am
Thank you, again, Sean, for reminding us of the good everyday people out there. I think you nudge us to notice the goodness in others & to pay no attention to the attention-seekers. You make us want to be better people.
Camille - June 19, 2018 11:04 am
And I repeat, SEAN FOR POTUS!
Gloria Bryan - June 19, 2018 11:12 am
When we look at people, we don’t know wHo they are… They are Fighters, Survivors or Endurers. They wear a mask, the mask of being human. And so many times we miss their greatness simply because we don’t “see” them.
Wonderful words, Sean!! And I agree with the little fella, Cancer does Suck!!!
Patricia Schmaltz - June 19, 2018 11:40 am
LOVE reading your stories…every day! Thank you Sean.
janiesjottings - June 19, 2018 11:41 am
Cancer does suck!!! And I agree with you completely about heroes. Let me tell you about one of my heroes. She’s my niece Krystal. She had what they first thought was stage 2 cancer but it turned out to be stage 4. She is a nurse with several degrees, 37 years old & continuing her education still. After treatment the cancer is gone. As soon as she got cleared for work she returned to her job as an ER nurse. Just thinking of what she’s been through and her attitude makes me try harder to never take a moment for granted. Thank you Sean for another reminder that despite all the news we hear there are real people out there overcoming incredible odds and making the world a better place.
Leslie in NC - June 19, 2018 11:56 am
Yes, cancer does suck…out loud. My mom, a single mother of four, sometimes worked two jobs to care for us and her payback was cancer at age 45. I had only three months with her from diagnosis to her death. She was my hero. I was diagnosed 8 months ago, had surgery and pray it never rears it’s ugly head again. My heart weeps for the children and their families who have to battle this horrid disease. Thank you Sean, for so often recognizing the heroes you see and sharing them with us.
Janet Diepenhorst - June 19, 2018 12:03 pm
Sometimes your daily posts really touch me, this is one of those days. Thank you for sharing these stories, they mean so much to me.
Becky - June 19, 2018 12:12 pm
I have a friend who just found her birth father. She is 68 and he is 89. Happy ending, now she has 6 brothers and sisters after being an only child for all these years. She was sold as an infant for $200. The doctor was later convicted of selling babies and died in Raiford prison. She is still trying to find her birth mother. Black market babies were apparently common in the late 40’s and early 50″s. So sad but her reunion with her dad was joyful. Thanks be to God.
Sue Cronkite - June 19, 2018 12:13 pm
Great post. Don’t hate ALL the press. The REAL press, the Fourth Estate, is under the pile of liars, trying to dig out, holding onto the truth with both hands.
Carol Sue - June 19, 2018 12:36 pm
Oh, good! You beat me to this, Sue. Democracy dies without a free and honest press (and, yes, it exists if you spend a little time looking).
Dru - June 19, 2018 2:40 pm
Beautifully said, Sue.
Brenda - June 19, 2018 12:23 pm
Sean, we need more hearts like yours.
Joan Raines - June 19, 2018 12:52 pm
Good one Sean. You hit the nail on the head again. We all need a lesson in humility, empathy and sympathy. I got mine today. Thank you.
Pam Smith - June 19, 2018 1:20 pm
My first visit with Shaun of the South. (Thank you Steve Hargrove) What a spiritual way to begin what I hope is a long path with Mr.Dietrich.
Molly - June 19, 2018 1:45 pm
Beautiful words!! Heroes all around us! Look for them. Thanks for reminding us!!
Edna B. - June 19, 2018 1:59 pm
Right again Sean. The real heroes are right here all around us. Some of them have furry or hairy legs too. Ah, but you already know this, huh? You have an awesome day, hugs ,Edna B.
thefabulousflamingo - June 19, 2018 2:26 pm
Gary - June 19, 2018 2:34 pm
A GOODEN !!!!!
Linda Chapman - June 19, 2018 3:20 pm
I hope you know how much we all love you!
Jack Quanstrum - June 19, 2018 4:13 pm
Love your narrative and theme. How true your story is. The world is upside down. Your a hero yourself. And I agree I with you why things happen the way they do!
Joan - June 19, 2018 11:49 pm
I loved these words about the “hands and feet,” the hidden heroes. Your ability to observe and describe this is a blessing.
Susie Munz - June 21, 2018 2:46 pm
Nobody knows REAL life like you do, Sean. And, you remind us daily of what is really important. You are making a wonderful contribution to a more positive, compassionate world. We all thank you!
Janet Mary Lee - June 21, 2018 5:23 pm
Not only do you provide wonderful insights into what matters, your readers do too! Nice to be reminded of those wonderful people doing, and wonderful people reading! All because of you, Sean! ((hug!))
Margaret tretheway - June 29, 2018 2:46 am
This is written beautifully and has so much common sense and humbleness in it. Thanks for sharing it.
Clark Hining - August 16, 2018 10:01 am
I believe everyone is a precious human made in the image of God. But there are some of whom that it would seem He is especially proud. You are well aware of them when they cross your path. You look for the good and you find it, I have seen and watched them, those heroes. And when I have, my world seemed to stand still if for only a few moments. I think those times stand out in my memory. I believe that when you find joy in God’s creation, He rewards you with seeing some of His favorites.
Judy - August 16, 2018 10:44 am
Sean, this is so beautiful. I am a people watcher also. I see the young man standing in the rain offering his hand to each person getting off a bus and he stops one man to tie his shoe for him. I have seen a middle age son bring his frail mother for her GYN visit stand outside her door during her exam – ready to escort her away when finished. I have seen the young basketball player reach down for any player – his team mate or opposition – that has fallen.
Life. Often bad things happen to good people. Sometimes bad things break us. But I know the Great Healer. He is ever ready to put things back together, often even stronger than they were ever before. I trust that Great Healer that I call Father God. He warned bad things would happen but He also promises to be with us, even in the bad things. I can tell you about some bad things, but, like you, I choose to see the good. I choose joy.
Susi Mitchell - August 16, 2018 12:57 pm
My husband had cancer two times, my sister once, my mother once, my father died after 19 years of living with cancer. It does suck, but so does autism, bi-polar disorder, and so many other diseases. There are heroes among us daily. They are people who struggle to live what appears to be normal lives while battling various illnesses. Their struggles can be huge though invisible to most. There are children who suffer abuse, neglect, and abandonment. I’ve known a bunch of them and their struggles have been huge. There are people who take them in and love them, put up with the anger those children harbor. Those people too are heroes. The children who grow up and lead normal lives, love their own children and do not repeat the sins visited upon themselves, they are heroes too.
Unkel Kenny - August 17, 2018 3:19 am
in a few days it will be a year since cancer took my niece. she almost made it to age fifty . she was an advocate for cats and dogs .she used her job at WOOF fm to announce to the local area when a pet was lost or when someone found a lost fur baby . i miss her sweet voice on the radio. the calls telling me i was the winner of some unclaimed tickets, i was always caller 19. for 30 years she gave all she could and more . that kid was right CANCER SUCKS ! uk
Ellen - August 19, 2018 12:40 am
You are so right! “CANCER SUCKS”!!!