It’s a Wonderful Life

It’s a few days until Christmas, and I was going to write something else. I was going to write a story about my dog, or something about winter. But I’ve changed my mind.

That’s a writer’s prerogative. A writer changes his mind all the time.

Sometimes, for instance, he changes his mind at a restaurant, mid-salad.

But today, I wanted to tell you something important. And I’m not changing my mind about this.

I hope you have a merry Christmas.

That’s it. That’s the purpose of this column. In fact, that will probably be my final sentence when it’s all over. So, you can stop reading here if you’re pressed for time.

Still, because I have a few hundred words left, I am going stretch this out. After all, if writers didn’t expound on topics, all suspense novels would only have two pages, and go like this:

“There was a guy who turned up dead. Blah, blah, blah. It was Colonel Mustard in the parlor. The end.”

And who wants to read books like that?

So let me tell you about a kid I once knew:

There was once a kid who wanted to write. Sometimes, it seemed like he was no good at it. But that’s where you came in. You told him he could do it.

You took different forms, but you’re more or less the same person. You’re kindness. Charity. Goodness. You are every nice person that kid ever met.

You are the man in Piggly Wiggly who returned the kid’s wallet. You didn’t have to do that, but you did.

And you’re the man in Montgomery, who bought the kid and his wife a tank of gas when their credit card was declined at the pump.

You were the person who befriended the kid. You didn’t try to “help” the kid. You just let him talk.

And, you were the college professor who actually took the time to read what the kid wrote. Then, you took even more time to send a letter via the U.S. Mail which included the sentence:

“You’re a wonderful writer!!!!”

And you used FOUR exclamation marks. Four.

And you’ve been there through the years. You change shapes, and faces, but you’re there. And you make it a wonderful life.

You were the police officer who came to see the kid speak at a tiny Rotary Club meeting. There were maybe eight people in the audience. You clapped when his speech was done. Then, as if you hadn’t done enough, you took him to eat lunch at a taco truck thereafter—WITH half the police department.

The kid remembers that. In his book, it goes down as one of his top-forty greatest hits.

You were the ten-year-old-girl, who wore rags for clothes. Who had no parents, and a sad home life.

You approached the kid-writer after he gave a speech at your school, and said, “I wish you had a podcast. Because I like podcasts, they make me feel like I have friends, since nobody ever wants to be my friend.”

The writer didn’t even know what podcast was. But the very next week, with the help of a technologically inclined friend, he bought fifty-two-dollars’ worth of recording equipment from the classified section of the newspaper. And a podcast was born.

You were the homeless man who gave the kid your very own pocketknife because you said it was a good luck charm.

You were Uncle Kenny, who kept the kid supplied with beer.

You were the friend who talked the kid into writing his first book.

The man at the gas station who gave the kid a free cup of coffee even though he forgot his wallet at home.

The woman who married the kid. Who tutored him through eleven years of community college. Who got him his very first bloodhound. Who puts up with his aimlessness. Who lets this kid feel like he knows it all, even though you know he doesn’t.

You were the gentle voice that found the kid, long ago. The one who told him “You’re not worthless, son. You’re beautiful.”

Tonight, you’re probably reading this on your phone. And you really don’t know what you’ve done for me.

All the taps of your thumb, all the liking, the sharing, the emailing, the listening on your car stereo. Don’t you get it?

You’ve altered the course of a kid’s life. It was you who gave me the greatest blessing I ever had.

So I know I told you my last line would be: “I hope you have a merry Christmas.”

But I changed my mind. And that’s a writer’s prerogative.

Here’s my new last line:

May God bless us, every one.

78 comments

  1. Richda McNutt - December 21, 2019 1:37 pm

    I love you, Sean – you make us aware of all the kind, generous, big-hearted people in our world.

    Reply
  2. Linda Cabot - December 21, 2019 1:38 pm

    My Sister told me about your column about a year ago and since then I have told many others. I read it every morning without fail just after my devotional and you always have a word for me. So glad your life is good after a sad start. You are indeed a blessed person as am I. Merry Christmas! 🎄

    Reply
  3. Donna - December 21, 2019 1:39 pm

    It is a wonderful life Sean, thank you for adding wonder to the lives of so many! I don’t know you but I love you. God bless you and yours, merry merry Christmas!!!💜✌💜

    Reply
  4. Jimmy Stewart (no really, it is) - December 21, 2019 1:39 pm

    It truly is a wonderful life!!! Thanks for sharing yours with us!!!

    Reply
  5. Amy Patterson - December 21, 2019 1:42 pm

    Sean you are one of the most gifted writers I have ever read. I start every day reading your column in my email.

    I love your podcasts and am so excited that they will be starting back soon. I have been listening to your old ones every day and even though I have heard them, they still speak to me, make me laugh, some make me cry but over all they just make me happy. So actually it is you who is changing lives.

    Keep doing what you are doing because you are excellent at it. I hope you, Jamie, Thelma Lou and Otis Campbell have a very Merry Christmas and may God bless you all!

    Reply
  6. Shelton A. - December 21, 2019 1:45 pm

    God bless you, Sean (and Jamie and the dogs). Thank you for the laughs, the moments moved to tears, and knowing your dogs do some of the same dumb things mine does. Merry, Merry Christmas and a most Happy New Year.

    Reply
  7. Gary - December 21, 2019 1:47 pm

    God bless you, Sean! I love your daily email! Your writing makes me laugh and think and remember and cry and count blessings and sometimes write songs. Your writing moves me and inspires me. It makes me think that maybe I still have a chance to be remembered for my writing one day. Thank you for that hope and thank you for writing! Merry Christmas!

    Reply
  8. Barbara - December 21, 2019 1:49 pm

    Bless you. Your words bring joy to every morning.

    Reply
  9. Janie F. - December 21, 2019 1:49 pm

    Sean I just read this post to my husband. You have become very special to us. We feel as if we know you and Jamie. We laugh about the antics of your dogs. You bring us to tears quite often. In other words, you are a blessing in our lives.
    Merry Christmas to you and Jamie and May the Good Lord continue to bless you both!

    Reply
  10. dinnerdee - December 21, 2019 1:50 pm

    Sean, thanks for all the gentle nudges (just when I need them) to be the person who my dog thinks I am.

    Reply
  11. Jackie Keeling - December 21, 2019 1:50 pm

    God bless you too, Sean and Merry Christmas to you and all your loved ones.

    Reply
  12. Sandra Harper - December 21, 2019 1:54 pm

    Needed this today. I wish you more success and inspiration for all ages. You’re a wonderful writer and person. Merry Christmas

    Reply
  13. Tammy S - December 21, 2019 1:58 pm

    ❤️ And I’m so glad you listened and just kept writing!! We hope you never stop. Again, a great piece. God bless you and yours, Sean. Merry Christmas!!

    Reply
  14. Berryman Mary M - December 21, 2019 2:03 pm

    We all crave love, kindness and a feeling of self worth. May we view each and every person we meet as in need to those things. YOU may never know or never see the difference you have made in someone else’s life!
    Thank you Sean, for that reminder and God Bless Us Everyone!

    Reply
  15. Maxine - December 21, 2019 2:03 pm

    Yes Sean, God has blessed each and everyone of us, though some dont believe and take that gift of blessing for their very own. And now I want to tell you that you have blessed so many with your empathy to their suffering. You have lifted heavy hearts, encouraged the strugglers, and have shared both your hard times and the ones overflowing with joy and thanksgiving for overcoming the obstacles. You have shared your great appreciation for Jamie being by your side through thick and thin. Thank you for being YOU.

    Reply
  16. Gerald Pulskamp - December 21, 2019 2:09 pm

    Thanks Sean, you have changed my life, even though I didn’t particularly want it changed!!!!

    Reply
  17. Gail - December 21, 2019 2:11 pm

    Indeed – may He bless us, every one!!!!

    Reply
  18. Betty F. - December 21, 2019 2:16 pm

    May you have a merry Christmas, and bless YOU, Sean plus an extra one for Jamie.

    Reply
  19. Minnie Tate Bourque - December 21, 2019 2:19 pm

    You have brightened my life and given me hope more than you know, Sean. God bless you and Merry Christmas to you, your strong, loyal wife and those wonderful canines who bless your life.
    God Bless!

    Reply
  20. Joanne Reilly - December 21, 2019 2:23 pm

    Dear Sean,
    I read your email every day most always but catch up and read two when time was short. I share this email with my sister mostly and she shares it with friends. Mornings are the best time with a cup of tea to read them as it starts my day with a good laugh or cry maybe both but always with a better mind set.
    You touch the heart and soul with a smile.
    Thanks for your talent in writing and thanks to all the people who encourage you to continue.
    We are all proud of you and hope you and your family have a happy and healthy new year!
    Merry Christmas and God bless!
    J

    Reply
  21. Jake Behr - December 21, 2019 2:27 pm

    One of your best! I love reading what you write every day! May God bless you! Merry Christmas!!!!

    Reply
  22. Karen Crumpton - December 21, 2019 2:29 pm

    Very good, made me cry a bit…God bless you too!

    Reply
  23. Wanda in Alabama - December 21, 2019 2:30 pm

    God bless you too, Sean. You are not only a talented writer, but a writer with a heart. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

    Reply
  24. Phil S. - December 21, 2019 2:32 pm

    And the whole congregation said, “AMEN!!”

    Reply
  25. Sharon Brock - December 21, 2019 2:36 pm

    Oh Sean. You don’t understand. You are the one who makes us better people. Who shows us that our corner of the world is filled with warm, caring people willing to help a fellow American in need. That maybe our country isn’t as broken as we think. Thank you Sean for illuminating our collective goodness. God bless you, Jamie, and your Mama. Merry Christmas, Sean.

    Reply
  26. C. Kurth - December 21, 2019 2:36 pm

    This is perfect.

    Reply
  27. Steve - December 21, 2019 2:37 pm

    I just had a thought. We should all make our own list like this. And then give that list to ourselves for Christmas.

    Reply
  28. Robin - December 21, 2019 2:43 pm

    Beautiful, Sean. The world needs writers like you. Never stop.

    Reply
  29. Bill - December 21, 2019 2:44 pm

    Sean, You inspire us in many ways with your writing. This one is a great reminder of how many people and events each of us has had as positive influences in our lives. As we reflect on our lives we should give thanks for all those great and sometimes very small things that played a role in shaping us to be the person we are. Of course we each have had persons and events that had a very negative influence, but even those things have helped us to understand by contrast the better paths to follow. Thank you, Sean, and may you and Jamie, and all your loved ones have a Merry Christmas with God’s Blessings!

    Reply
  30. Barbara Barnes - December 21, 2019 2:52 pm

    Amen

    Reply
  31. Betsy Hughes - December 21, 2019 3:00 pm

    Sean, you are a gift to us all. You touch my heart each morning and I look forward to reading your email. Merry Christmas!

    Reply
  32. Jim Thomssen - December 21, 2019 3:08 pm

    Stop making this yankee kid cry!

    Reply
  33. Norman Purdue - December 21, 2019 3:13 pm

    Love that kid! Keep writing and I’ll keep reading.
    Merry Christmas!

    Reply
  34. Patsy - December 21, 2019 3:16 pm

    Merry Christmas to you! The ‘kid’ brightens a lot of lives each day as we are privileged to read what he writes🎄❤️

    Reply
  35. Joretta Parker - December 21, 2019 3:17 pm

    Merry Christmas to you and your wife, and if course the fur babys.

    Reply
  36. Janet Williams - December 21, 2019 3:27 pm

    Thank you for reminding me of all the encouraging voices in my own life. Thank you for the reminder that we can make a difference! Your beautiful heart comes through in your writing.

    Reply
  37. Ala Red Clay Girl - December 21, 2019 3:28 pm

    Because of those who blessed your life, you, in turn, bless our lives everyday by your writings. Thank you and Merry Christmas!

    Reply
  38. Jennie Stultz - December 21, 2019 3:31 pm

    I was the only person who brought a book of yours to sign at an Episcopal camp where you performed this summer. We greeted each other like old friends and I was one of the first people to stand when you and the Blue Mullets sang “I’ll Fly Away”!
    Thank you for inspiring me to want to be the girl version of Sean Dietrich at 72 years old!!!

    Reply
  39. Kathy Brannan Howell - December 21, 2019 3:33 pm

    You make me happy. You make me smile. You make me cry happy and sad tears. I can’t wait to read your email every day and I forward them to folks who may need to read your message. Keep it up, Sean. Merry Christmas and God bless.

    Reply
  40. Larry Kessler - December 21, 2019 3:39 pm

    A.W. Tozer once wrote, “God uses no man greatly until he has been wounded deeply.” I certainly don’t think that God Was the source of your father’s unfortunate suicide, but the hope of the birth of Christ takes the horrible things of life and used them in remarkable, humbling ways to enrich our lives and those around us. Sean, every story, every memory that you share is filled with holy humanity!! Thank you for sharing and being a GREAT encouragement in my life. I would love to meet you, share a meal and swap a story or two. God has allowed me to serve Him in Russia for 26 years and it has been an exciting and fulfilling trip. I am privileged to sit with people there and ask them to tell me their story!! What stories I hear, but they end in miracles as Christ enters their lives!! Enjoy your Christmas and keep on writing your stories. It’s God’s supernatural calling on your life to bring Him near to others.
    Your friend and brother, Ole Larry

    Reply
  41. Clonnie Kujawa - December 21, 2019 3:47 pm

    Love and Merry Christmas Sean!!!

    Reply
  42. Marge - December 21, 2019 4:14 pm

    The tears are flowing and my heart is filled with hope for my future! At almost 80 years of age, I read your postings every day and remember why I am still here! You bring me/us back to the reality of how our world is blessed with good, ordinary ( yet very special) folks!

    Thank you, Sean, for everything you have given to me this past year through your words! Have a blessed Christmas and a year ahead that is filled with love, happiness, health and adventures!

    Reply
  43. Cathi Russell - December 21, 2019 4:22 pm

    Sean, I hope you have an inkling of how much you make people smile every single day. I’m so grateful a friend of mine shared the beauty of your blog a few years ago. I wish you, Jamie, Thel & Otis the merriest of Christmases from this very grateful reader!

    Reply
  44. Jan - December 21, 2019 4:29 pm

    Another wonderful column, another tear-jerker, another blessing to start my day! Thank you, Sean, for being just who you are – someone who sees the best in people and the best in life. You are an encourager and that is one of the most important spiritual gifts you can be blessed with! God bless you, your sweet wife and your family!

    Reply
  45. Linda Moon - December 21, 2019 4:31 pm

    I’m not pressed for time nor pressed into the doughnut-shaped machine today. So I continued to read. You, Writer, bless me each day I make it to your last line. And I am blessed if and when the scan results are good so that I can metaphorically make it to some predetermined “last life-line” and continue to read your written words, listen to podcasts, and attend a live event, especially near Oak Hill Cemetery!! The “last life-line” of someone I know and love is written there, and thanks to you, I was there to read it a half-century later!!!!

    Reply
  46. Rebecca J Cotney - December 21, 2019 4:34 pm

    God bless you Sean for the joy & happiness you give to us. You have become an important part of our daily life & we thank you for that. One of the highlights of our Summer was seeing you perform at the produce stand in LaFayette, Al. Merry Christmas to you Jamie & the puppies. Peace & love.

    Reply
  47. John M Maddox aka Papa - December 21, 2019 4:34 pm

    Amen brother! Never stop, never! Merry Christmas!

    Reply
  48. Melia - December 21, 2019 4:39 pm

    ❤️

    Reply
  49. Tracy Stewart - December 21, 2019 5:41 pm

    Simply beautiful!

    Reply
  50. aleathia nicholson - December 21, 2019 5:45 pm

    Merry Merry to you too!

    Reply
  51. Neil - December 21, 2019 6:35 pm

    Read story to my wife, took 20 minutes and we split a new box of Kleenex between us.
    God Bless and Merry CHRISTmas

    Reply
  52. Marci Welker - December 21, 2019 6:58 pm

    You’re a wonderful writer!!!!
    ,

    Reply
  53. Ann Marie Bouchet - December 21, 2019 7:24 pm

    Sean, your goodness and love affects everyone who reads your words. You are a great writer and we are all richer for knowing you thru your words. Merry Christmas to you and Jamie and the dogs. Y’all are loved. Thank you for the part of your life you share with us.

    Reply
  54. Patricia Gibson - December 21, 2019 7:24 pm

    Merry Christmas!!!!

    Reply
  55. Marjorie - December 21, 2019 7:57 pm

    Merry Christmas 🎄

    Reply
  56. Suzanne - December 21, 2019 9:41 pm

    Merry Christmas Sean. May God bless you too!
    I’m almost ready to start my website, blog, and podcast…but I’m 64 and a bit afraid of failing.
    Your daily blog inspires me. Maybe tomorrow will be the day I start.
    Happy New Year!

    Reply
  57. susangleadow@gmail.com - December 21, 2019 10:41 pm

    And God Bless you and yours! Merry Christmas!

    Reply
  58. Jean - December 21, 2019 11:30 pm

    I like to think that there are more good people in this world than bad which we see more often. There are many angels around us…maybe not with wings but doing good things. I think you are a wonderful person and a great writer who just happened to meet your soul mate and there must have been angels flying around that day. May I wish for you and yours the Merriest of Christmases and God bless us everyone!!

    Reply
  59. Tim House - December 22, 2019 12:40 am

    I’ve been you, as well, which makes your writings so close to home. And I agree, May God bless us, every one. 🙂

    Reply
  60. Marilyn Scarborough - December 22, 2019 1:06 am

    And, May God Bless you . You bless me with everyone of your columns … I love forwarding them to my two boys and brother and friends. Merry Christmas. Marilyn

    Reply
  61. Frieda - December 22, 2019 2:09 am

    Merry Christmas to you and Jamie! And may the dogs get an extra bone -or two- for an extra special Christmas!

    Reply
  62. Ann - December 22, 2019 2:29 am

    Amen!🌲🙏🏻

    Reply
  63. David - December 22, 2019 5:38 am

    And you, too, Sean. Gd bless you and have a very merry Christmas.

    Reply
  64. Patricia - December 22, 2019 3:20 pm

    I saw and read you column for the first time back in the summer in a magazine, i have been a fan of yours ever since. I plan on seeing you in person in the coming year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    Reply
  65. Lita - December 22, 2019 4:37 pm

    You’re an anchor in a turbulent world. Peace and happiness to you and yours, Sean.

    Reply
  66. Gerri - December 22, 2019 7:41 pm

    Live you, Man!!!!

    Reply
  67. Gerri - December 22, 2019 7:43 pm

    Love you, too.

    Reply
  68. Tom Wallin - December 22, 2019 9:22 pm

    Sean, i hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas ans season as well.

    Reply
  69. Dave Wilson - December 22, 2019 11:30 pm

    Your last line is ‘THE BEST”!!!

    Reply
  70. Camilla - December 23, 2019 12:25 am

    Another beauty… loved the surprise turns.

    Reply
  71. Keloth Anne - December 23, 2019 1:24 am

    And what blessings you have given us!!
    I hope you and Jamie have a wonderful Christmas 🎄😊🎁❤️

    Reply
  72. that's jack - December 23, 2019 3:28 pm

    It is nice to know a writer who knows big words like prerogative and mayonnaise and newmonia. I enjoyed the read. THANKS
    Sherry & jack.

    Reply
  73. MD - December 23, 2019 4:51 pm

    God Bless you too, from the Pacific North West!!!! Thank you for all you do!

    Reply
  74. Sheila - December 23, 2019 11:13 pm

    You are uncommon Sean. You feel things then put those feelings into words. Wonderful words. Funny words Kind words. You are special and special to me. You make my day a lot of days and for that I am grateful.

    Good bless you and Jamie and Merry Christmas to you both and Otis Campbell and Thelma Lu too. Sheila in WV

    Reply
  75. Sondra - December 24, 2019 1:54 pm

    Merry Christmas, Sean!!! Thank you for all the words that make up the sentences, that make up the paragraphs, that make up your wonderful blog you share with us everyday. You are the BEST!!

    Reply
  76. Belinda Crowell - December 24, 2019 10:14 pm

    Wow! I’m so proud that because I read all your stories and love them, that I’ve helped give you a wonderful life! Merry Christmas, dear Sean! Belinda

    Reply
  77. Carol - January 11, 2020 8:12 pm

    Like I said in a earlier or is it later e mail. ?
    I wish you all a Merry Christmas but I’ve been confused sence Thanksgiving!
    I hope you get to read all the wonderful people that love you 😍
    Love ya!

    Reply
  78. thelifeoflylabeth - March 3, 2020 10:15 am

    Sean, you have no idea how special your words are to this 75 year old woman. Don’t stop writing.

    Reply

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