He was twenty-four, illiterate, and he felt like a worthless creature. At night, he’d lie awake thinking of people he’d disappointed. Namely, his mother.

His real name doesn’t matter. So let’s call him Steve.

Steve made a mistake. He went to prison. The details aren’t important.

He was twenty-four, illiterate, and he felt like a worthless creature. At night, he’d lie awake thinking of people he’d disappointed. Namely, his mother.

Steve made friends with the chaplain—who discovered that Steve couldn’t read or write.

The chaplain taught Steve the basics. ABC’s, cursive, grammar. In a few years, Steve went from reading Doctor Seuss to Walt Whitman.

He enrolled in a GED correspondence course. After that: onward and upward. It took years to earn college credits through the US Mail.

He graduated with an associate’s degree.

And when the chaplain baptized Steve in a feed-trough, Steve rose from the water and hugged the chaplain.

Steve told him, “I wish I was hugging my mama right now.”

“This hug is from her and me both,” said the chaplain.

Steve’s mother passed while he was inside.

Years later, our hero joined civilian life as an older man. The world felt like a foreign place. He found a job on a concrete crew. He grew his hair long because he could.

At work, Steve made friends with a twenty-six-year-old man who we’ll call DeRonn.

DeRonn and Steve grew close. They had deep conversations at work. DeRonn admitted that he’d once wanted to study art, but never did.

“Why not?” asked Steve.

“Because,” said DeRonn. “I dropped out at sixteen when my girlfriend got pregnant.”

A few days later, an envelope appeared in the front seat of DeRonn’s car. Inside was a little cash, wrapped with a rubber band, and a note which read:

“That’s to help pay for art school.”

That was two lifetimes ago. DeRonn is not a kid anymore. And he’s not sad, either. And as it happens, he did finish school. His degree is in photography.

Today, he volunteers at an after school art program for at-risk kids. It’s only a few hours per week, but he enjoys it.

He instructs troubled teenagers how to operate film cameras, make clay mugs, and paint with acrylics and watercolor.

There are several students worth mentioning.

Like the fifteen-year-old whose mother died in a car accident. We’ll call him Jason.

Jason’s family was poor. The kid was a wreck. But he was pure talent. His paintings were fit for museums. And over the course of one semester, DeRonn taught him how to be better.

DeRonn managed to save each of the boy’s projects that year.

One day after class, DeRonn approached Jason and his father. He invited them to a cocktail party in a nice part of town.

“And dress sharp,” DeRonn told them.

The party was at a small art gallery. It was an art auction. Think: finger food, fancy wine, and people fake-laughing.

When Jason arrived, he was wearing a necktie and tennis shoes. The room of people applauded.

All the paintings on the wall were Jason’s.

That night, DeRonn auctioned off twenty-nine paintings. They didn’t earn much, but the money went toward Jason’s college fund.

“Why’re you being so good to me?” Jason asked.

“Because,” said DeRonn. “Someone was good to me once.”

So you might wonder where I’m going with all this. To tell you the truth, I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. Because I’m just some guy you’ve never met who likes to hear stories. I don’t know much.

But I do know this:

There is still plenty of kindness in this world.

Chaplains and prisoners matter more than they think they do.

And last week, Steve finally got to hug his mother.


  1. John - March 14, 2018 7:45 am


  2. Cathi - March 14, 2018 9:14 am

    I hope Steve hugs my mama up there too. I’ve been missing her!

  3. Martha Owens - March 14, 2018 10:59 am

    We never know when an act of kindness has a ripple effect. Love your stories! Read them every day.

  4. Steven Porter - March 14, 2018 11:21 am


  5. CKD - March 14, 2018 12:05 pm

    What a wonderful heartwarming story. You always manage to lift my spirits. Thank you!

  6. Delynn Roberts - March 14, 2018 12:18 pm

    This one brought me to tears.

  7. Arlene - March 14, 2018 12:24 pm

    I’m gonna find Steve some day and hug him.

  8. Jane Chandler - March 14, 2018 12:28 pm

    This shows the ripple effect of kindness, how we want to repay. This is a great story. Love reading your posts.

  9. muthahun - March 14, 2018 12:36 pm

    Live in fear or live in faith. Our choice, eh?

  10. Sherry - March 14, 2018 12:45 pm

    Pass it forward…we aren’t here to judge…we’re here to help.

  11. Lucretia - March 14, 2018 1:07 pm

    Each of us is of Great Worth. . . Jesus Christ knows and he sacrificed himself fully that we might be saved. . . should we not be about the work of sacrifice and saving . . . Thank you, Sean, for the most poignant reminder, a true story as only you have been blessed to tell….

  12. theholtgirls - March 14, 2018 1:30 pm

    I have a feeling that Billy Graham and my Pastor Adrian Rogers may have been in line to hug Steve too. Thank you, Sean. I wonder who on earth I’ll get to hug today?

  13. Debbie Robinson - March 14, 2018 1:42 pm

    Sean, I hope you know how much your writing truly touch people. All that you are doing matters, and helps others on days that they feel they can’t go one more step.
    I would love to meet you and tell you what an inspiration you are to me on a daily basis.
    Thank you Sean, keep up the good work.

  14. Diane Pendley - March 14, 2018 2:10 pm

    In a world where you can be anything … Be Kind ❤️❤️

  15. Jack Darnell - March 14, 2018 2:26 pm

    I look foward to this every morning, when we aren’t moving. Yesterday we were on the road, so I was late. I really do like to start the day with you. THANKS (for may reasons!)

  16. Patsy - March 14, 2018 2:56 pm

    I always look forward to the last line! Thanks again for being a champion for those who feel ‘less than’❤️

  17. Susan - March 14, 2018 3:16 pm

    You are a wonderful writer.

  18. Jack Quanstrum - March 14, 2018 4:12 pm

    Peace be with you!

  19. Ted - March 14, 2018 4:40 pm

    You paint with words! It’s beautiful!

  20. Jon Jones - March 14, 2018 5:17 pm

    Once again you’ve turned a man of steel into a blubbering mess.

  21. Wendy Franks - March 14, 2018 6:01 pm

    Beautiful as usual. TYSM, Sean!

  22. Pamela McEachern - March 14, 2018 6:16 pm

    I would like to say I live by the Golden Rule, you make my aspiration much easier. Thank you for your beautiful stories of faith and kindnesses.

    Peace and Love from Birmingham

  23. Maxine - March 14, 2018 6:18 pm

    Thank you again for making me proud of the human race, there is hope isn’t there?

  24. Lynda - March 14, 2018 6:22 pm

    Okay, Sean!!! You did it again. I’ve got tears in my eyes, but my heart feels fuller. Thank you.

  25. Linda Chipman - March 14, 2018 7:59 pm

    Some days your last sentence is a real chill-making tear jerker. Thanks for telling us about people who make a difference.

  26. Edna B. - March 14, 2018 11:05 pm

    I’m really enjoying your stories. I’ve even given your link to another friend and she enjoys you too. Thank you for sharing.

  27. Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - March 15, 2018 12:43 am

    You got me on that one!

  28. Michael Hawke - March 15, 2018 2:57 am

    Thank you again.

  29. Susan Hammett Poole - March 15, 2018 6:52 am

    Through sudden tears, which came at the last sentence, and with a full heart, I want to tell you how much I appreciate all your stories. ♥ ♥ ♥

  30. Frannie Keller - March 15, 2018 3:02 pm

    Thank you. And, by the way YOU matter!

  31. Cathy Callender - March 16, 2018 11:27 am

    The Ripple Effect! Perfect explanation using some of us imperfect humans! Everyone’s has a gift, though, it might take some scratching to bring it to the surface! Thanks for shining a light on the worth of some who feel worthless.

  32. Patricia - March 21, 2018 6:12 pm

    Just when I thought I’d read through one of your gifts without a tear… thank you dear Sean

  33. Charlotte - May 25, 2018 2:03 pm

    As a Corrections nurse I see so many inmates that no one ever helped, they never had a mentor, anyone who cared. Thanks for recognizing what a little care can accomplish!

  34. Annette H. Bailey - May 25, 2018 5:16 pm

    Ive tried to help kids since I was 16 yrs. old. I didn’t have any money but I tutored them and taught them how to play the guitar. In college, I did the same…for a little money, not much, but just enough to buy certain things I needed. I met and married a pharmacist and since we couldn’t have kids, we’ve helped families with groceries and jobs at the store. We still help two families who can’t make ends meet at the moment. We retired 6 yrs. ago and will help as much as we can. We encouraged our nieces and nephews to go to college or get a trade, as well as the young people who worked for us. Several did. I’d like to think we had some kind of impact on others lives to make them want the simple but good things in life. As long as they know it’s important to help others when they can, then we’ve done our job…..and it’s very rewarding putting the love and care out there.


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