Colatta is her name. She and I are in the elevator together. She is pushing a large cart of cleaning supplies and mini shampoos.
Colatta is short, black, cheery. She’s wearing scrubs. She is pure Alabama. She has an accent that won’t quit, and wears a War Eagle headband.
“Went to Auburn,” she says. “Wanted to be a vet, but didn’t even come close to finishing ‘cause I had my son.
“Man, I thought my life was over, it was just beginning.”
Her boyfriend didn’t stick around during pregnancy. She was forced to work. Her job was in a hotel laundromat. She was promoted to a maid last year.
“Have a good day,” she says to me, rolling her cart down a corridor.
“You, too,” I say.
“Me?” She laughs. “Already HAVING me a good day. I’m so blessed it ain’t funny.”
Colatta. I love that name.
Later that day, I drive two hours east. I stop at a cafe inside a gas station. It’s a hole-in-the-wall.
After eating, I pay at the register. The cashier is older, very skinny. She places a handheld vibrating box to her throat to speak. Her voice is robotic.
She hands me a receipt. Then, she presses the device to her neck again and says: “Have a good day. Enjoy this nice weather.”
There is a gnarled scar beneath her jaw.
And she’s wishing ME a nice day.
7:09 P.M.—I’ve driven all day. I’m eating in a locals-only beer joint. People in this room are looking at me funny. I’m an out-of-towner and they smell it.
There’s an old man with a service dog—a brown Lab named Hershey.
The man wears a ball cap with a battleship on it. He shows me a tattoo on his forearm which reads: “Albert, Daniel, Adam.”
“My three brothers,” he says. “Killed in Europe. I was too young for the Big War, they sent me to Korea.”
That’s all he says about it.
When he stands to leave, it’s hard for him to move. He limps. The dog walks close beside him.
The bartender explains that this man is one of America’s finest—who still suffers from a forgotten war.
Before the man leaves, he says, “Y’all be good.”
Everyone inside waves goodbye.
Right now, I’m writing from a hotel room. I’ve had a busy day. I’ve driven far. I’ve talked with people.
And I’ve heard words. Nice words. Kind words.
I believe in words, you see. I believe they do things. I don’t know how they work, and I don’t care. Saying simple words can make the sick feel a little better, make the sad smile, and make old men remember.
I believe in using them to glorify those who work hard, those who have lost voiceboxes, and those who suffer.
I’m a nobody from nowhere. But I believe in little, trivial letters, strung together to make sounds which form words. Words that help. Words that may or may not mean a damn thing to you.
Words like: you’re beautiful.
And: nothing bad lasts forever.
And: you are more exceptional than you will ever know.
And: God bless you, Colatta.
Scott Gardner - October 19, 2017 1:12 pm
I rarely comment on posts and try to never read the comments, but I felt compelled to say “Thanks” today for your posts. You find the nobility in everyone and that’s important today. I fight the urge daily to be judgmental and your posts remind me that there’s a story behind those faces. Thanks.
teachenglish67 - October 19, 2017 1:28 pm
“May you give a smile and have a blessing today”, is what I usually say to someone at the end of a conversation or meeting.
Thank you, Sean, for your insight.
Toni Gerdes - October 19, 2017 1:35 pm
I make it a point to wave at delivery drivers and mail men when I am out and about. They are invisible except for the moment they leave something at your house. And I love seeing the UPS guy’s face light up when he gets that big wave and a smile.
Gerald - March 11, 2018 2:02 pm
Toni I walk a lot and I do the same. About once a month I leave a couple brownies in a ziplock in the mailbox.
Patricia Schmaltz - October 19, 2017 1:39 pm
You certainly bring a connection to the human race with every note you write. Thank you, and have a GREAT day!
HUGS! (That’s my favorite letter finisher!)
Lauren Ulrich - October 19, 2017 2:12 pm
Thank you the reminder that we should speak the good even if we think it won’t make any difference. It will~
Joan Dake - October 19, 2017 2:14 pm
I pray that God continues to bless you, Sean, and Colatta, too
Janet Mary Lee - October 19, 2017 2:25 pm
Your words are especially beautiful today! Bless you and all you write about! And bless your readers lucky enough to experience your words….
Pat Byers - October 19, 2017 2:46 pm
yes. those words. sometimes from an unlikely source. one you don’t expect. one never knows how much a smile and a simple greeting can mean to another. YOUR words never fail to lift me up. thank you.
Anne Godwin - October 19, 2017 3:32 pm
Another of your posts shared on Facebook. Your writing is so refreshing. Love is really all we need. That and respect among people who may disagree. Thanks for sharing your perspectives on life and individual people. You have a gift!
Jack Quanstrum - October 19, 2017 4:10 pm
Absolutely agree with you Sean. It’s the true way to a rich life. Be kind with your words and let them be authentic and they will enrich another more then you will ever know. Peace brother.
Howard Humphreys - October 19, 2017 4:37 pm
They get better with each post!! Thanks …email@example.com
Linda Chipman - October 19, 2017 5:22 pm
Your words matter to me Sean. Beautiful.
Virginia Liles - October 19, 2017 6:27 pm
I like words, too. Comforting words, encouraging words, words of peace and hope. Thank you for words. Thank you for teachers who taught me to put them together. Thank you for Colattas of the world.
Thank you for your words, Sean.
Lynda - October 19, 2017 7:22 pm
Thank you, Sean. My sweet grandmother told me many times, negative words live forever, but thankfully the same is true for those sweet words.
Sarah - October 19, 2017 8:38 pm
Love this as usual. I beleive in the same. A little kind talk and go a long way.
Karen - October 19, 2017 8:54 pm
Awesome Sean, you just made my day! Every word true to the heart!
Thank you for writing from your heart!
Molly Pinkston - October 19, 2017 10:24 pm
Your words make me smile! Thank you for sharing! Molly
Sue Cronkite - October 19, 2017 11:18 pm
Another great one!
Marion - October 20, 2017 1:16 am
Words are so very special and important. They can make or break us. Your words help make me! I hope to pass them on! Hugs and love to you!
Laura Boyd - October 20, 2017 2:53 am
Sean, I love everything that you write and the feelings you evoke with the letters that you “string together” so eloquently. Thank you so for sharing your talent…..I look very forward to every one of your post and I have not read one to which I did not relate in some way. Love your writings! Laura Boyd
Mary Ellen Hall - October 20, 2017 2:54 am
LOVE THIS!!! SO TRUE!!
Words can say it ALL!!
Jody - October 20, 2017 11:31 pm
Kindness. In words or actions are blessings
Sam Hunneman - November 3, 2017 2:01 am
Words do matter. Would that those in high and public places would remember that.
Celeste Phillips - November 21, 2017 10:18 am
Thank you for honoring the forgotten, seemingly insignicant people of our world and bringing to light their world through their eyes and words. My granny Sally always said,”If you can’t say something nice , don’t say anything at all.”
Beth Riley - November 21, 2017 2:30 pm
Perfect timing for this reminder to take the time to talk to the folks we encounter along the way. We’re headed to Auburn for a family Thanksgiving but will make a few stops along the way. I will remember your words and I will also speak words of kindness and respect.
Deborah Canales - March 11, 2018 9:07 am
I like your words. They touch my heart which often brings tears to my eyes. Your words make me want to try to be a more observant, kinder, grateful person. May it be so…and thank you for sharing your words.
Nancy Oswald - March 11, 2018 3:34 pm
I love words,also! I’m one word…inspirational!
Lori Brown - January 19, 2020 4:36 am
Thank you,Sean,for these words today. I’m not eloquent, but I believe in kind words. Words like that have gotten me through hard days and I believe in building others up. And More than anything, I would love to be more like Colatta ❤️ Thanks for introducing her to me.
Martha - January 19, 2020 4:41 am
Scripture tells us two very elemtary things:
1) For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
2) The power of life & death are in the tongue
“I believe in words, you see. I believe they do things. I don’t know how they work, and I don’t care. Saying simple words can make the sick feel a little better, make the sad smile, and make old men remember.
I believe in using them to glorify those who work hard, those who have lost voiceboxes, and those who suffer.”
My friend you have chosen well………
Debbie - January 19, 2020 9:41 am
This illustrates the beauty and power of letting our words be like apples of gold in baskets of silver.
You, sir, are a remarkable wordsmith.
Debora L Bettis - January 19, 2020 6:04 pm
I love the power of words. And I have known for sometime, Sean, that your superpower is words. I think perhaps you need someone to make you one of those cool capes to wear. And a cool insignia across your chest. Maybe a great big “W”. We could call you “Wordman”. Because you always have a good word to share with us. A word that lifts us from an existence that sometimes is so dreary, we feel as though things will never get better. But you remind us of sunrises, sunsets, faithful dogs, our mother’s gentle love, and that moments in life can be simply perfect, no matter what. The “man of steel” has nothing on our “wordman”. Ke e p it going, Sean.
P.S. Wh e n you get your cape, I want to see pics!
Pete Foley - January 20, 2020 3:35 am
Sean, I write for a living and I wish to write like you. Thank you.