The following story took place yesterday afternoon, somewhere in Minnesota. The temperature was 29 degrees below death.

Nineteen-year-old Chloe parked her piece-of-junkola car outside the high-school gymnasium. The car spewed blue exhaust and purred like a 68-year-old smoker. The parking lot was encrusted with snow.

Chloe is an orphan. She was raised in foster care under hard circumstances. She was the quintessential hard-luck case you grew up with. Underprivileged. Underconfident. Quiet.

After graduating, Chloe has been living on her own in Minneapolis. It’s been difficult. She’s never lived alone before. Each month has been a financial hell. She works two jobs and makes minimum wage at both.

She was engaged, but her fiancée cheated on her. This rusted ‘92 Toyota with the duct-taped bumper represents the nicest thing she owns. And it only runs on days of the week beginning with R.

Chloe trotted across the parking lot toward her small-town school, pulling her coat tight.

Today was the annual high-school alumni lunch, a rural tradition. The hometown graduating classes return to their alma mater to participate in the Christmas hoopla and eat hotdish—whatever that is. It is a kind of old-world tradition that wouldn’t survive in, say, New York City.

The teachers fawned over Chloe like they always have.

“Oh, Chloe, we’ve missed you!” said one.

“Chloe!” said another, “you’re taller than the last time I saw you!”

“Chloe, gimme a hug.”

Chloe, Chloe, Chloe.

They love this girl. Always have. They haven’t seen her since she sat in their classrooms, diagraming sentences, solving for X, and learning more than anyone ought to know about the cosine.

After Chloe graduated, several teachers have tried to stay in touch with her. They call each week, they send cards, they even stop by her apartment sometimes.

Sadly, Chloe usually avoids them, and she never returns calls. Chloe doesn’t want anyone feeling sorry for her. And, as I said, she is 19.

After the covered dishes were lined up, everyone ate in the cafeteria. Chloe was shoulder to shoulder with her mentors, dishing up lukewarm casseroles, turkey breast, and mucus-like cranberry sauce. It was a great day.

Everyone laughed a lot. Everyone told stories. Some wore reindeer antlers from Party City.

When lunch was over, Chloe and the teachers washed dishes until their hands looked like raisins. Then everyone played a quick game of Dirty Santa, known by the old-timers as “Yankee Swap.” Someone banged on the old upright.

Meantime, the teachers noticed Chloe wasn’t speaking to anyone, she was sitting by herself, keeping quiet.

All the teachers surrounded the young orphan. They began trying to draw her out of herself, like all educators do. Chloe didn’t offer much more than one- or two-word responses. So the teachers picked up the conversational slack.

“How has life been treating you, Chloe?” said one.

“Tell us what you’ve been up to lately,” said another.

“We love you so much, Chloe,” added a third.

“I pray for you every day, Chloe. You’re the strongest girl I know.”

And on it went.

Chloe looked like she was about to cry, but she held it in like a strong kid. Because that’s what she is. A very strong kid.

Finally, when the party was over, it was Mrs. Styles who rose from her seat and took Chloe aside. The old woman said privately, “We have something we want to show you, Chloe.”

Then she handed the girl her coat.

As if on silent cue, all teachers began putting on jackets and scarves, preparing to head outdoors into the unforgiving tundra of the North Star State. They told Chloe to follow them.

“Where are we going?” asked Chloe.

“You’ll see.”

Eight Midwestern middle-aged women and one 19-year-old exited the school, tightly wrapped beneath 14 layers of cotton and alpaqua fur, and hiked through the snowy parking lot. Their feet crunched on the snowcrust. Their gentle laughs bounced across the silence.

And Chloe saw it.

It was parked in the distance. A forest green 2018 Ford Contour with a big red ribbon affixed to the hood.

Nobody said anything for a few minutes. They all just stared at Chloe, waiting for a reaction. It was a big reaction. Very big. A reaction one teacher described by saying: “Niagara Falls.”

Another teacher recalls: “I think it was the biggest gift anyone had ever given her before.”

One teacher put it this way: “This right here is why I got into education.”

On a count of three, all teachers shouted in unison. “Merry Christmas, Chloe!”

And the temperature rose 100 degrees in Minnesota.


  1. Liza - December 11, 2021 11:02 am

    Another lovely, heart-warming story!
    Thank you!💜💜😱

  2. Liz Hout - December 11, 2021 11:03 am

    Just good people. So blessed to know there are good people. Thank you, favorite good person to keep telling is there ARE good people.

  3. Miz Liz Hoyt - December 11, 2021 11:05 am

    My name above is Miz Liz ….. old finhers🤦🏼‍♀️

  4. Candace - December 11, 2021 11:38 am

    Uffda! That’s a heck of a story and makes me proud yo be from Minnesota. Oh, my heart…

  5. Susan - December 11, 2021 12:05 pm

    Thank you Sean. I live in Minnesota and today you made me smile at 5:30am after an all night snow storm. Sweet story but rings true as there are too many young people trying to subsist on low paying jobs. Merry Christmas to you and your family. Stay warm 🎄❄️☃️😀

  6. Karen+Erwin-Brown - December 11, 2021 12:19 pm

    very beautiful

  7. Marilyn Vance - December 11, 2021 12:37 pm

    …and just like that, God used those teachers as His Christmas angels. There ARE still good folks in the world!

  8. Joy Jacobs - December 11, 2021 1:03 pm

    Tears… again. What a heartwarming story. Thanks for sharing it.

  9. Karla Kuriger - December 11, 2021 1:08 pm

    Thank you for sharing the good, the loving, the caring – I don’t think I am alone in needing to read things like this. You show us how there IS good in the world, and all we need to do is BE the good, LOOK for the good, and SHARE the good. The ripple effect. Thank you thank you.

  10. Kay Britton - December 11, 2021 1:11 pm

    He’s story EVER!

  11. Carol G - December 11, 2021 1:33 pm

    So nice to hear sweet, heartwarming, happy stories about good people doing good things!

  12. Jan - December 11, 2021 1:37 pm


  13. Lisa K Riley - December 11, 2021 1:44 pm

    Love. Teachers struggle on low wages too, but get by on the biggest hearts God could find.

  14. bubbastubbs - December 11, 2021 1:45 pm

    Beautiful, simply beautiful, Sean! Truly, the spirit of Christmas shining through. Actually brought “Niagara Falls” to this ol’ fella’s eyes!

  15. Lulu - December 11, 2021 1:55 pm

    This is soooo touching the heart strings…I will be praying for Chloe to be the happiest ever!

  16. Mike Marshall - December 11, 2021 1:57 pm

    Hey buddy! I love your stuff , makes my day every AM . I am working on a similar project ( very early ) for people in my hometown of Dothan. Let me know if you are interested to hear more.

  17. Linda Lewis - December 11, 2021 2:00 pm

    This is a wonderful story. I really enjoy reading your column every day. Merry Christmas.

  18. Paula - December 11, 2021 2:14 pm

    Thank you for that. My day is better because of it.

  19. Peggy - December 11, 2021 2:15 pm

    This one made my day like none other. I am a former teacher. Thanks for sharing the story.

  20. Susan - December 11, 2021 2:22 pm

    I agree with Marilyn—God used those teachers as His angels 😇. Love this so much!

  21. Cynthia Krueger - December 11, 2021 2:26 pm

    Please email me daily articles.

  22. Sandra+Jones - December 11, 2021 2:33 pm

    Teachers never stop loving their students and they change lives with this love and dedication.

  23. Len - December 11, 2021 2:39 pm

    That’s so beautiful. I can identify with Chloe even though I’m an old man. I wish people had cared about me that way when I was her age.

  24. Shelton A. - December 11, 2021 2:47 pm

    That’s a story for Christmas time. Thank you for sharing this with us, Sean. It really is better to give than to receive. Merry Christmas, Chloe! Merry Christmas, teachers! Love and blessings to all (Sean, Jamie, and the world famous hat eating dogs included-lots of puppy treats and toys for Thelma Lou and Otis Campbell!).

  25. Cathy M - December 11, 2021 2:50 pm

    Another Christmas gift from Sean. Maybe the gift will be a life changer for Cloe. A love gift for sure. It’s painful to know abt. a good kid who is trying so hard to make it in life. Tha mayor of the community started a car ministry at our church 15 yrs ago. I think I heard him say recently that to date, they have placed 700 cars with people in need. It’s no secret that transportation is essential to jobs and I believe that this ministry is an answer to prayer. God bless these wonderful teachers and God bless Cloe. Merry Christmas Sean❤️🎄🙏🏻

  26. Margie - December 11, 2021 2:52 pm

    Tears!! I read your column every day but for some reason, on some days, the tears just flow more freely. Chloe is in my heart and prayers.

  27. Ruth Mitchell - December 11, 2021 3:04 pm

    …and that’s why I loved teachers and became one myself. It seems when no one else cares or notices, a lot of teachers do. Merry Christmas to all the teachers out there.

  28. Tammy S. - December 11, 2021 3:24 pm

    Powerful!! Being a teacher is powerful! Being a giver is powerful!! And being able to write the story so we all feel like we were right there for all of it…powerful!!! This absolutely made God smile, me too!

  29. Karen - December 11, 2021 3:41 pm


  30. Julie Rowzee - December 11, 2021 3:56 pm

    Beautiful story and I’m “Niagara-Falling” right now!

  31. Viann Augustine - December 11, 2021 4:03 pm

    Hot dish is like those southern cAsseroles you love!! It’s a Cold state thing I’m guessing!! 💕

  32. Sheila Gustafson - December 11, 2021 4:10 pm

    God bless teachers.

  33. Tracy L McCoy - December 11, 2021 4:35 pm

    As always, I love it. I was there with them in the snowy parking lot.

  34. Stacey Wallace - December 11, 2021 6:16 pm

    God bless Chloe and her wonderful teachers. Thanks, Sean.

  35. Karen Snyder - December 11, 2021 6:31 pm

    Most teachers are exceptionally observant and compassionate people. Your tale of this group surely would melt the coldest heart.💕 Thanks.

  36. MAM - December 11, 2021 6:54 pm

    Dang, you are making the eye faucets run with happy tears lately, Sean! Beautiful story, and I’m sure Chloe deserves it and will use it well. She’s obviously a hard worker and God will take care of her. Actually, He just did!

  37. Becky+Souders - December 11, 2021 7:18 pm

    Great heart-warming Christmas story, Sean, but holy cow … mucus-like cranberry sauce? I may not eat cranberries again, ever, and I thought I made some pretty good sauce from scratch! Yikes.

  38. Jean - December 11, 2021 7:34 pm

    with all the bad in this world….there are still good folks who do good things for others. Merry Christmas Chloe!

  39. Linda Moon - December 11, 2021 8:24 pm

    29 degrees below death seems really cold. I LOVE cold weather, and I’m not dead from spending lots of time outdoors in the cold, all bundled up. I wish Chloe had been in my class diagramming sentences. My English-teaching next door neighbor loves diagramming sentences, too. You should hear our conversations at the fence. Chloes and Joeys and lots of others are the reason I got into education, so Merry Christmas to students and generous teachers who give….every day. Come to my fence and we’ll talk!

  40. Donny - December 12, 2021 12:21 am

    Awesome teachers

  41. Christine Terrell - December 12, 2021 1:27 am

    I live in Minnesota, Sean, and this is definitely something that might happen in Minnesota!

  42. Chasity Davis Ritter - December 12, 2021 6:09 pm

    Thank you thank you thank you for sharing stories like this one. Somedays I need it more than others.

  43. Kim Kennedy - December 12, 2021 9:13 pm

    Niagara Falls down my face. Yay for humanity.

  44. Cecelia Arnold - December 12, 2021 9:20 pm

    Wonderful. Made me cry!!!

  45. Martha Young - December 12, 2021 10:33 pm

    God bless those teachers ! Our world still has good people, they just don’t get the publicity the bad ones get.

  46. Martha Young - December 12, 2021 10:35 pm

    God bless those teachers. Teachers are a special breed !

  47. Lee Desmond - December 13, 2021 1:24 pm

    Beautiful story…as always.

  48. Patricia Gibson - December 13, 2021 4:12 pm

    Thank you for sharing that story and God bless them all!

  49. Lynn - December 15, 2021 3:23 am

    Such an uplifting story. I wish I could have been there to see Chloes’ smile.

  50. Jan - December 15, 2021 3:27 am

    You touch our hearts with your writing Sean!! What a talent you have and thank you for sharing!! Merry Christmas to you and Jamie!!

  51. Claudia - December 16, 2021 10:55 pm

    Thx! That’s Minnesota Nice showing. Laugh at us if you must but remember our hearts are bigger than your insults.


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