I ran into the grocery store. I was in a hurry. I walked the aisles with groceries beneath my arms.
And it happened. I got recognized in the dog-food aisle.
I was busy trying to decide between beef chunks with gravy, or lamb with rice. A family of five walked toward me. They stopped. They stared.
The oldest daughter said, “You’re Sean!”
I looked in both directions. I was just about to explain that I had already filed for an extension this year when she hugged me.
Mother hugged me next. Then Brother. Then Father. Then Granny joined the clot.
“I can’t BELIEVE we’re meeting you here,” said the teenage girl. “It’s JUST like your stories. Oh my God, are you gonna change my name when you write about me, too?”
I made a series of unintelligible mumbles.
“I want you to call me something really crazy,” she went on. “Like Scarlett O’Hara or something.”
Admittedly, this name is a little overdone, but an overall good choice if you ask me.
Granny piped into the conversation: “Hey, I JUST read what you wrote about Chick-fil-A, only a few minutes ago.”
Right. It bears mentioning: the subject of Chick-fil-A has been a hot topic in my inbox today. I’ve received approximately—and this is a low estimate—six hundred thousand messages regarding a misinterpreted sentence I wrote about Chick-fil-A.
I don’t have time to explain here, but let’s just say that some of the emails have been less than kind. Some have been downright scary.
Readers like Dan from Georgia, for instance, wrote: “If you were up in Georgia, I’d take your [bleeping bleep] behind the woodshed and wear your [bleeping bleep] out. LOL.”
Hey, thanks for the letter, Dan. You sound like a fun guy. LOL.
But thankfully, the folks in the grocery store didn’t want to scalp me with cheese graters. No, these were kind hearted people, from Alabama.
“I think Scarlett would be a good name, don’t you, Mom?” the oldest daughter said.
A little about the oldest girl:
She speaks with labored speech, her limbs are uncoordinated, and it’s difficult for her to walk.
“I’m kinda paralyzed,” she explained. “It was a car accident last year, a bad one, my friend was driving, my side got hit.”
At first, doctors said this paralysis would be permanent. The family took it hard. She took it hard.
“I told myself I wasn’t gonna give up,” Granny interjected. Granny took her burdens to her church group, where twenty church ladies folded their hands and wore out their knees.
The rehab stayed packed with visitors. The girl’s friends visited her by the dozen. She was in a bed for weeks, but she had her people with her.
“At first,” the girl said, “I wasn’t able to feel anything below my ribs, I was really depressed, and thought I was pretty much done.”
But she wasn’t done.
One morning, she awoke to a sensation in her belly. A few days later, she could feel her legs, then her feet. Now she’s walking.
After months of hard work, the girl is on her feet and proud. And she ought to be, she’s a walking ray of sunshine.
Though, she’s not out of the woods yet. Speech can be difficult, and so can facial expressions. But she is getting stronger every day. She is young, and she is powerful.
When she hugged my neck, I could feel the muscles in her arms. She squeezed me like a girl who has courage inside her. She reminds me of things that matter, and helped me forget about things that don’t.
I needed that today.
Because I received so many ugly messages today that I had considered changing my name to Big Al, and taking a job on an offshore oil rig.
Her father shook my hand. Then her mother. Then Brother. Then Granny. We all walked toward the checkout lane together. We talked. We laughed. We complained about July traffic in Florida. We parted ways as friends.
So it’s been a nice day. Uneventful, but nice. I read a few emails, bought five cans of dog food, and I watched a teenage girl who wasn’t supposed to walk, walk.
Her name was Scarlett O’Hara.