Today my wife and I visited the Callahan School for the Deaf & Blind with our dog. We were running late. Our vehicle squealed into the parking lot on two wheels.
I applied deodorant in a timely manner, ate two fistfuls of Altoids, and made my way inside.
Marigold is my blind coonhound. She goes everywhere with me. We do everything together. I drive; she sleeps. I watch television; she sleeps. I work; she sleeps. I go out for tacos; she eats all the queso.
Mrs. Hess invited us to visit the school today, since many of the students can relate to Marigold.
We were buzzed in through the doors. I apologized for being late. Everyone told me it was no problem, which made me feel worse.
The first thing that struck me was how ordinary the school looked. Callahan looks just like any school in Anytown, U.S.A. Like every school you’ve seen a-million-and-six times before.
Same cinderblock walls. Same tight hallways. Same smell. Why do all schools smell the same?
But that’s just the surface appearance. Because nothing about this place is common.
Mrs. Hess has been working here for a long time. She’s seen it all. She’s had students enter her classroom in need of tender care. She’s seen these children find their voice. She’s seen them kick butt and take names.
Callahan is a public elementary school, they get kids here from all walks. This place is a miniature snapshot of Mobile.
“Welcome to the most rewarding place on planet earth,” says Mrs. Hess, ushering us forward.
Marigold and I approached the library. There were teachers waiting nearby. Outside the door, a cluster of tiny walkers and guidance canes were parked together.
“They’re ready for you,” whispered one teacher.
The library was packed to the ceiling with kids, waiting for their late presenter. I was greeted with several little faces beaming at me as we entered. Children immediately began applauding for Marigold.
Marigold could not see them, of course. Neither could many of the students see her. But tens of thousands of years of human history dictates that children love dogs. The room came alive.
“A DOG!” the kids said, almost in unison.
Their voices were laced with the reverence all kids use in the presence of canines.
After that, it was pure madness. The good kind of madness.
The kids formed a single-file line to meet Marigold up close. The room turned upside down with joyous delirium. You could cut the childhood exhilaration with a knife.
Ms. Trim signed as I spoke to the class. Other teachers addressed their students with microphones wirelessly connected to cochlear implants or hearing aids.
One by one they came.
The first young man to pet Marigold was unable to see. His head was down, his eyelids were tightly shut. A teacher guided him toward Marigold.
The boy placed a gentle hand upon Marigold’s silken fur. Then he pressed his nose against her coat to smell her. “A dog,” he said.
“This dog can’t see,” said one of the teachers.
He smelled her again. I don’t know what he whispered into Marigold’s ear.
The next child in line was a little girl who also could not see. She ran her hand along Marigold’s fur and said, “Do you ever let her come home with kids?”
A little boy with low vision placed both hands upon Marigold’s body, lightly moving his fingers along her outline. He felt her head, her muzzle, and her legs. They tell me he was forming a mental image.
“She’s pretty,” he finally announced.
Another little girl approached. There was a neurosurgical implant behind her ear. A ribbon in her hair. She gave Marigold a face massage.
“Face rubs feel good,” the girl said matter-of-factly.
Next, I met two 9-year-old girls who are still learning to use guide canes. One girl set her red-and-white cane aside and knelt beside Marigold.
She used her hands to feel Marigold’s petite frame.
“Marigold is just like me,” said the child.
“That’s right,” said her teacher. “She can’t see, just like you.”
Marigold leaned into the body of the little girl. The child rubbed Marigold’s belly.
“You’re so sweet,” she kept saying to Marigold. “Do you think I’m sweet, too?”
When the meet-and-greet was finished, I was hugged by this same girl. She thanked me for visiting; I thanked her for making us feel so welcome.
Before we parted ways, the teachers told me this girl was an excellent singer. So I asked the child whether she’d sing a song before we all went home.
The girl simply faced Marigold and sang, “You Are So Beautiful.”
“…You’re everything I hoped for,
“You’re everything I need,
“You are so beautiful, to me.”
“I told you, this is a special place,” said Mrs. Hess. “The Callahan School is smack dab in the palm of God’s hand.”
And for a brief moment today, so was I.
Kelly - October 21, 2022 7:24 am
Just no words…♥️
Linda - October 21, 2022 7:33 am
Thank you for going there, Sean. You and Jamie spread grace wherever you go.
Ruth - October 21, 2022 7:34 am
How precious, and we could be there too. Thanks to your words. God bless you and your wife.
🇿🇦🇿🇦 Norma Den - October 21, 2022 7:50 am
Sean, you do so much to make our lives feel worth it. Be assured YOU ARE ALWAYS IN GODS HAND.
Leigh Amiot - October 21, 2022 8:19 am
My eyes are damp.
Elgin Carver - October 21, 2022 8:33 am
Perhaps your best essay.
Sydney R. McClain - October 21, 2022 8:45 am
Excellent! Made me remember the smell of every school EVERYWHERE! Smells are full of lov!❤️❤️
Melanie - October 21, 2022 9:16 am
Shirlea - October 21, 2022 9:33 am
Your God-given talent of bringing out every emotion in us is rare.
And, your new book is laugh-out-loud hilarious!
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Ellouise - October 21, 2022 9:42 am
Totally wonderful. Thank God for you, Jamie and Marigold
mikec4193 - October 21, 2022 10:01 am
Marigold is changing everyone she comes in contact with…you and her are the perfect couple to change the world…thanks for sharing.
Barbara - October 21, 2022 10:21 am
Whoa! Emotional overload this early in the morning. What a special thing you did for these precious children. Who could have imagined what doors would open because of Marigold! You use the gifts God gave you to the fullest and what a blessing to your readers. 🤟 ❤️
Liz - October 21, 2022 10:35 am
Joseph Potter - October 21, 2022 10:42 am
Well…it’s 530am and I lost it after I red this story…thank you!
joseybell - October 21, 2022 11:00 am
God bless you for rescuing Marigold and God bless Marigold for being there for these beautiful children.
mccutchen52 - October 21, 2022 11:00 am
It almost like Marigold was a gift to you so you could see what she feels.
Paula - October 21, 2022 11:01 am
Diana - October 21, 2022 11:01 am
I knew when I started reading this would be a tear jerker so I had my tissue ready. This was really special. Thank you.
Betsy Brown - October 21, 2022 11:07 am
Oh my! So very precious! Tears here but also joy for these wonderful children.
Sam Varney. - October 21, 2022 11:15 am
Job 11:10: In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.
Dede Martin - October 21, 2022 11:18 am
Tears running down….that’s all
Susan - October 21, 2022 11:24 am
Tears of joy.
bkemp - October 21, 2022 11:26 am
What a wonderful and inspiring story!
Kay Hickman - October 21, 2022 11:37 am
I love Marigold and you for sharing her with those in God’s palm
Dana Blackwood - October 21, 2022 11:39 am
6’3″, 300lbs., balling my eyes out!
Ann chumley - October 21, 2022 11:44 am
I am too, sniff sniff
Lesli - October 21, 2022 11:49 am
Cried my way through this one. Sean, I’ve never commented before but I want you to know that your storytelling makes a difference.
From a noticer: your ability to notice is a gift.
Trilby - October 21, 2022 11:50 am
Anne Arthur - October 21, 2022 11:52 am
Beautiful. That’s what love is. Simply beautiful.
Ann Thompson - October 21, 2022 11:58 am
So moving. Beautiful.
Fran - October 21, 2022 12:04 pm
Duane - October 21, 2022 12:05 pm
Allergies are bad in Southeast Alabama.
Dennis - October 21, 2022 2:00 pm
Bad in LA (Lower Alabama), too. At least that’s my story.
Steve Love - October 21, 2022 12:07 pm
It is so refreshing to hear something beautiful from Mobile instead of what you see on Channels 5 and 10! Thankyou Sean!!!
Barbara Culwell - October 21, 2022 12:08 pm
Wow.. That was so touching. What a wonderful time had by all!!!
Kay - October 21, 2022 12:08 pm
I told this story to my brother who was born deaf. He attended Talladega school for the deaf and blind. 60 years ago there were no other options but to pack up your 5 year old like a college student and send them to a dorm to live in order to get a good education. We lived in Tuscaloosa, and I my dad had to work, so my brother came home to visit about every 2 weekends. He was delighted you cared enough to give these kids some joy. 🤟🏼
Susan - October 21, 2022 12:16 pm
Trent - October 21, 2022 12:24 pm
Whatchyou lookin’ at Dana – move over – pass the towel…
Joretta Parker - October 21, 2022 12:26 pm
Sean this was very moving. So much love to spread around. Bless you for sharing.
Donna W - October 21, 2022 12:42 pm
I loved this story….and the picture in my mind. I have a lump in my throat. Thank you for sharing your beautiful stories. 💗
klaspisa - October 21, 2022 12:45 pm
I am crying happy, tender tears… My heart was touched by this story. Thank you.
And… thank you for sharing Marigold. My newest pup love.
Melissa Brown - October 21, 2022 12:48 pm
Chills went all over me as l read your tender story about the children and their reactions to your Marigold. This school is truly a gift from God. Your stories brighten my day !!!
Steve Moore - October 21, 2022 12:50 pm
Lyn Brown - October 21, 2022 12:54 pm
Good, cathartic cry. Thanks.
Serena - October 21, 2022 12:57 pm
A wonderful way to start the morning. Thank you Sean and Marigold and little girl who sang.
David - October 21, 2022 1:07 pm
Sean, awesome story, my God continue to bless you in your journey. Thanks for sharing.
Cassie Oden - October 21, 2022 1:09 pm
Such a beautiful day. Thank you for caring Sean. As the saying goes, no man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child.
Donna from Iowa - October 21, 2022 1:12 pm
It is so great to read your stories each morning–thanks.
Linda Thacker - October 21, 2022 1:14 pm
Tim - October 21, 2022 1:16 pm
Temporarily blinded by tears.
Temporarily all the noise of the outside world is falling on deaf ears.
Temporarily choking back said tears.
Temporarily transported (it appears).
Temporarily blinded by the light (of enlightenment).
Thank you forever and ever.
Debbie g - October 21, 2022 3:44 pm
Tim that was beautiful
And Sean. Isn’t it amazing. That marigold has been waiting for this purpose all of his or her life
Few of us know our purpose in life
But I believe you and marigold do
Love you all
Bkr - October 21, 2022 1:25 pm
I dont know how you do it but you put words together in a way that 90% of the time makes me cry. Not sad tears but happy feel good tears. You really are good with words and people -thanks for doing what you’re doing. Just read your newest book and absolutely loved it.
WayneGina Yount - October 21, 2022 1:26 pm
Carol Carper - October 21, 2022 1:33 pm
Damn you Sean-I have tears running down my face and a lump in my throat after reading this beautiful, touching recap of Marigold and her new friends.
Henry Puckett - October 21, 2022 1:40 pm
I’m now officially crying.
Dennis - October 21, 2022 1:57 pm
I usually scoff at the comments that contain “I cried”. Really? Sitting at a computer or laying on the couch with an iPad you cried? Today, the allergens were out in force. It is likely a coincidence that the pollen and a walk with my dog conspired to wet my eyes and cause tears when I read your story about the kids and Marigold. At this point in your career I wouldn’t expect my comment to matter to you. However, in case, really good writing, Sir.
Neill Augustine - October 21, 2022 2:07 pm
There was a thumbnail of a photograph that looked like it could’ve been of the kids meeting Marigold, but it was so tiny and it wasn’t replicated anywhere else. Why can’t we see that? We want to see that.
Lynn B - October 22, 2022 3:22 am
If you have Facebook, you can follow Sean of the South and see pictures of many of the things he writes about. So special!
flkatmom - October 21, 2022 2:09 pm
Blessings to you, Jamie, Marigold and the Staff & Students at the Callahan School for the Deaf & Blind.
My eyes leaked love as I read this one Sean.
Heidi - October 21, 2022 2:25 pm
Oh man….tears of gratitude to start the day. So thankful you & Marigold went to these precious children. So grateful you cared.
David Britnell - October 21, 2022 2:26 pm
Brought tears. So much love!
Jayne Loetkeman - October 21, 2022 2:42 pm
Lifetime Chicago - October 21, 2022 2:49 pm
Brought tears…used to be a special education teacher.
Jannie Bryant - October 21, 2022 2:50 pm
Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.
Shelia Irby - October 21, 2022 2:54 pm
Thank you. A gentle reminder of God’s love and light in darkness!
Patricia Gibson - October 21, 2022 3:06 pm
You made me cry. What a blessing 💜
Jean Dunlap - October 21, 2022 3:12 pm
You made me cry and smile at the same. I have 2 friends who are blind, one also has cerebral palsy. They have taught me not to treat them as disabled…because they are not! Both had professional careers, married, got divorced, and live in their own home. One is now 87, the other 69. I envy them..
Peggy M. Windham - October 21, 2022 3:16 pm
I’m a retired special educator and this school is in my district of MCPSS of course and I served it as their resource teacher for many years. It is a very special place. Thanks for bringing Marigold and much joy to these students!🤟
Chasity Davis Ritter - October 21, 2022 3:26 pm
I bet that was truly a moving experience beyond words, beyond sound and sight…felt and seen by the heart and soul. Thank you for sharing it with us.
Margie Fairchild - October 21, 2022 3:31 pm
Wow! What a rewarding experience you had as you also gave in return! This writing is so inspiring and speaks volumes for what we can do for so many. Thanks for sharing.
Stacey Wallace - October 21, 2022 3:54 pm
Sean, thank you for touching my husband’s and my very souls. We both taught for 30 years, and you made our whole week. Love to you, Jamie, and Marigold. I sure hope we meet y’all one day. Could you please give us your address in Birmingham so that I can write you? I’m a 20th century woman trapped in the 21st century, and I love to send snail mail, or to me, real mail. Thanks!
Debbie Rinke - October 21, 2022 4:07 pm
And now, I can’t see because of the tears! All of your writing is amazing but this one has some extra special love!
Janice T Sargent - October 21, 2022 4:28 pm
Beautifully written. This story brought tears to my eyes. As a paraprofessional in a self-contained special education class, these children captured my heart. I hope you and Marigold continue to share your kindness. We all need it. 🧡
Stephen - October 21, 2022 4:38 pm
This story just reached out and grabbed me and brought out the tears. Thank you for your skillful writing!!!!
Catherine Chandler - October 21, 2022 4:43 pm
My son attended this school for five years, and we still miss it. Amazing teachers. Amazing staff. They make such a difference in these kids’ lives, and I hope they know how appreciated they are. Thanks for shining a light on them.
dana bauguess - October 21, 2022 4:58 pm
No words. Just lots of feels … what a ministry you and Marigold provide.
William Stocks - October 21, 2022 5:34 pm
keepingupwithgorman - October 21, 2022 5:42 pm
Teary eyed now
Phyllis Ratliff - October 21, 2022 5:44 pm
And then the tears started flowing! Allergies in Mobile! Amazing what doors Marigold has opened for you!
Susan Mitchell - October 21, 2022 5:54 pm
So special, thanks for sharing Sean.
Debbie - October 21, 2022 6:20 pm
So beautiful. Thank you.
Karla Meier - October 21, 2022 6:21 pm
Such a great way to spend moments and all were blessed by the visit!! Thanks for sharing!
Cindy S Moon - October 21, 2022 6:22 pm
Tears, Big Tears!
pattymack43 - October 21, 2022 7:05 pm
Tears in my eyes! Thankfulness in my heart!! There is hope for our world as proved by these children and one dog!! May God bless them all…..
Karen - October 21, 2022 7:56 pm
What a blessing for the children and Marigold. I hope you all get to visit again. You and Jamie are such wonderful people.
Negri, Beverly - October 21, 2022 11:16 pm
Thank for for your continued hope for humanity.
ocasey - October 21, 2022 8:39 pm
Oh my now I’m in tears!
Robert Lewis - October 21, 2022 9:15 pm
This wonderful tear jerker!!
Rebecca Thompson - October 21, 2022 9:15 pm
Thank you Sean! I needed to feel beauty today!
Patricia - October 21, 2022 9:29 pm
This may be your best yet! Precious and made me cry. Thank you for doing that for these children and for the teachers…you are a special person! God Bless you!
Linda Moon - October 21, 2022 9:41 pm
I’m in God’s hand when I read or re-read my favorite book, “Helen and Teacher”. I’m in His hand, too when I remember how my son taught our dog Pyper to read American Sign Language after Pyper became deaf. And my blind cat, Spunky, lived a good and long life to age 19. How beautiful are those who teach…. those from Callahan and Anne Sullivan Macy, too.
William Ware - October 21, 2022 10:24 pm
Thank you so much for sharing this with me. It brought tears to my eyes (happy tray)
Ruth Mitchell - October 21, 2022 11:19 pm
That is such a beautiful essay. Thank you for sharing.
PMc - October 21, 2022 11:54 pm
My cup runneth over 🙏♥️
Peace and Love from Birmingham🌻
Joe - October 22, 2022 2:27 am
Thank you for the great descriptive story of Callahan School. Very special people.
Brenda Smith - October 22, 2022 2:29 am
Oh Sean. You and Jamie and Marigold made my day today too. I felt like I was in God’s hand just reading about today’s experience with Marigold. Please keep doing exactly what you’re doing. You have no idea the lives you are touching. I love all three of you!!
Tricia Brunson - October 22, 2022 3:36 am
Precious, God does seem to open doors that we never knew existed, doesn’t he? Bless you, Jamie, and precious Marigold.
Roxanne Taylor - October 22, 2022 9:50 am
Sean your post took me back many years to the Florida School for the Deaf & Blind, in St. Augustine. My deaf son Tommy spent 2 years there. I adopted him when he was 3 years old. He came from an abused background with tons of emotional baggage, the kind you just cannot fathom. I loved him and was his advocate for 15 years. By the time Tom was attending FSDB I was a single parent, and the school was a wonderful support and resource. He moved out when he was 18 years old, and did his own thing until he just recently passed away on 8/15/22 from lung cancer. Thank you Sean for reminding us of others who are in need of our love, compassion and understanding on life’s journey.
Gaynell - October 22, 2022 2:36 pm
Yay! Sean- you are the Best!
Julie, RN - October 22, 2022 3:24 pm
Whoa!! 99 Comments and Counting! Everyone has said it all…the LOVE between Sean & Marigold, and these precious students…POWERFUL❣️
Wayne Conrad - October 22, 2022 7:19 pm
Thank you for your article on your visit to the school. I have been there quite a few times to photograph events that are held there for the children and can’t say enough about the school, its dedicated teachers and Amy Hess. What a marvelous job being done there and what beautiful children I have met during my visits.
thomas penn montgomery - October 22, 2022 8:58 pm
My tears are saying what my words cannot describe !
Cathy W Moss - October 22, 2022 9:04 pm
You, Jaimie and Marigold keep spreading that love. I am telling you again that you have a ministry. No doubt about it. Please don’t stop. This world needs more people like you.
Mary Brockway - October 23, 2022 1:13 am
Brought tears to my eyes.
Carye Williams - October 24, 2022 6:00 pm
David Brown - October 23, 2022 12:38 pm
For more info and great photos see: https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=603845168201370&set=pcb.603845638201323
Tami - October 23, 2022 2:18 pm
I should know by now to have tissues nearby. What a beautiful story.
Renee Welton - October 24, 2022 12:45 am
I loved this💝
Paula Ann Loftis - October 24, 2022 4:02 am
The best writer I have read and reminds me of James Herriot’s books. Touching and so tuned into what matters in life. Thank you.
Deedee - October 24, 2022 3:25 pm
What a special day for All of you. ❤️