Nashville has always struck me as an interesting city. And by “interesting,” I mean this town scares me.

The main culprit here is traffic. Nashville’s highway system is a mess because these roads were built to accommodate approximately 11 cars, whereas there are currently 229 trillion Nashville residents.

So this is a problem. Because everyone uses interstates at the same time. Which means that on any average afternoon there are strings of traffic longer than the ladies-restroom line at a George Strait concert.

My friend Jerry lives outside Nashville and commutes to work. Each morning, Jerry spends 90 minutes in his SUV, fighting motorists just to back out of his driveway. Jerry admits that he would much rather have a new job.

But I’m told there are no new jobs in Nashville, only new buildings. Because this is what Nashvillians do. They build stuff. Construction has gotten so uncontrollable here that as soon as one structure is built, demolition crews arrive to tear the building down so they can begin erecting a triplex in its place.

This town’s slogan should be “Boom!” Because that’s the only noise you’ll ever hear. In fact, while writing this very paragraph, I was interrupted by 13 loud construction booms.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike Nashville. This city is young, hip, and exciting, but I always feel underdressed here. My friend Stacy works in a nearby clothing retail store and tells me that young Nashvillians spend fortunes keeping up with fashion.

In fact, some local clothing stores are so “current” they put wastebaskets beside the cash registers so customers can immediately throw away their newly purchased obsolete clothes and buy next year’s hottest trends.

But listen, I’m not being critical. If this town wants congested highways, cool clothes, and new buildings, more power to them. I’m only trying to tell you that this is a wild city.

Which leads me to a story about something that happened yesterday in downtown Nashville. I was standing at a crosswalk near my hotel, waiting to cross the street with a handful of pedestrians in masks.

While we waited, four or five party busses rolled through our intersection. These party busses are everywhere in Nashville. They’re basically open-air saloons on wheels, mostly catering to bachelorette parties.

Each bachelorette bus usually comes loaded with about 25 screaming females who wear tiaras, feather boas, and are howling swear words at passing vehicles while sloshing beer onto nearby police officers who are busy writing parking tickets to elderly tourists from Sheboygan.

Anyway, when the buses were gone and the crosswalk sign finally illuminated, we pedestrians moved across the street. And that’s when it happened. We all passed an elderly man holding a paper sign which read: “Hungry.”

And can you guess what happened next?

Well, if you guessed that the pedestrians simply walked past this man without stopping you’d be right. Nobody even looked back.

Of course you can’t really blame people for doing this. The truth is, many folks didn’t believe this guy was legit. They weren’t sure he was homeless. They probably thought he was lying. Or drunk. They thought he’d blow his money on drugs.

So most people just chose to stay out of his way altogether. They walked by without offering so much as a greeting. Which—I’m humiliated to admit—is what I did initially.

But here’s the thing. What if this guy really was hungry? This idea began to gnaw on me.

What if the old man awoke that morning in a cardboard box, hungover, with a sour stomach? What if he tried to find breakfast in a dumpster behind the Piggly Wiggly but only found rotten lettuce and rancid meat?

What if he was mentally ill? Malnourished? Lonely? In chronic pain? Dehydrated? Confused? What if he’d been on a bender for five days and hadn’t eaten in 36 hours?

What if, out of pure desperation, this guy staggered inside a cafe and asked for something—anything—to eat? And what if the gal behind the register, busy playing on her phone, merely threatened to call the police? Maybe this man is in withdrawals. Maybe he’s suffering dementia.

I was thinking about this after I walked past him. I started churning inside. I began to feel like a giant pile of something commonly found in barnyards and hog pens.

So I stopped walking. And I decided to turn back.

I removed my wallet. All I had was $5, but maybe this would buy a hamburger. Truthfully, I didn’t care what the guy did with the cash as long as he knew someone cared. And that someone was me.

But when I reached the old man, I was stopped in my steps. Because I saw something that filled my heart.

I was not the only one who had come back.

Because when I reached the old man, there were four of us waiting in an impromptu line to give this guy some money.

A middle-aged man handed the old guy a ten. A young woman gave some folded bills. A teenager gave a gift card. The elderly man in rags accepted our gifts with moist eyes and a low head. And I know what you’re thinking: “Hey! He’s probably just a panhandling crook!”

Well, maybe you’re right. If so, he was a panhandling crook completely overwhelmed by goodwill. Because peach-sized tears were falling down his nose when he said to each of us: “God bless you.”

If you can believe it, without pause, every person repeated the same words back to him.

And well. It changed the way I feel about this town.


  1. Teresa Snipes - January 18, 2021 6:32 am

    So many people won’t give because they worry they will spend it on drugs, etc. What I’ve learned is that I’m not responsible for what they do with my gift. Once a gift is out of our hands, it’s up to the recipient to do with it what they desire. I am responsible, however, for helping my fellow human being if I’m able. I’m glad you were willing and able. Well done!

  2. Deborah L Blount - January 18, 2021 6:33 am

    God bless you.

  3. terrykerns - January 18, 2021 6:35 am


  4. Leigh Amiot - January 18, 2021 11:14 am

    He clearly most needed what you give best, Sean.

  5. chris nischan - January 18, 2021 11:30 am

    Glad to hear! We have growing pains for sure. I have lived here for almost 58 years(my entire life) I travel extensively as a hunting and fishing guide. I am not a big city fan though. Nashville is losing the feel of a big small town but I guess we have or need tho grow… BUT we care for our fellow man and we try our best to be there for others. Sean your heart would fit in with the people I grew up with. I can’t always speak for the “newcomers” but I do hear how Nashvillians are usually kind and helpful. I print your column everyday for my parents to read. Both 87, my mom was born here, my dad is from LA (not lower Alabama) He felt accepted from the beginning…. Take care and be safe

  6. Marilyn Ward Vance - January 18, 2021 11:56 am

    Teresa, that’s what my mother always said. “If God prompts you to help someone, what they do with that help is not your problem, just give as prompted.” I always like to think that they just need to know there is someone who cares.

  7. Jan - January 18, 2021 12:37 pm

    Amen and amen!

  8. Gary Woods - January 18, 2021 12:51 pm

    Nashville scares me too Sean, and although I wasn’t born here, I got here as soon as I could. I was about about nine and that was 1965. People on the outside assume the soul of Nashville is the music that’s everywhere. Locals know that’s just the flavoring, the real soul has always been its people. This is why we have growth issues, Nashville’s population continues to welcome people from all over. True, you don’t need an alarm clock to live here, a construction blast will wake you about six…

  9. Amy Adams - January 18, 2021 12:58 pm

    Dang it…its not even 7 o’clock yet and i got tears. Lol. What a blessing. Thank you.

  10. Heidi - January 18, 2021 1:08 pm

    I’m so glad you went back. He brought blessings to himself and everyone that helped him.❤️

  11. Michael F Milita - January 18, 2021 1:28 pm

    Good for you. “Do this unto the least of mine…”

  12. Richard - January 18, 2021 1:47 pm

    I Corinthians 13:13, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.”

  13. Nashville Bikecab - January 18, 2021 2:00 pm

    Greetings! Great read! We are Nashville Bikecab, Nashville’s only pedicab transportation company. We travel on three wheels. Excited they are making the streets more pedestrian friendly. We are here to help. Great post.

  14. Jerol - January 18, 2021 2:50 pm

    Thank you.

  15. Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - January 18, 2021 2:58 pm

    It is hard for me to pass them by too. My old home place was across the street from the railroad tracks and our house must have been on the bum registry! our mother would fix a ham sandwich and glass of milk for the old men who came saying they were hungry. She let them sit in our front porch to eat. She said whatever we do for these, we are doing for Christ.

  16. Bob E - January 18, 2021 2:59 pm

    God bless all who care and help.
    I have tended to give food rather than money, even accompanying the needy person(s) into an eatery to pay for their meals. Before retirement when I usually had a lunch box in my truck I gave food instead of money. Most recipients seemed grateful – some immediately eating the fruit or sandwich proffered.
    Call me a skeptic as I’ve heard/read too many accounts of “needy” people not being who they represented.
    That said bless all who help in any way, shape or form.

  17. Steve Winfield (Lifer) - January 18, 2021 3:10 pm

    ALWAYS GIVE. I won’t pass one by without giving a few dollars. It’s not my place to judge, only to help.
    Yeah, it makes me feel good. But that $5 makes the hungry guy feel even better.

  18. Joy Barger - January 18, 2021 3:25 pm

    I have a two part comment to your post, Nashville and giving.
    First Nashville, what one may fail to see in the hustle and bustle of downtown Nashville is it’s heart! For example we had a 100 year flood in 2010 a significant amount of Nashville and surrounding areas were completely under water!
    Guess how Nashville responded? There was no looting, no theft, just neighbors and friends helping each other through loss and hardship! Nashville raised so much money to help flood victims!
    If you have a good cause or someone in need Nashvillians give, they help, and they care.
    Nashville is getting bigger because it is a special place to live. People come from California in droves because the quality of life is in the toilet there. You will rarely find a city of Nashville’s size where friends are easily made and a sense of community is found so quickly!
    When I would drive to Atlanta I would say “When I left my house in Tennessee this morning I thought I looked pretty good and had some money as soon as I arrived in Buckhead, I found out that I was ugly and poor!” We lived in Atlanta for 2 years and couldn’t scare up friends and community! So back to Nashville area we came…because here you can find the “shirt off your back folks”! Downtown Nashville is not the best representation of the heart of this place because it is a bit full and busy but look a bit deeper and find the heart!
    Part two of my comment is about giving. I used to feel like people begging were trying to trick people into giving to them for nefarious purposes. I was reading the Bible one day and this is what it says…
    Matthew 5:42
    Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
    Luke 6:30
    Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.
    God doesn’t tell us to worry about who or why. Often giving is for us to cultivate an unselfishness and tenderness in our own hearts!
    So that is all I have to say!
    Thank you for your writing!

  19. aleathia nicholson - January 18, 2021 4:10 pm

    Pretty bad when you have trouble knowing what to believe

  20. Christina - January 18, 2021 4:35 pm

    This is sobering. Thanks for reminding us to see the humanity and dignity in every person.

  21. Susan - January 18, 2021 5:10 pm

    Beautiful… Great to know they are still are some good people in this world full of hate!

  22. Linda Moon - January 18, 2021 6:32 pm

    Nashville’s interstates scare me. But once I’ve left those roads I’m not scared. Long ago, My Guy was scared when he and some brothers travelled on a State highway for ten hours to go to The Grand Ol’ Opry. All but the driver and his wife rode in the back of a pick-up truck. That town has changed a lot since then. Thank you for reminding me of a more laid-back Nashville, the Ryman Auditorium, and younger kin who’ve happily moved from there to be closer to here. God bless you, Sean, for reminding us that God uses all of us to bless others. You bless me!

  23. Susan Wold - January 18, 2021 7:44 pm

    Sean, I’m reading a Book called Imagine Heaven, by John Burke. I’ve been wanting to ask you to recommend it to the daughter of the elderly gentleman who was uncomfortable telling you about his NDE, (Near Death Experience.) I thought it would be helpful for her dad if she read to him similar stories from the book, much like his, then he would know that he should be proud to tell his story. Anyway, life got busy and I never got back to send that comment to you, until now. This act of kindness, that you wrote about today, is what we are all called to do. We don’t need to analyze or know the outcome of our actions we just need to show Love. That is the message the people lucky enough to have an encounter with heaven came back with….show Love. God tried to make this pretty clear when he sent Jesus but over time the world gets in the way. We don’t need to beat our head against a wall trying to figure out our purpose, we just need to step out each day in love and our purpose will find us.

  24. Bill - January 18, 2021 8:07 pm

    We are all infuriated by the scam artists in this world who deaden our desire to be compassionate to others. It takes a special individual to go against the trend of naysayers who tell us that these people are just trying to take advantage of us. How do we know that? Well, we don’t.. God tells us to take care of our fellow man, not ignore him. Public pressure can be good, but too often it is not. We have to take that step to be in other’s lives, not to invade them, but to assist where we can, when we can.

  25. Teena Kennedy - January 18, 2021 8:23 pm


  26. Joy Taylor-Lane - January 19, 2021 5:24 am

    Miss Teresa and Miss Marilyn you are both correct. I feel the same way. If it’s laid on my heart to give, I do. My gift comes from love. What the person chooses to do with that gift is their responsibility. Even the bible says to give wine to those with a heavy heart. It’s not my job to judge, only to love my fellow man.

  27. Joy Taylor-Lane - January 19, 2021 5:27 am

    Your momma is a beautiful soul. She was laying up her riches in heaven. She was right too. The book says that whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.

  28. Carolyn Foster - January 20, 2021 6:39 pm

    If only everyone understood…

  29. Ken M. - January 22, 2021 12:02 am

    Sean… as a rare native Nashvillian, who so loves this city (but isn’t crazy about it getting too big), I’m glad you got to see what makes us special… our heart. I’ve seen so many things happen in this town that some would call tragedy, but serve to show how wonderful people can be: the 2010 floods, the 2020 tornado, the Christmas bombing. There’s something about Nashville that just “makes” people want to help and care for each other. It’s like no other city I’ve ever seen and I’m proud to be a Nashvillian (even though we actually live in the county next door and like our semi-rural lifestyle better than the bustle of the city). Thanks for visiting… and I hope you found that Hot Chicken you were looking for. God Bless you, Sean Dietrich and keep being you!

  30. Cynthia Russell - January 22, 2021 4:36 am

    Thank You!!

    For What You Do For The Least of These, You Do For Me!!

    Bless You!


  31. Dawnie B - January 22, 2021 7:02 am

    You are so right, Sean, we are told to give when we are asked, and not expect anything in return. Only God knows what is in the heart, and He will be the one to deal with that, not us. To give us good for us, also. It opens our hearts to the love of God and others. Who wants a hard & suspicious heart?

  32. Lissa - January 26, 2021 12:28 am

    This is the will of God our Father. He too smiled with a personal blessing for your compassion. Myself, I send To You Blessings Thank you for sharing. LJD Texas

  33. Julie - February 4, 2021 1:28 am

    I am so proud of you, Sean! You gave in the true spirit of giving….not caring what the guy did with the 5 dollars, as long as he knew someone cared.


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