So my purpose in life. I still don’t know what it is. But I can tell you my aspiration: to be nice.

You might not care about this, but fifteen years ago I didn’t know my purpose on this planet. Today, I’m middle-aged, and I can finally say I still don’t know—only, now I have a bad back.

This morning, I ate breakfast at Cracker Barrel. Cracker Barrel, it should be noted, doesn’t have the greatest biscuits, but in a pinch they’ll keep you alive.

An old woman and her daughter sat at the table beside mine. The woman was in a wheelchair, with messy hair. And talkative.

“That man needs to shave!” she hollered.

Several people in the room giggled.

Cute, I was thinking, looking around the for an abominable snowman.

“He needs to SHAVE!” she shouted again, this time in my general direction.

“Mama,” gasped her daughter. “Be nice.”

I smiled at the old woman. And that’s when it hit me. This lady was yelling about me.

I am the Bigfoot.

And I became a middle-schooler again. It was like a bad dream, only without the corduroy pants and the Barry Manilow music.

The woman’s daughter apologized. But I told her it wasn’t necessary.

The old lady went on, “Your face looks like a big, fat bear!”

Precious memories. How they linger.

Eventually, she calmed and I finished breakfast in peace. She, more or less, forgot about me—until I stood to leave. Then, she noticed me again.

Her old passions reignited.

“Go shave your dumb face!” she hollered.

The daughter whispered to me, “I’m SO sorry, my mother has no filter.”

I got into my truck and took a few breaths. I looked into the rearview mirror.

I don’t know what that woman might be going through. Maybe she’s not in control of her mind. Maybe she’s had a traumatic experience involving too much hair.

Either way, all I could see in my mirror was a chubby middle-schooler who looked like Cousin It. I saw a boy I’d almost forgotten. A mediocre athlete, a redhead, a C-student, a face like a Pilsbury ad.

My birthday is on the horizon, I’m thinking, and some woman just called me ugly. In public. Repeatedly.

It started in my belly and went to my throat. I laughed. Hard. I don’t know why. The universe has a sense of humor, I guess.

Funny, what words can do to a man. Simple, little words. They can make you feel good. Or bad. Or they can make you feel like the mascot for U.S. forest fire prevention.

So my purpose in life. I still don’t know what it is. But I can tell you my aspiration: to be nice.

That’s it.

I don’t have any grand plan. No big ideas. I just want to be the fella who smiles more than he doesn’t.

If you ask me—which you didn’t—the world has enough people who have figured life out. They’re smart, prudent, with four-car garages.

That’s not me. I can’t even remember how to play Bingo. But I do know the person I want to be. I want to be the man who hugs strangers, pets stray dogs, and uses nice words. A man you might pass on the street, then say to yourself:

“Look, there goes a nice guy…

“Who just happens to look like Sasquatch.”

48 comments

  1. Will - December 29, 2018 6:48 am

    I think maybe the lady may have thought you were her long lost son who had grown a beard since she last saw him and she didn’t like the bearded look! Just take it in stride. She could have seen your shaved face and started laughing! Anyway you are making a lot of us smile everyday with your stories. Keep it up! Thanks!

    Reply
  2. Linda - December 29, 2018 7:31 am

    Bears are lovely creatures.

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  3. Pamela McEachern - December 29, 2018 9:00 am

    We have been on the look out for so many years for Sasquatch…and all the while he may be a nice guy we would all like to know! Can’t judge a book by it’s cover. Let’s not judge each other so easily.

    Peace and Love from Birmingham and RTR!!

    Reply
  4. Johnny Parker - December 29, 2018 11:00 am

    Thank you, Sean. Nice! You may not know this. But you are changing lives. How do I know this. Because you are changing mine. Roll Tide (tonight).

    Reply
  5. Carlene Tippens Kincaid - December 29, 2018 11:00 am

    Cracker Barrel biscuits are great, just cover them with honey 😀
    Your column is a breath of fresh air. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  6. Suzanne - December 29, 2018 11:45 am

    In a world where you can be anything, Be Kind!!! Thank you for your stories every day… they are good for the soul.

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  7. Warren Evans - December 29, 2018 11:52 am

    You have admirable goals, Sean. I applaud you! (Even if you’re not as cute as some of us.)

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  8. Jean - December 29, 2018 12:04 pm

    I like nice guys who have a beard! Nice is the key word here. I would say the lady has dementia….

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  9. Naomi - December 29, 2018 12:09 pm

    If it’s any consolation, Sean, the elderly woman at Cracker Barrel probably has dementia but her daughter has not come to terms with it yet. However, I have had people say horrible things to me, and most of them were people I went to church with. One of them didn’t like the way my hair looked; one didn’t like my glasses; another didn’t like the way I dressed. The lady who didn’t like how my hair looked also wanted to redecorate my house. I had the same problem in school. I am a first-generation American with naturally curly hair. My parents couldn’t afford to buy fancy dresses for me like the other girls wore. However, I was a straight A student and actually skipped a grade in school. I am in a second marriage to a retired Southern Baptist preacher who is also a retired AF Lt Col. In a couple of days, we will be celebrating our 39th anniversary. I must have turned out OK because, even after I was married, I have had a lot of men “hit” on me. One of them told my husband, right in front of me, “Your wife is ‘hot'”. By the way, he was a man we went to church with.

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  10. Becky Hanks, Birmingham, AL - December 29, 2018 12:37 pm

    There is a reason the rear view mirror is so small and the windshield is so big. That’s how much we should look back compared to how much we should look forward. I saw that on Facebook, that meme said it better. Back in the 60’s I was a 6’1” teenage girl, taller than all the boys, and now taller than most men. I am 67 now and it still hurts when a child giggles at me as they look at Mt. Everest as they pass me by. Most of the time I forget I am freaky, but now I am gorgeous with spiked grey hair. If they get old like me they will be blessed to have had such a wonderfully diverse life as I have had. Like my hero Benjamin Franklin I have done it all!!!!! And I ain’t rich. Sean, You are gorgeous with a great big beard, you go guy!!!

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  11. Elizabeth Edens - December 29, 2018 1:00 pm

    Bearded men can be sexy! (Just keep it clean and food free.) You are awesome just they way you are.

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  12. Betty Nix - December 29, 2018 1:18 pm

    With constant evidence that people have lost their way, we thank you for your optimism and niceness. You are my hero everyday! Thank you! From a former Brewtonite😊

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  13. Amy - December 29, 2018 1:29 pm

    Sean, lots of women love hair on a man. It indicates masculinity and we really are attracted to it. I happen to also love chubby little gingers. 😊. I say your wife is a lucky woman and we are so blessed that you share your life and heart and thoughts with us. I wouldn’t have you any other way.

    Reply
  14. Susan Hatfield - December 29, 2018 1:29 pm

    She attacked your beard. Not you. It’s just hair. And she probably has Altzheimers. It makes people act that way they lose their filters. My gentle Southern Christian MeeMa started using four letter words we didn’t even think she knew. Anyway you are cute and so is your beard. Get over it. Love ya.

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  15. Veanne Watkins - December 29, 2018 1:39 pm

    your writings cause me to exhale at a new level…thank you.

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  16. Karen - December 29, 2018 2:04 pm

    Words can hurt. Words can heal. I believe God put you on this earth to heal with your words and music. To bring people like me laughter in a painful world. You have to experience hurt in your life to be able bring laughter. Only then can you really understand.
    All those painful memories build upon each other. They either turn a person into a bitter one or a joyful one. You can use those hurts to help others or to tear down. I’m so thankful you use your life to bring so much happiness to us.

    Reply
  17. Susie - December 29, 2018 2:22 pm

    It’s true, most of us have really bad memories of school and people laughing at us, or hopefully, with us. Still happens, sometimes. Thank you for your honesty and love to humans and animals.

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  18. Laura - December 29, 2018 2:42 pm

    My 93 year old Mother has Alzheimer’s. She also hates any man with facial hair. She has no trouble telling her sons or grandsons that they need to “show that handsome face instead of covering it with hair” of “why do you want to have hair on your face?” She would not, at least as of yesterday, tell a stranger that, but if I am out somewhere with her and she sees a hairy face, she will say to me- “Look at that hairy face- he looks awful!” Sometimes she is louder that I would like and I shush her, but not often. Interestingly, the only man she does not say that about is James on Price is Right- she sees his smile and does not criticize the beard. I tease her about this but she cannot tell me the why. I should be happy she is focused on beards. Before the big A, she and I used to critique men’s behinds, rating them -2 to 10. At least she isn’t saying, “would you look at h8im. His butt is a minus” or “NA-no A..” 🙂

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  19. Bridget - December 29, 2018 2:57 pm

    DO. NOT. SHAVE. IT. OFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  20. Helen - December 29, 2018 3:09 pm

    You are a nice guy. Just believe it!

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  21. Jack Quanstrum - December 29, 2018 3:12 pm

    Encouraging!

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  22. Jack Darnell - December 29, 2018 3:13 pm

    Bridget is just kissing up! hahahahahahaI have had a beard now longer than yoiu are old. I am an old Navy Chief. It at one time had an authoritative look, and I needed it because I liked stary dogs better’n ordering folks around. LOL
    Take care OLD MAN! 😉
    Keep TRYING to be nice, who knows………………… stray dogs might start liking you!

    Reply
  23. Eiizabeth - December 29, 2018 4:14 pm

    If only everyone had that goal!

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  24. Janie F. - December 29, 2018 4:32 pm

    Sean, your purpose in life is to write about life in a way that touches others. You excell at this!

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  25. Patsy - December 29, 2018 4:42 pm

    And you are that nice person! And I love the beard!!!

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  26. Rhonda Dickinson - December 29, 2018 4:46 pm

    Wonderful aspiration. Would that we all felt that way.

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  27. Harvey Roberts - December 29, 2018 4:51 pm

    An unexpected benefit of being nice is that, sometime, it pisses people off.

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  28. Shelby - December 29, 2018 6:15 pm

    Sean, your column is the first thing I read every day. They make me feel good. And I love that you are such a kind, loving person who wants to spread the love and kindness around. Since I’ve been reading your stories, I leave more generous tips and am more inclined to judge less, be nicer to strangers, smile more, and and be more thankful for the things I take for granted. You are a GIFT to your readers. Thank you.

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  29. Chris W. Spencer - December 29, 2018 6:43 pm

    Sean, having dealt with two family members who had Alzheimer’s, I think I can confidently say that the old lady in Cracker Barrel has some form of dementia if not Alzheimer’s.

    Both my mother and brother were like that in the early stages. You never knew what they might say. And like the younger woman in Cracker Barrel, I spent a lot of time apologizing for them. But fortunately most people were understanding and just waved it off.

    My older sister is now in the early stages of dementia and I guess if I live long enough that I too will one day be dealing with dementia in one form or another. And I am an old Marine so there is no telling what I might say lol. I just pray I can somehow manage to at least keep my comments clean lol

    Anyway, I just wanted to comment about this one particular story, and also to tell you that I receive your stories daily in email and have for over a year, I think. And I have loved them all.

    Take care and may God bless you with a blessed and very Happy New Year each day of the new year. I look forward to reading more from you.

    Respectfully,
    Chris W. Spencer

    Reply
  30. Kathy Wolfe - December 29, 2018 6:55 pm

    Bless that woman’s heart and her daughter who is brave enough to take her out in public. When I was about 13 my own mother told me I wasn’t pretty. It has stuck with me for 54 years so I know some of your feelings. You are a handsome young man.

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  31. Suzanne Hill - December 29, 2018 6:57 pm

    Sean, my friend downloaded u on screen talking. I thought–He’s Cute! There is nothing wrong w/ the way u look. U can write & speak too. U are coming to Athens. U sold out the day the tickets went on sale! I am planning on crashing the show. 0r I could meet u at C Barrel. Anyway I am old enough to be your mama. suzannehill0928@gmail.com Thanks for coming to N. Alabama.
    Anyway on up 65 North or 251 is Ardmore, the town of 2 states 4 counties if u think u could come up & write about us.
    Keep on writing & encouraging us w/ your stories some of us have experienced too.

    Reply
  32. Edna B. - December 29, 2018 8:33 pm

    Isn’t it wonderful when you can laugh at yourself? Keep being you and tell your stories. They brighten my days. Thank you. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

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  33. Barbara Bray - December 29, 2018 8:34 pm

    It’s ironic ,I just made a lengthy comment in your story titled , “Cracker Barrel ” …with my sob story saying “just be nice. “……your stories were the best Christmas present I got this year. A friend shared ” Little Places ” online and I was off and running…reading your observations and memories until I was cross-eyed. You are precious ( yes , I’m an old Southern woman ) ….and I pray you know how very special you are. You have blessed more lives than you know. Keep remembering, keep observing and keep writing. There are lot of us who love you ..beard and all.

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  34. Carol - December 29, 2018 9:15 pm

    Your precious!’ I love your hairy face. Are you smiling?
    I can’t tell. I’m smiling at you!’
    Love ya!

    Reply
  35. Betsy Voss - December 29, 2018 9:28 pm

    This is a good one, and I’m glad you were able to laugh it off. Your goal may be to be nice, but this woman probably had the same goal a few years ago. I’m dreading the day my own filter falters and fails. There’s so much I don’t get credit for not saying right now… No one will want to be near me. I’m hoping for everyone else’s sake that I keep my faculties until I go home.

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  36. Kay Keel - December 29, 2018 9:50 pm

    Happy Birthday Sean! And Roll Tide!

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  37. Nena - December 30, 2018 2:16 am

    Sean, you are nice. I like you just the way you are.

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  38. Kathy Grey - December 30, 2018 2:36 am

    Sean, you made me laugh out loud! Thank you.

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  39. Sheila - December 30, 2018 2:36 am

    My mom has Alzheimer’s Disease and when in public she often has no filter as well. Apparently the lady in your story had a problem with beards. My mom has a problem with over-weight people. I could crawl in a hole sometimes. My point is, I hope you can laugh it off and not take it personally. I am also very sensitive to childhood insecurities at 56. Some things we never outgrow

    Reply
  40. rantsandravescom - December 30, 2018 4:03 am

    You are a very nice person and also kind. You not only see what is around you, but you observe. Then you tell us what is happening around you. It makes us to be a part of what you observe. Not only that but you are KIND.
    By the way I don’t particularly like your beard. But it’s on your face and if your wife likes it then it’s nobody else’s business. Even mine. 😳🤣

    Reply
  41. karen peters - December 30, 2018 5:08 am

    Just curious: why do you choose to wear a beard anyway? It must be hot most of the year where you live.

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    • Chris W. Spencer - December 30, 2018 5:23 am

      I can’t speak for Sean but I wear beard in Alabama cause it covers up a lot of ugly lol

      Reply
  42. Suzanne - December 30, 2018 2:44 pm

    It is amazing where words can take us. 2018 has been my most difficult year yet with the loss of my big brother. Every morning I read your words~every morning I see the joy and the light that exists inspite of our pain. You are beautiful!
    Thank you….

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    • Loanna Torrance - December 30, 2018 6:19 pm

      I hope the same too, to just be nice.
      And I for one love Sasquatches! But even if I didn’t I’d hug you anyway.
      Carry on! And laugh hard. Your writing changes things!

      Reply
  43. Bill - December 30, 2018 10:35 pm

    Sean, I am an admirer. I look forward to your post each day. I understand your reaction to the lady today really well. My wife of more than fifty years has Alzheimer’s. Several of our friends have a spouse or other loved one with Alzheimer’s. You are just too young to know yet. I had to place her in a “memory care facility” recently and now live in a very, very empty house. It was the most painful decision in my life. This Christmas was my worst ever.
    At some point I would urge you to write on this subject. I would be happy to provide some material. You would give comfort and solace to many who deal with this awful disease 24/7/365–ALL the time! It is overwhelming.
    Thank you for caring for others. You are nice, and you make others nice. Keep up the good work! Bill

    Reply
  44. Carolyn from Georgia - December 31, 2018 9:26 am

    LOVE your great stories always!! But Cracker Barrel Biscuits are YUM !!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! My grandmothers was today. And a BLESSED NEW YEAR to you Jamie & your furry ones!!! ♡♡♡

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  45. Bonnie - January 1, 2019 8:15 am

    Almost any biscuit is good with honey on it! You and your lovely bride are a breath of fresh air. Love reading your writings and I do love that red hair!

    Reply
  46. Barbara - January 5, 2019 8:55 pm

    Thank you for your peace and reflection on life.

    Reply

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