Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou

Dan Lovette became an usher at the Baptist church on Easter Sunday, March 26th, 1961. He stood at the door shaking hands, passing out bulletins. He got a lot of funny looks because nobody knew Dan.

Weeks earlier, Pastor Lovette had introduced Dan as his older brother. Dan was a tall man with a soft voice, and rough skin. He wore a brown suit that was too small. He hardly spoke to parishioners.

He sat on the front row during sermons. After service, he smoked cigarettes behind the church. People asked the pastor questions about Dan, but the preacher was quiet when it came to his older brother.

Over the years, folks saw a lot of Dan Lovette. He could be seen pushing a mower, changing the church sign, painting the clapboards, passing out bulletins on Sundays, or cleaning the sanctuary on Monday afternoons.

Dan lived in a back room of the church, behind the choir loft. His earthly belongings amounted to one cot, a hot plate, a coffee pot, a transistor radio, a shaving kit, and one brown suit.

Nobody can forget the Sunday that the pastor announced he would be baptizing Dan after service, this surprised people. Most fundamentalists thought it was quite strange, scandalous even, that the pastor’s own brother had never been baptized.

Even so, sixty-four church members stood near the creek, watching the tall man wade into shallow water behind his younger brother, the preacher. It was a simple ordeal. Down Dan went; up he came. Applause. Bring on the banana pudding.

But life was not all pudding and baptisms. In 1974, tragedy hit the church. The pastor was in a car accident on his way home from Montgomery, doctors thought he’d had a stroke while driving.

For weeks, Dan sat beside his brother’s hospital bed without sleep or food. He lived in a hospital room.

And on the next Sunday, Dan Lovette took the pulpit with tired eyes. It was a hushed room. It was the first time any members of the church ever heard more than a few sentences from old Dan.

“Most of you know me as Dan Lovette,” he began. “But that ain’t my name. Real name’s Springfield. Daniel Springfield…”

It was so quiet you could hear gumdrop.

Dan went on to tell the story about how in 1961, Pastor Lovette had been walking into a department store when he saw Dan standing outside rattling a tin cup. Dan was homeless, and looking for handouts—or a bottle to cure his shakes.

Pastor Lovette treated Dan to supper. Then the pastor carried Dan home to meet his wife and kids. The preacher helped Dan, sat with him through withdrawals, he took Dan to sobriety meetings, he bought Dan a brown suit for Sundays.

Dan started to feel bad about all his charity, he came close to leaving because of his own shame.

“But the preacher just told me one night, ‘You can’t leave us, Dan. Why, we’re brothers.”

Dan didn’t know what to say. He had never been anyone’s brother before—he’d never been anyone’s anything before. All he’d ever been was hard up. But not anymore. Dan got rid of his old name, his old habits, and his old opinion of himself.

And if I had room to tell you the rest of the story, I would. But there’s no need. You already have the important parts.

What I will tell you is this: if you’re ever driving a lonesome two-lane highway in the middle-of-nowhere, Alabama, and you see a dilapidated, clapboard meeting house, consider pulling over.

Then go to the rear of the nondescript cemetery. A few graves have flowers. Most don’t. But you will find a marker for Pastor Lovette, and one for his wife. And a third headstone for an old man who died sober, with his adopted family surrounding his bedside.

The stone reads: “My Big Brother Dan.”

37 comments

  1. Glenda E Hulbert - September 13, 2021 7:48 am

    So, you’ve just brought me to tears [again] with this post. Thank you. I’m pretty certain your Daddy is looking down and saying to my Mama iin heaven “That’s my boy writing all this and causing that gurl to waste a box of kleenex”. You are a magnificent writer/columnist or whatever your sweet wife tags you as. My cup runneth over and I now have to git the face cream out and replenish my salty skin. Thanks a million for your daily benevolence of writing stories early in the morning in order to help your followeres to “read it and weep”. [Or giggle]
    Warm hugs and best wishes to you, your bride and all your dawgs.
    Glenda… a corn bred Missouri farm gurl who now lives in Okeechobee, Flawda. BUT…..there’s always a butt! .I spent months in Pensacola when my then spouse, a USN Corpman, who came home from Vietnam in 1972 and was stationed at NAMI. I’m thiinking that’s why so many of your posts resonate.

    Reply
  2. Susan - September 13, 2021 10:15 am

    Great story, Sean. Thank you!

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  3. Steve Leachman - September 13, 2021 11:52 am

    What a wonderful story of redemption. It shows the power of God’s love. We all need to try harder following Jesus’ example.

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  4. saltydoggie - September 13, 2021 11:57 am

    I so enjoyed that story! Thanks Sean!

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  5. Laura - September 13, 2021 11:59 am

    Thank you from another Missouri girl.

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  6. Kathie - September 13, 2021 12:02 pm

    What a beautiful, heartrending story. Thank you.

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  7. Nancy Crews - September 13, 2021 12:35 pm

    ❤your writing.

    Reply
  8. Tom - September 13, 2021 12:42 pm

    Got my eyes leaking. That preacher was a real man of God. I’d rather see a sermon than hear one!!

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    • Nan - September 14, 2021 4:59 am

      Amen

      Reply
  9. Shelton A. - September 13, 2021 12:49 pm

    Repentance, belonging, and acceptance are never easily obtained. They require work and time. Your pastor was a true and faithful servant of God. Pastor Lovette took his faith seriously and he acted on it. His big brother, Dan, was the result. What a wonderful result it was. Thanks be to God!

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  10. Stacey Wallace - September 13, 2021 12:51 pm

    Sean, thanks for making my day, as always.

    Reply
  11. Shelton A. - September 13, 2021 12:53 pm

    Thank you Sean! You bring us good news in a world crying out for it. God bless you, Jamie, Thelma Lou, and Otis Campbell. Much love, brother.

    Reply
  12. Brenda - September 13, 2021 1:03 pm

    Wow!

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    • P - September 13, 2021 7:26 pm

      That’s only word I could utter after reading this one. Thank you Sean.

      Reply
  13. Anna Reid - September 13, 2021 1:27 pm

    When the question is asked, “What would Jesus do?” This ….

    Reply
  14. Jo - September 13, 2021 1:54 pm

    Love this story.

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  15. Anita Smith - September 13, 2021 2:21 pm

    Well, I’m crying again. You always touch my heart Sean. Thank you 💕

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  16. Debbie g - September 13, 2021 2:24 pm

    Anna. No truer statement. Thank you Sean for keeping us pointed. In the right direction. Love as alway. Pass it around ❤️

    Reply
  17. Tammy - September 13, 2021 2:46 pm

    38 When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
    39 When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
    40 And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’

    Matthew 25:31-46

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  18. Suellen - September 13, 2021 3:06 pm

    May we all be as charitable as that Pastor. All many of us are waiting for is that one person who believes in us and gives us a chance.

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  19. Edith - September 13, 2021 3:41 pm

    So glad a friend sent me some of your posts, and I subscribed. Thanks ❤️

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  20. Edna Isdell - September 13, 2021 6:18 pm

    Thank you for sharing this story. We should all be so compassionate.

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  21. Suzanne Moore - September 13, 2021 6:34 pm

    I was so moved by this post, Sean. If only more people behaved like this pastor. He truly walked his talk, as we all are called to do. I am finding this spirit in members of my real brother’s church and some of his former co-workers, who have stepped forward to help me clear out my brother’s apartment. My brother, who is a hoarder, has had serious surgery which will send him to a nursing home. When I saw his apartment, I was overwhelmed by the task of clearing it out. My health is not good, and I wasn’t sure I could accomplish this feat. In came these wonderful people to help me and Doug, giving freely of their time and effort. Several of them assured me that this is what they do when they see a need. They love my brother,and are happy to help. For me,they are literally a Godsend. I know that they are living their faith.

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  22. Dawnie B - September 13, 2021 6:43 pm

    Let us all remember to live each day as Pastor Lovette did, as he loved as Jesus has taught us in His Holy Word. It isn’t a suggestion, it’s a command. God blesses those who help the poor and the needy. Go and be blessed!

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  23. Christina - September 13, 2021 6:45 pm

    Love lives among us! Thanks for that hopeful story, Sean.

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  24. bigpat1953 - September 13, 2021 7:33 pm

    Wow! Just Wow!

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  25. Linda Moon - September 13, 2021 8:04 pm

    Oh my, what a good laugh and fun I had at the title of this post….thinking of the Coen Brothers’ epic movie of the same name. And then I read the story of the pastor’s “brother”. I’ll be sure to pull over on my next adventurous Alabama roadtrip and look for those family headstones. Oh my…what a story you told us.

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  26. Gayle Wilson - September 13, 2021 8:36 pm

    The world needs more Pastor Lovetts. We lost one of those men on Saturday, of all days September 11. He was our best friend, but we called him brother.

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  27. GARY - September 13, 2021 10:54 pm

    Great story !

    Reply
  28. Karen Snyder - September 14, 2021 1:28 am

    With so much in our world that is mean and ugly and hurtful, what a blessing your posts are to all of us who are fortunate to have found you. ❤️

    Reply
    • Patricia Schwindt - September 14, 2021 2:08 am

      Amen. I have shared Sean’s work with several people and they all are so grateful! He inspires me every day.

      Reply
  29. MA Murphy - September 14, 2021 1:54 am

    Aren’t we all brothers under God? And sisters, too, of course. Thanks, Sean, for another great story!

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  30. Patricia Schwindt - September 14, 2021 2:09 am

    Dangit, Sean. You’ve done it again. Thank you.

    Reply
  31. Laurie Carlstrom - September 14, 2021 3:54 am

    What an amazing and tear jerking story of just a little kindness. This might be my favorite one so far this month.

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  32. charlynecox - September 14, 2021 3:08 pm

    Real love squeezed out of my eyes from reading this. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  33. Dianne - September 14, 2021 6:16 pm

    You have such an amazing way of telling/writing your stories. God has given you this wonderful gift, and you use so very well. I am sitting here in tears after reading this beautiful story of the goodness and kindness of man to man, which makes me almost forget how evil man can be to man. Thank you for making my day, Sean.

    Reply
  34. lindajtaylor - September 14, 2021 11:37 pm

    Beautiful story, you never disappoint. Thanks again, Sean. Love your writing :=)

    Reply

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