I was a pitiful child. When I graduated fourth grade, I was the only student voted most likely to enter the field of manual culvert excavation. I was a total loser.
“But Sean,” I can hear you saying, “we were all total losers when we were kids.”
Thank you for trying to make me feel better, but no, we were not all total losers. Some kids were actually attractive and popular and brilliant.
Case in point. Yesterday, a 14-year-old from Florida won the National Spelling Bee. The kid’s name was Dev Shah. His winning word was “psammophile,” which is an extremely rare noun used to describe organisms that prefer sandy soil environments.
I, for one, am impressed inasmuch as I once lost the elementary spelling bee to the word “potato.”
“T-A-T-E-R?” I spelled over the microphone.
The auditorium erupted in laughter.
I never won anything when I was a kid. I was unimpressive in every way. My Little League team never won a single baseball game.
This is because my Little League team was composed of Deepwater Baptist boys. Our parents did not believe in winning. We believed in the doctrine of suffering. We believed in being of service to others.
So whenever other teams were undergoing batting slumps, they played us and felt much better about themselves. That was our team’s role.
We were not taught to win. My team was named the “Submergers.” We were servants. If my team had won a gold medal, our mothers would have just had it bronzed.
Spelling bees? No way. I come from country people. My people did not emphasize spelling.
When I was a kid, for instance, I remember when my aunt Jospehine died.
My uncle Jerry Lee called the funeral home, in tears. Jerry Lee gave the funeral-home driver directions to his home address, which was at the end of Eucalyptus Drive. To which the funeral home operator replied, “Can you spell that for me, Jerry Lee?” My uncle paused for a long time. Then he finally said, “You know what, how about I just drag her over to Oak Street?”
So I grew up learning how to lose. I was a chubby kid, which means I was never picked to be on sports teams.
Do you remember being chosen for teams? We kids would all line up before community games, whereupon some tall, slender, nice-looking, sports-oriented boy was elected team captain.
The team captain would walk around and begin choosing people for his team based purely on physical attributes and height.
The athletic, popular kids always get picked first. Eventually, after all the cool kids were chosen, what you were left with were the dregs of society. Mostly, kids who still wet the bed.
Take me. I wet the bed for a long time. I don’t know why, and I don’t know how to explain this problem. My mother used to tell me bed-wetting was nothing to worry about. She said that whenever I went to sleep, I simply felt so close to Jesus that I had a “River of Life flowing out of me.” Then she’d clap her hands and start singing:
“Spring up O well,
“Down in my soul,
“Spring up O well,
“And give to me,
“I got a river of life made out of pee…”
I was 29 years old.
The reason I bring all this up is because I was invited to play on the Grand Ole Opry in only one week. And I am pretty nervous about it.
I’ve been performing my one-man show for almost a decade around the U.S. But the Grand Ole Opry is different. On June 10, I will be taking the stage to play music and tell my stories before a national audience.
And on some level, I think I am still in denial about all this. Because in my heart, I will forever be that fat kid who was chosen last for the baseball team because of incontinence issues.
Even so, the reason I am writing this is because if YOU are coming to the Opry on June 10—although why would you?—I want you to know that I want to meet you afterward. I’d like to hug your neck.
So if you’d like to get a beverage with me directly after the show, I will be at: Scoreboard Opry Bar & Grill, 2408 Music Valley Drive, Nashville, TN, 37214.
Please don’t feel obligated to come. But if you do, please don’t tell me “potato” is spelled with a P.