Cracker Barrel—A young woman walked past me. She walked with a heavy gait and awkward steps. She waved at every person she saw.
She had Down syndrome. I don’t know how old she was. Early thirties maybe.
The waitress took her order, but the girl was in no mood to order.
“YOU ARE A PRETTY WAITRESS!” the girl said in a voice loud enough to register on most recently calibrated Richter scales.
The waitress—early sixties, wiry—smiled. “Why thank you, sweetie. What’s your name?”
“MY NAME’S RINDA!” the girl said.
“Rinda? Pretty name.”
“NO, NOT RINDA YOU DUMBASS! L-L-LINDA! WITH AN ‘L!’”
Linda let out a laugh. So did the waitress. So did everyone who heard it.
Linda might be the happiest person I’ve ever seen.
My own waitress was young. Hispanic. And even though she was as radiant as a pot of coffee, I could tell she was tired.
She wore a button on her apron which read: “Soy Amada.”
I ask about the button.
“It means ‘I am loved,’” she said. “My mom’s from Mexico, she gave it to me.”
“Soy amada,” I said.
“See?” she said. “Now you are loved.”
How about that.
After breakfast, I drove toward the grocery store for my wife. She had given me a list a mile long.
It’s important to note: in our entire marital career, I’ve never made a successful grocery run. Usually, I’ll do something like accidentally buy the only brand of coffee creamer which she thinks tastes like fresh baby vomit.
On the way to the store, I saw a man standing in the median. He held a handwritten poster reading: “Need food, God bless.”
The minivan ahead of me turned on its hazards. A blonde woman stepped out and handed the man several plastic bags.
I saw the man sit on the grass and eat. Traffic whizzed by him while he drank Coke from a two-liter bottle and ate Doritos.
I walked into the supermarket. There, I met an employee named Ellen. She was silver haired. She wore a cast over one arm. She was stocking fruit juice bottles.
I asked about her arm.
“Oh this?” Ellen said. “This is to prevent the swelling. Had to wear it ever since I had breast cancer.”
The cancer had spread to Ellen’s lymphatic system. Surgery was in order. Ever since the operation, her arm swells.
“Sometimes, it gets so bad my fingers turn into sausages and I can’t move’em. This cast helps.”
But Ellen doesn’t mind the cast. She says it’s a small price to pay for being alive. And she loves being alive.
“People don’t tell you that cancer’s non-stop fear, twenty-four seven. You can’t even sleep. I was afraid ‘cause I didn’t have no husband or anyone. I was all alone.”
When the doctor told her she was in remission, she was reborn. Fear disappeared. She called everyone she knew. She took a roadtrip to Colorado.
Before we parted ways, I almost gave Ellen a hug, but I didn’t. I wish I would have now.
Anyway, if you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering what in the name of Chet Atkins you are reading. I suppose the answer is: I don’t know.
I don’t know why a fool like me writes about people who hold cardboard signs at busy intersections, or about girls with Down syndrome in Cracker Barrels.
None of these people cured a major disease, solved the national debt, wrote a famous song, or led any groundbreaking social movements.
So I don’t have an answer for you. Except to say that sometimes I am so proud to be a part of the human race, I just feel like saying it.
And so are you.
Judy G - February 23, 2018 7:17 am
Sean, we’re proud to have you amonst us ordinary human folks who just do ordinary human….’stuff’.
Susan Hammett Poole - February 23, 2018 9:57 am
Soy amada — that’s all the Spanish I need to remember today.♡
Lucretia - February 23, 2018 10:04 am
Thank you, Sean for writing about the thoughts and feelings that express love…soy Amanda. . .
Judy - February 23, 2018 10:21 am
I am glad that you write these things and share them for us to read. In this time of constant bad new and hearing how badly some people treat each other, it is good to have a glimpse into the good that is also happening everyday. There are kind people…and I really believe the kind people outnumber those who are not kind. You just reinforce and encourage that belief. Thank you.
Kellu - February 23, 2018 10:23 am
I look forward to your stories every morning after my devotions. Thank you for writing about the people and things that really matter. Soy Amada right back to ya!
CaroG87 - February 23, 2018 11:00 am
Bless Ellen. I too live with lymphedema, though my kind is congenital and not due to lymph node removal. If you see her again hug her for me, one lymphie to another!
Rachel - February 23, 2018 11:09 am
So am I. And glad you are to. Your stories remind me to appreciate the world. All of it
Kathy - February 23, 2018 11:36 am
Soy amada. Sean, I love reading about the people you see and meet. Your writing motivates me to be more aware of those around me and to interact with them more. Thank you. ❤️
Connie - February 23, 2018 11:59 am
At times when I feel the weight of the world, and I can’t sleep and I’m lonely and tired, I read something you write, and I smile and my heart feels a little lighter. Thank you for sharing the people you meet.
candyalso - February 23, 2018 12:02 pm
El amor es todo lo que necesitas
Trina V - February 23, 2018 12:13 pm
I’m glad you write about the average person. So many times I get so caught up in my own world, that I fail to see the people who are around me, going about their days just like I am. This old world would be a much better place if we paid better attention to the average Joe.
Jan - February 23, 2018 12:13 pm
All I can say is please don’t stop writing about the people you meet and sharing them with us Sean!
William Myrick - February 23, 2018 12:23 pm
All the news we hear is about North Korea, Russia, and global warming. Nothing but doom and gloom. The local paper doesn’t print stories about Aunt Sallie’s spring garden or the food drive at the local church. People won’t even speak to one another. Sometimes I wonder if anyone other than me noticed the peach trees are in bloom. We are still humans and need human contact. It’s hard to get that at 70 miles per hour, running late for work, and texting at the same time. Thanks, Sean, for stories about Aunt Sallie.
Debra - February 23, 2018 1:07 pm
You tell the stories that remind us of our humanity. Soy amada
janiesjottings - February 23, 2018 1:39 pm
The world needs more stories like this. I once walked around like I had blinders on but since I discovered your writing Sean I’ve begun to really pay attention to people. Thank you for that!
Leisa Taylor - February 23, 2018 1:49 pm
Thanks for the reminder that there is still genuine good in the world!
Carlin Brooks - February 23, 2018 2:00 pm
Charlotte Scholl - February 23, 2018 2:01 pm
I know why you write about normal people – it’s normal people in the world that make it beautiful. The way you take time to see the trees in the forrest is a gift. Thank you for sharing this gift with us.
Gerri Johnson - February 23, 2018 2:12 pm
Please keep writing stories just like this, Sean. You give me hope in humanity. They’re a bright light in all the darkness the rest of the world tries to push on you.
Laura - February 23, 2018 2:37 pm
My Spanish is not very good but “Eres amados” I think means “You are loved” and Soy amada is true- I am loved by people and by God. As Billy Graham said in every sermon: If you don’t remember anything else I have said to you, remember that God loves you.
Bill Heaton - February 23, 2018 2:44 pm
“I don’t know why a fool like me writes about people who hold cardboard signs at busy intersections, or about girls with Downs syndrome in Cracker Barrels.”
Sean, you write about this stuff because so many fools like me need to read about this stuff. I love to read about life through your eyes because it’s the way we see life, or it’s a reminder of how we need to see life. It’s good stuff, buddy.
BTW, I’d love to have a cup of coffee with you sometime when you’re near Birmingham again. I might even buy. Then again, I might not.
Take care and God bless,
Penn Wells - February 23, 2018 2:50 pm
A great American writer, whose column (or whatever you call it) I start every morning with (have you ever considered a career in psychotherapy?) once said “there are no coincidences in life.” OK, but I know two people who are glad you coincidentally put just the right words in just the right order just for us today. And btw, what you write often makes me smile….but the “tastes like fresh baby vomit” thing led to a big time, coffee spewing guffaw. Guffaw…what a great, important word…an onomatopoeia if I ever heard one. Thanks…..
Jon Dragonfly - February 23, 2018 2:53 pm
Remind Linda that her name means “Pretty” in Spanish.
Susan - February 23, 2018 3:07 pm
Love all your post “I am loved’ you are too
Marty from Alabama - February 23, 2018 3:26 pm
Soy Amanda. Thank you, Lord.
Marty from Alabama - February 23, 2018 3:42 pm
OK, Penn Wells, your word, onomatopoeia, sent me straight to Merriam Webster App. Can’t stand to see a word that I can’t pronounce and certainly don’t the meaning. Now I feel a tiny bit smarter. Just got to find a way to work it into conversation!
Mary - February 23, 2018 4:13 pm
I’ll be redundant here. Sean you write what people need to hear. Reading about Linda, or a woman who gives bags of food to a homeless person, or a lesson on cancer from a store clerk is like taking a daily vitamin for my soul. If only more people looked at, talked to and listened to those around us we wouldn’t live in fear of our fellow man/woman.
Jack Darnell - February 23, 2018 4:20 pm
Yes sir! There are some awesome folk in this world, if we will just look around. Of course we that comment think you are pretty awesome yourownself! 😉
Jean - February 23, 2018 4:21 pm
Words escape me at the moment so THANK YOU for sharing.
Sarah Kennard - February 23, 2018 4:39 pm
I think you write about them because you are called to remind us all that everyone matters.
Sue Cronkite - February 23, 2018 5:00 pm
B.e. Blue - February 23, 2018 6:39 pm
“I don’t know why a fool like me writes about people…” Maybe it’s because so few people write about the people you do. Keep writing.
Lois Young - February 23, 2018 8:04 pm
Eres amado, Sean. Your writing makes my day.
Maxine - February 23, 2018 8:47 pm
Soy Amada, Sean , so much!
thoughtsfrommybedroomwindow - February 23, 2018 9:01 pm
And Namaste’ to you Sean. The divine light in me sees and honors the divine light in you. I think that’s why you write about these people — you see that divine light in the folks you meet and you just want to let us know we all have it.
Nancy Rogers - February 23, 2018 9:23 pm
Soy amada to us all.
Pam - February 24, 2018 1:44 pm
Thank you for inspiring me to really take loving notice of the wonder all around – each and every moment. I’m a brand new subscriber and very glad to be part of your fan base.
Steven - February 24, 2018 2:18 pm
We all have stories. We are more alike than we are different. That scares some people, and comforts others. I try to remind myself of that.
Steven (not Amanda!) - February 24, 2018 2:21 pm
Amada ?? can I just say how much I hate autocorrect
Mary Lee - March 4, 2018 1:20 am
Another great. Soy Amanda! So happy about that.
Sheila - May 7, 2018 1:25 pm
I don’t know why you write about that stuff but I know why I read it. It reminds me to look for the good and that is a hard thing for me to do sometimes. Thanks!
unkle - May 7, 2018 6:43 pm
Thanks for noticing the unnoticed among us . Blessed are the meek and the red headed stranger who tells their stories for them . Be Blessed . uk
Jody - May 8, 2018 12:23 am
Great to read your focus on the positive qualities of people. Soy Amada.
Mande - March 11, 2019 8:01 pm
You write about these things because we are a part of a tribe who love the South and the people in it and we love to tell everyone else about them all. Thank you for doing that!