“We just wanted people to know we loves’em,” he said. “Want my whole life to belong to people who just need to know someone loves’em.”

Two years ago. Reeltown, Alabama. I don’t know how old the man running the vegetable stand is, but he’s old enough to have white hair and use words like “rye-chonder” when he points.

He and his wife sit in rocking chairs. There are flats of tomatoes, peppers, jars of honey.

“‘Ch’all dune?” comes the call from his wife—a sweet woman with a kind face.

I inspect the man’s last batch of summer tomatoes. They look good. And it’s hard to find good fare on the side of the road anymore.

Factories have taken over the world. Homegrown summer tomatoes are almost a myth.

There’s a clapboard house behind us. The roof is pure rust. The front porch is made of pure history.

“Grew up in that house,” he said. “My mama grew up in that house. Been farming this land since I’s a boy.”

His land nestles in the greenery of the foothills. He grew up using a mule to turn dirt fields. He burned up his childhood tending cotton, cane, and peanuts. But he doesn’t call himself a farmer.

“I’m a country preacher,” he goes on. “‘Fore that, we was missionaries.”

Missionaries. But not overseas. To Native Americans. Primitive tribes in the United States which still cooked over fires and lived without electricity. When they were younger, their missionary work was in Alaska.

“You take a Deep South boy like me,” he says. “Put me in a poverty stricken Eskimo tribe for ten years, that’s an education, boy.”

He’s not like many preachers. He has no doctrine to hammer, no book to thump. All he’s ever wanted to do is help people and to sell vegetables.

And he has a soft spot for Native Americans. He speaks about those he’s helped, with wet eyes. This man is made of Domino sugar.

“We just wanted people to know we loves’em,” he said. “Want my whole life to belong to people who just need to know someone loves’em.”

He’s shows me a wall of license plates. Rusted car tags represent the places his American missionary work has taken him. Arkansas, Missouri, Alaska, Texas, and a cluster of other tags. His whole life is on that wall.

“I’m so lucky” he says. “Got to know all sorts’a God’s children. Didn’t make no money in my life, we’re kinda poor. That’s sorta why we started selling vegetables, you see.”

I see.

His wife interrupts. “Maybe we didn’t make money, Wallace. But tell him about the email.”

He says they got an email from a Native American man. The man asked if they were the same kindhearted missionaries who used to bake cookies for his tribe’s Sunday school class in Alaska when he was a boy.

It made her eyes leak. His too.

That boy is middle-aged today. He’s got a healthy family, and he’s doing well. He just wanted to thank a few people who once showed him kindness.

“That one email,” she goes on. “Made our little lives seem worth it. Reckon life really is all about showing people you care about’em.”

Reckon so.

I hug their necks, and I drive away, eating tomatoes all the way across Alabama.

That was two summers ago. I made it back to Reeltown to see Mister Wallace recently.

The vegetable stand was closed down. He was in a wheelchair and didn’t have use of his limbs. ALS had taken its cruel toll on his body. Doctors said it wouldn’t be long.

When I hugged his neck I cried a little. I didn’t mean to, but it’s hard to watch a good man get beat.

He whispered something in my ear.

“Don’t feel bad for me, Sean,” he said. “After I’m gone, I’ll be up yonder, with you know who.”

This morning, on Easter Sunday, a modest country preacher walked through abalone gates and shook You-Know-Who’s hand.

And they’re about to have some fine tomatoes in Beulah Land.

Rest easy, Mister Wallace.

46 comments

  1. mfontaine2017 - April 22, 2019 6:38 am

    Another good one.

    Reply
  2. oldlibrariansshelf - April 22, 2019 6:39 am

    Christ is risen.
    And now Mister Wallace is with Him, indeed!

    Reply
  3. Susan Self - April 22, 2019 7:09 am

    No better place to be, on the other side of the gates. Tears of joy on my face.

    Reply
  4. aclownn - April 22, 2019 7:27 am

    Yep.

    Reply
  5. theholtgirls - April 22, 2019 8:23 am

    Thank you for making me fall in love with Mister Wallace! I look forward to meeting him some day.

    Reply
  6. Marilyn Vance - April 22, 2019 8:35 am

    …and ‘You-Know-Who’ welcomed him with ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’…….

    Reply
  7. Stan - April 22, 2019 10:19 am

    That’s why I keep reading your column everyday. You paint a great picture my friend! I cried a little too…

    Reply
  8. Cathi - April 22, 2019 10:28 am

    You Know Who got him another good one. Rest easy Mr. Wallace & enjoy your next life. You will be missed down here.

    Reply
  9. Camille - April 22, 2019 11:06 am

    Wish there were more people with no “doctrine to hammer and no book to thump,” just people who want to help people and make them know they are loved. People like you, Sean, and Mr. Wallace.

    Reply
  10. Phillip Saunders. - April 22, 2019 11:36 am

    Thanks be to God for the Wallaces of the world, and thank you for sharing their stories. There is still much good going on if we look for it, and we should all try to be at least some small part of it.

    Reply
  11. Annak - April 22, 2019 11:40 am

    A small life? No, a life dedicated to “the least of these.” What an example of a life well lived.

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  12. Karen - April 22, 2019 11:59 am

    Chills from head to toe! Blessings!

    Reply
  13. Deloris Salter - April 22, 2019 12:18 pm

    You are such an inspiration to me and others! I love your down to earth writings. Loved meeting you in Hartford, Al. a couple of years ago. I live in Clayhatchee, just above Hartford.
    Keep up the good work!!

    Reply
  14. Shelton A. - April 22, 2019 12:42 pm

    Thanks for a story that really fits for the promise that Easter brings.

    Reply
  15. Kelly Ray - April 22, 2019 12:55 pm

    What a heart warming story…HAPPY EASTER Sean…He is Risen!

    Reply
  16. Edna B. - April 22, 2019 1:03 pm

    I’m so glad I got to meet the Wallaces through you. We need more folks like them. Thank you for this wonderful story. You have an awesome day Sean, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  17. Ginger Clifton - April 22, 2019 1:10 pm

    And the Good News is that we can all be the “Wallaces” where we live. We are in the same family you know when we walk with purpose to follow You-Know-Him because of our faith in His Son.

    Reply
  18. Jan - April 22, 2019 1:11 pm

    Reeltown and the surrounding countryside holds a special place in my heart. Wonderful story about wonderful people … What a blessing! Thank you!

    Reply
  19. Sue - April 22, 2019 1:16 pm

    Brought tears to my eyes. There really are wonderful caring people in this world and it is awesome when you actually meet them. RIP Mr. Wallace.

    Reply
  20. Anne P. - April 22, 2019 1:22 pm

    Again my eyes are leaking. Bless you and your beautiful writing Sean.

    Reply
  21. Pat - April 22, 2019 2:09 pm

    Tears flowing again…thank you (you know who) for Mr. Wallace and Sean of the South!

    Reply
  22. Paula Link - April 22, 2019 2:13 pm

    Is his wife still alive? If so, who’s taking care of her?

    Reply
    • Margaret Johnson Floyd - April 23, 2019 1:36 am

      She is. Her older son lives across the road from her. Her daughter and son-in-law live farther up her driveway, one of her granddaughters and her family live farther up the same driveway. Many more family members and close friends live within the community. She is heart-broken right now but is being well attended and will always be.

      Reply
  23. Carol Heidbreder - April 22, 2019 2:32 pm

    Tears again! What a grand dose of goodness the Wallace’s delivered to “the least of these’! We can all do this in our own ways! How is Mrs.Wallace? She was his “side partner” for a life of sacrifice and love of others. What an honor to leave us on Easter Sunday! I will remember this good man and thank God for him on Easter for the rest of my life. A real mirroring if Christ!

    Reply
  24. Linda Moon - April 22, 2019 2:52 pm

    I hope to meet Mr. Wallace up yonder with You Know Who one day and see my Daddy, another Wallace. Country Preachers, Fresh Tomatoes, and Good Daddies – it “don’t” get any better than that. Bless those Wallaces, and bless you, Sean.

    Reply
  25. Sheila - April 22, 2019 3:13 pm

    Thank you for sharing that Sean. Bless your heart for caring and striking up a friendship with people you met at a roadside produce stand. Now I worry about Mrs Mr Wallace. How will she manage ?

    Reply
  26. Connie Havard Ryland - April 22, 2019 3:21 pm

    Somewhere in my list of your saved columns is the original story about Mr. Wallace. Thank you for the update. ALS is a horrible disease but Mr. Wallace knew he had a reward coming. My condolences to his family and friends.

    Reply
  27. Brenda Bales - April 22, 2019 3:23 pm

    You write such caring and moving stories. I enjoy reading them every morning. Please continue writing. Thank you.

    Reply
  28. Charaleen Wright - April 22, 2019 4:00 pm

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  29. Frances D. Lester - April 22, 2019 4:23 pm

    Thank you, God, for Mr. and Mrs. Wallace! Thank you, Sean, for sharing them and their love with us! That IS what it’s all about!
    Granny Fran

    Reply
  30. Chasity Davis Ritter - April 22, 2019 4:23 pm

    Oh my such leaky eyes I remember your original story about these people. My eyes leaked then too. How amazing they were in such an ordinary way. That’s what you show us in your writing. But they are people who deserve to be shown in all their sparkle and glory for the angels they really are on earth. And now one is a true angel up there with You Know who. And those leaky eyes just keep right on leaking. .

    Reply
    • Tammy Moody - April 22, 2019 4:33 pm

      Reply
  31. Tammy Moody - April 22, 2019 4:31 pm

    Beautifully written Sean! Brought me back to seeing folks just like that on my summers in south AL. Praising God for the wonderful tomatoes we will have in Heaven! Thanks you Mr Wallace.

    Reply
  32. Dola Johnson - April 22, 2019 5:16 pm

    Nice, Sean. Very nice.

    Reply
  33. Janet Mary Lee - April 22, 2019 6:30 pm

    The perfect Easter story. I remember your original story too. Thank God for the Wallaces and people like them. I too wondered about his wife. You are a pretty good gift yourself!!

    Reply
  34. Barbara - April 22, 2019 7:00 pm

    Once again my eyes are filled with tears and my heart full of gratitude to you Sean for sharing the story of the Wallaces. I’m Native American, I grew up on a farm, we were dirt poor but always had enough to share with someone in need. This story really touches my heart. Thank you for all your heart-felt stories about the good still alive and well in a world where there is so much selfishness..

    Reply
  35. Carol Jenkins - April 22, 2019 7:21 pm

    So much tenderness in this experience. Thank you.

    Reply
  36. Mary T. - April 22, 2019 7:26 pm

    My precious father-in-law died on Easter Sunday several years ago. His nurse said,”There was a party in heaven and Mr T joined it.” What an awesome day to walk through those gates and see Jesus.

    Reply
  37. Ellen C. - April 22, 2019 9:32 pm

    What a perfect day to go home up yonder!!!!

    Reply
  38. Tim House - April 23, 2019 12:24 am

    Dang it, made my eyes leak… 🙁

    Reply
  39. Linda - April 23, 2019 12:56 pm

    Just beautiful….

    Reply
  40. Deena - April 25, 2019 3:51 am

    Beautiful thoughts and words for a man who was among so few who still exist.. this touched my heart.

    Reply
  41. Joe - April 26, 2019 1:00 pm

    What a Great Man. Only had the pleasure of meeting him a few times at a small church in the country. He and his wife were always so kind hearted and wanting to help everyone. Thank you Jesus for allowing us to have your missionary on earth and in the Dadeville Alabama area for a few years. We know he is not dead but with you for eternity. Until I see you again my friend. Heaven received a Great One.

    Reply
  42. Margaret Green - May 22, 2019 6:14 pm

    Absolutely perfect tribute Sean❤️God Blesses you in meeting some of ‘The Best’ just so you can Honor them in this beautiful way… Real people in Reeltown! I just wanna say God Bless you, Thank you and I love you ?

    Reply
  43. Barb Rice - May 22, 2019 8:39 pm

    This made my eyes leak (in gratitude.).

    Reply
  44. turtlekid - May 24, 2019 1:14 am

    Isn’t it wonderful that we all know “you know who”. Grateful to live in this country, Grateful for reminders of lovely people, by those whose writings we adore! Sean Paul, we love you.

    Reply

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