Dusk. I was in a nine-mile traffic jam. My dog was in the passenger seat, chewing a pig ear. The phone rang.
“Hi, Sean,” he said, “my name is Brady.”
“Hi, Brady. Any relation to Mike and Carol and Marsha?”
I need better material.
“Am I interrupting anything?” the young man said.
“No. I’m just sitting in a traffic jam.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said.
“Don’t be, unless you work for the Florida Department of Transportation.”
I waited for him to state the reason for the call while watching my dog gnaw the ear. When he didn’t say anything, I prompted. “What’s up, Brady?”
He sounded mid-twenties. “Well, my mom got your number from a mutual friend, I read your column every day, and I just…”
Long awkward pause.
“The column’s that bad, huh?” I said.
“No. It’s just… I’m going through some depression right now. Least, that’s what the doctor told me.”
He sounded like he was going to cry.
He added, “You’ve been through depression before, right?”
I switched the phone to my other ear and turned off my stereo. “Through it?” I said. “I don’t think anyone is ever through depression.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I’m doing fine right now. But that’s right now. I’m still human.”
Over the phone, I could hear the sound of a dog barking in the background. Actually, it sounded like many dogs. My dog heard this, too. She quit chewing her pig ear and lifted her head.
“I volunteer in an animal shelter,” he said. “Sorry, it’s gets loud in here.”
My dog whimpered.
“I lost my dad when I was twelve,” he continued. “And ever since, I’ve been getting these panic attacks…
“Sometimes, I don’t feel like anyone understands me. I’ll be out in public and see kids who’re living normal lives, they’re eating in restaurants, laughing, and everything’s great for them. And here I am, all screwed up. I keep trying to figure out how to get better, but… I’m broken.”
My dog resumed chewing. Traffic still wasn’t moving.
I couldn’t have been any more unqualified for this phone call if I’d been born a hamster. Not long ago, I was the one asking these questions. In fact, I still ask them.
“Brady,” I said. “Where are you calling from?”
“What’s it like up there?”
“Right now? Cold. Nineteen degrees where I live.”
“You have no idea. My mom has to open the refrigerator just to heat the house.”
Oh, yes. I liked this kid.
“What was it like growing up, Brady?”
“Me? Well…” Long sigh. “I dunno. Good, I guess. I live on a farm. I used to show hogs, when I was a…”
I interrupted. “Wait. You showed hogs?”
He laughed. It was a nice laugh.
“Well, I really like pigs. And when you show pigs competitively, they become part of your life. You really get to know them. Pigs are so great. Everybody thinks showing pigs is about taking care of them, but it really all starts with genetics.”
“Yep. You gotta research your breed, talk to the breeders, make sure everything’s good. Then you gotta start thinking about how you’re gonna feed’em. Feeding is a whole ‘nother issue.”
“Do go on.”
“Well, for starters, pigs are prone to disease. Like, super prone. They can get sick all the time. So you have to make sure their immune systems are built up with good nutrition.
“It’s not cheap. Bought my first starter pig when I was nine, and I had to give him medicated feed. My mom said I was gonna land us in the poorhouse, a starter pig eats about twenty-five pounds of feed a day.”
“And that’s just when they’re little.”
I could tell the kid was getting into this conversation. His voice was now lively. Before I knew it we had passed twenty minutes and I hadn’t said more than a few words.
“And then,” he went on. “You gotta train your pig, too.”
“Train a pig?”
He laughed again. “You have to build up his stamina to get him ready for a show. That’s the most important part. So you gotta take him for walks every day, train him to turn right and left by tapping his shoulder. But that’s nothing compared to the grooming.”
“Grooming pigs? Surely you jest.”
“Gotta make sure their skin is healthy and give them daily brushings so their hair doesn’t tangle when you clip it. If you have a dark-colored pig, you need to get him out in the sun every day for his color.”
“I had no idea.”
“Most people don’t. They think showing hogs is kinda dumb. But it’s involved, and the people you meet are great.”
We talked for nearly an hour about swine. I’ve never talked about pigs so much in my life. Finally, our conversation came to a lull. The young man said, “Gosh, I didn’t mean to get off on pigs.”
“I’m glad you did.”
Traffic was moving slowly now.
“I think I see what you were trying to do here,” he said. “I think I get it.”
“I wasn’t trying to do anything, Brady.”
“Yes you were. You were trying to get me to talk about things that make me happy.”
“You’re giving me too much credit.”
“Well,” he said. “Thanks. I actually enjoyed this conversation.”
“Me, too, Brady.”
“Will you keep praying for me?”
After we hung up, I removed the pig ear from my dog’s mouth.
“We’ll be buying no more of these,” I told her.
Leigh Amiot - January 17, 2022 9:39 am
Perfect timing…stuck in traffic…the gift of (nearly) undivided attention. Giving thanks you were there for him, Sean. Said a little prayer for both of you.
Rena Anderson - January 17, 2022 9:49 am
Thanks Sean! That was great❣️
Lander - January 17, 2022 9:53 am
You have a good ear there, Sean.
Patricia Vincent - January 21, 2022 7:25 pm
aww good one Lander!!
Ed (Bear) - January 17, 2022 9:54 am
Thank you for writing about depression in an uplifting way. I enjoyed your conversation with Brady too!
Lisa Stapleton - January 17, 2022 10:18 am
Thanks for writing about depression, and pigs. I love pigs.
Loved the story!
Paul McCutchen - January 17, 2022 10:21 am
Lived on a farm all my life but never had any livestock. I guess a good bushel of soybeans is different. The young man, like you said, needs to focus on something that makes him feel better.
Adrienne Possenti - January 17, 2022 11:07 am
So thankful Brady showed you the truth of how we humans take so casually from the animal kingdom.
Bacon anyone? Hold on. There’s a few thousand pigs that need slaughtering.
Carolyn Kelley - January 17, 2022 11:36 am
Virginia+Russell - January 17, 2022 11:50 am
Nancy - January 17, 2022 12:46 pm
Another good one.
Susan - January 17, 2022 1:10 pm
Thank you for being a “pigs ear” for Brady. You are much brighter than you give yourself credit for! Love this!!!
Donna - January 17, 2022 1:11 pm
Wonderful. You gave the gift of listening and presence, and prayer. About as good as it gets.
Jan - January 17, 2022 1:21 pm
Love this! Agree with Donna, you have the gifts to help others in so many ways! Love your writing but love your people skills and concern for others just as much!
Dianne DeVore - January 17, 2022 1:37 pm
Sean, you did Brady a great favor/deed. He needed someone to talk to, and you listened to him .Thank you, Sean, for being the listener Brady needed.
Ann in Mobile - January 17, 2022 1:47 pm
Brilliant! Love this story. Well done, Sean and Brady. Thank you for sharing it with us.
Bonnie Vandercook - January 17, 2022 1:59 pm
Why oh why do you make me cry every dang morning? Love you Sean
Tammy S. - January 17, 2022 2:00 pm
Cathy M - January 17, 2022 2:01 pm
It’s the time of year when so many fight depression. I particularly hate it when a young person feels it. I have learned that when I feel it, I get busy. Second nd, doing something for someone else always lifts me up. Just like what you did for that young man yesterday. In the mix, I learned a lot abt. Pigs. What would we do without Sean? Can’t think abt. It. You keep throwing out lifelines. What a gift❤️
Debbie g - January 17, 2022 2:07 pm
Sometimes. You just need a kind listening person to talk to You are amazing Sean !!
My day starts out blessed with you. Love to you and all
Rhonda - January 17, 2022 2:10 pm
So Wonderful!!! and I just gotta say that the last line was PRICELESS!!!
Julie P, RN - January 17, 2022 2:18 pm
How do you DO that, Sean?!?! Wrap up every posting with such a clever closing?? Sometimes I’m racing to your “finish line” to read what you’re going to say! But that never works, because I miss the connection with your content!
Well, what you’ve written today is very important stuff…Depression is all around us, and some days it’s as close as a look in the mirror…I know.
The Holy Spirit is brightly shining through you today…Bless you for addressing this topic in a very sweet story about a pig, who brings happiness to lessen the sadness.
I know Brady feels better for it, and so do I💕
Robyn - January 17, 2022 2:22 pm
You are the best Sean…always, robyn
Shirlea - January 17, 2022 3:01 pm
Let’s all remember to pray for Brady every day! Thank you Sean for being a lifeline.
Shelton A. - January 17, 2022 3:09 pm
I’m thankful you were able to lift Brady’s spirits. I’m sorry he has to endure Minnesota’s cold, cold winters. I understand where Brady is coming from…I didn’t lose my dad as a kid but that doesn’t mean I don’t understand how he feels. Depression is an ugly dark hole…scary, scary place to be. Your pups can still have pig ears. Don’t take away something they love. I can’t give my dog anything except a very strict diet and she would love a pig ear but she can’t have it. Those ears don’t come from show pigs. I think Brady would understand and say it’s okay. God bless and watch over Brady…and you, Jamie, and the dogs.
Ruth Mitchell - January 17, 2022 3:16 pm
Brady taught me so much that I’m sorry I have a pork tenderloin in the crockpot for supper. Brady is a pro! You are a master at conclusions. I can’t wait to see how you will close each post, and this one deserves a trophy!
Jeannette - January 17, 2022 3:21 pm
Never underestimate the benefit to others of being a good listener.
AlaRedClayGirl - January 17, 2022 3:45 pm
Someone listening can make all the difference. BTW, my son “trained” our pigs to fall over when he scratched their backs. I guess they were wanting their belly scratched as well.
Keloth Anne ♥️ - January 17, 2022 4:07 pm
Thank you for writing about depression—and your incredible point… that you never get through depression. Your story is so filled with details and I thought immediately of “Charlolotte’s Web” when I saw the story title…..Some Pig! A favorite book and movie🥰🥰
Again, thank you 💕💕💕
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - January 17, 2022 4:35 pm
Christina - January 17, 2022 4:37 pm
Bless your heart, Sean. I’m praying for Brady too. And what a lesson on showing pigs!
Susie Flick - January 17, 2022 5:38 pm
No words need be added to this wonderful post….encouraging anyone to talk about themselves & having someone listen is paramount! Hoping your dog finds something it loves as much a pig ear. A new endearment, I love you as much as a pigs ear!
Phil E - January 17, 2022 6:10 pm
Listening is a gift. Beautiful article.
Jennie Stultz - January 17, 2022 6:14 pm
You need to hang your shingle, Dr. Dietrich! It’s amazing how much hurt you heal through your own hurt. My day is never complete without hearing from you.
Linda Moon - January 17, 2022 6:31 pm
I wondered if Brady here is the Brady you’ve told us about…the one whose mother attempted suicide. I hoped not and continued reading….today’s Brady lost his father at 12. There are a couple of “Bradys” in my bunch, so I understand. Asking questions and listening leads to understanding. And, you know what, Sean? You’re good at both. So, keep writing and praying and telling.
Dottie Rogers - January 17, 2022 8:04 pm
Well, I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry or say, “aww…” I guess I might have accidentally prayed for him this morning. My Prayer on Twitter was:
“My intercession today is for those enduring SAD and other depressive disorders. May they add more healthy strategies to their toolbox, and may the joy of the Lord be their strength.”
Chasity Davis Ritter - January 17, 2022 8:20 pm
Brady if you’re reading this I’ll be praying for you too. I’m a grown up (for as much as that means) but I miss my Dad everyday too. My little sister and by little I mean she is 28 years younger than me and in high school she showed pigs which is really polite way of saying my Dad showed pigs. He did all the hard work she just got to look pretty. But HE loved those pigs so much and reading the things Sean wrote that you told him about made me smile in memory. So thanks for that. Thanks for being the reason this girl smiled today instead of being sad and missing my Dad. I hope you smile more too talking about things that make you happy too. Thanks for sharing, Sean.
Roseann Romans - January 17, 2022 8:56 pm
What a great story. I’ll add a prayer for Brady.
MAM - January 17, 2022 10:54 pm
Sean, you continue to amaze with your listening and writing skills. And let your dog have that pig’s ear. She deserves it. Thanks, Sean!
Karen Snyder - January 18, 2022 1:17 am
Two of the best things we can do for one another…listen and pray. Thanks, Sean. 💕
Gloria Miller - January 18, 2022 2:43 am
One of your best. Adding prayers for Brady. Looking forward to hearing more from this amazing young man.
Lisa Oeltjen - January 18, 2022 2:53 am
Love is the answer 🙂
walnutshademom - January 18, 2022 4:26 am
Oh, Sean, you are so wonderful. You know, I bought your book, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” and it was so impactful that I sent a copy to my counselor. He’s a clinical psychologist, and he said it touched him personally in profound ways. You write, and everybody benefits. Thank you so much.
Anne M Robinson - January 18, 2022 4:58 pm
I will be praying for Brady. We need more people to speak up about mental health. I am grateful some pro athletes are doing it. Our son just lost his good buddy, alcoholism. I think this lock down business did him in. But John was the kindest friend Jeremy had. We are broken over his loss. I hope Brady keeps talking about pigs. I learned a lot from him even though my husband spent half his life on the farm his grandparents had. He has taught me lots too. I will be praying for Brady. I hope you will pray for our son Jeremy and John’s family, they are so broken over his loss. Thank you and God Bless.
Barbara Pope - January 20, 2022 1:49 am
Good move in honor of Brady!