Memorize jokes. Lots of them. Jokes for children. For church people. And keep plenty of jokes in your back pocket for old men. You come from a long line of joke tellers.

DEAR SON I NEVER HAD:

You’re going to think this is dumb, but my advice to you is:

Eat sunflower seeds.

You come from a long line of sunflower-seed spitters. And this is an ancient rural skill you must learn early in life, or you will be hopeless.

Crack open the tiny husks using your teeth, work out the seeds using your tongue, then spit the empty shells. It sounds easy, but it takes years of practice. Get started early.

Learn this one skill, and your whole life will work itself out on its own.

Also: I pray you grow up to be ordinary. I can’t think of any better gift than being ordinary.

A lot of people are scared of being average, but don’t be afraid. Average things are great. Take your old man, for instance. I had a 2.3 grade point average—which is actually BELOW average.

Listen, I’m not saying I don’t want you to be unique. Certainly. You ARE unique—but so is everyone else. And since EVERYONE is unique, this makes “uniqueness” pretty ordinary.

Ordinariness makes you human. It means that you are fully one of us. Meaning: soon, you will give half of everything you own to the IRS.

Eat fiber. Seriously. Society would be better off if we all ate more fiber. If you look at television celebrities, news anchors, politicians, and daytime talk-show hosts, the message is clear. They need Metamucil.

Don’t worry about money. Not ever. Not even when you are broke. To help prepare you for adulthood, I’ve devised a financial training method for coping with how fast money can disappear once you’re an adult. Thus, on your eighteenth birthday follow these steps:

1. Place all your dollars into a shoebox.

2. Close the shoebox.

3. Pour gasoline on the shoebox and light it on fire.

See? No more money. Welcome to adulthood, kid.

The thing is, when you’re an adult, you’ll worry about having enough cash, food, and clothes. And this worry will keep you awake at night if you let it. And it will subtract years from your life.

Your old man spent his childhood worrying about money. Your granny (my mother) worked her tail off to make sure we had enough. We struggled. But somehow, we were taken care of, son.

And that “somehow” is where the magic is.

Take a drive on Highway 4, near Baker, Florida. Ride the old roads until you cross the Alabama line. Take Route 41, toward Brewton. It will weave you past acres and acres of soft, snow white cotton. Stop and take it all in.

You will never see anything as magnificent as cotton fields. Not even movie stars on red carpet are dressed as fine as cotton.

Just think: those cotton crops don’t worry about money. Not one red cent. They don’t work ten-hour shifts, pay health insurance, cellphone bills, or file for tax extensions. And look at them.

Nutrients from the soil feed them. Rain gives them drink. If all the cotton in the South is taken care of by the heavens, what makes you any different? Aren’t you worth more than cotton?

Memorize jokes. Lots of them. Jokes for children. Jokes for church people. And keep plenty of jokes in your back pocket for surly old men. You come from a long line of joke tellers.

Jokes are miniature stories. And as it happens, the most important thing anyone has is their story.

You might be beautiful—but it will fade. You might be brilliant—but not forever. You might be a marvelous athlete—but not for long.

But your story. That will last even after you’re dead.

So start making your story. Make it funny. Make it pretty. A woman to love. Beautiful children. Good dogs. Food worth living for.

Travel. Rest. Sleep late. Work hard. Take walks. Live. Be funny. Be a big tipper. Be understanding. Be nice. Be so meek it’s almost embarrassing. And be kind when people are hateful toward you.

Make your tale a beautiful one.

I’d better go now. I’m busy. And after all, you’re not even real. But I believe you would’ve been an exceptional son, with a lot of jokes that would’ve made your old man smile.

Sorry it didn’t work out that way. I can only imagine what you might’ve been like.

Anyway, right now I am on Highway 41. I wish you could see the crop of cotton I’m looking at. It’s majestic, white, and wide. And it made me think about you. So I thought I’d write you a letter.

Don’t forget what I said about the sunflower seeds.

18 comments

  1. Nancy Thomaston Rogers - September 26, 2018 9:47 am

    “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, Oh ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought saying, what shall we eat? Or what shall we drink? Or wherewithal shall will be clothed? For your heavenly Father knows that you have need for all these things. Seek first the kingdom of God, and his rightousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrrow: for the morrow shall take thought of the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Sounds like familiar but still very good advice. Thanks for the reminder.

    Reply
    • Sharon Hand - September 26, 2018 2:41 pm

      Exactly what I thought, Nancy.

      Reply
  2. Kenneth Ray - September 26, 2018 10:56 am

    Your advise on “average” struck a chord this morning….a thought I’ve contemplated in our world filled with overused superlatives….”If every day was your best day ever, every day would be ordinary (average).”

    Could the converse possibly then be true—-every average/ordinary day is your best day ever?

    Thanks for all your great words….More later.

    Reply
  3. Janie's Jottings - September 26, 2018 11:32 am

    My husband and I are childless too but God blessed us through the years with so many children who claimed their own little piece of our hearts. I am a babysitter of nearly 30 years and very grateful that those children have been part of our lives. I once wrote a letter to the child we never had too. As usual this was beautiful and unique Sean. Thank you!

    Reply
  4. ponder304 - September 26, 2018 1:00 pm

    Love these words of wisdom! Hey, they are above average any old day!

    Reply
  5. Connie Havard Ryland - September 26, 2018 1:09 pm

    Wonderful advice for us all. Love and hugs. Drive safe.

    Reply
  6. suewatson12014 - September 26, 2018 2:14 pm

    I guess cotton IS our lilies of the fields.

    Reply
  7. Carol - September 26, 2018 2:17 pm

    Your no ordinary man Sean , Your an exceptional man!!
    I had an aunt once that never married or had any children,and I asked her why ? She answered, Well how could I take care and help you and my nieces and nephews ? You all are my children from God !
    That’s you Sean. That beautiful little niece and the other baby on the way and one day their babies!!
    You’ll care for them all !!
    Love ya!!

    Reply
  8. PJ Hartley - September 26, 2018 2:38 pm

    Good advice, but you left out an important part. Get a dog or two.

    Reply
  9. Lois - September 26, 2018 3:35 pm

    I think it is time you adopted a son. He would love running with your dogs, fishing, etc. !!!! Y’all would be great parents!

    Reply
  10. Edna B. - September 26, 2018 4:46 pm

    What awesome advice for any child. There’s always Big Brother-Big Sister if you’re interested. I’m average and proud of it. You have a great day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  11. Robert Belcher - September 26, 2018 5:15 pm

    Thanks Sean, I needed to read this today.

    Reply
  12. Karen - September 26, 2018 6:12 pm

    Luke 12:22 – “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these“
    Matthew 6:26 – “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?“

    Reply
  13. Janet Mary Lee - September 26, 2018 8:32 pm

    Borders on profound, once again! Touching letter…good advice…((hug!))

    Reply
  14. perry5360 - September 27, 2018 11:22 am

    We are all just passing through, and ordinary is glorious.

    T

    Reply
  15. Phillip Saunders - September 27, 2018 11:58 am

    Nice one, Sean. You took the Sermon on the Mount and made it the Sermon on Route 41. I’m forwarding it to my son. He loves sunflower seeds. And, oh, “them old cotton fields back ho-ome…”

    Reply
  16. Linda outten - September 27, 2018 12:36 pm

    You make my day keep writing

    Reply
  17. Paula Link - September 27, 2018 3:16 pm

    You blessed my heart “real good”.

    Reply

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