Then, he met her. She’d moved to town to teach school. When he saw her at church, he couldn’t take his eyes off her. He approached her with an idea.

I drove four hours to meet the editor of a big-city newspaper. I walked into a large office wearing my nicest necktie. I was young. Wide-eyed.

She told me I had five minutes. I handed her a pathetic resume so tiny it needed a magnifying glass.

“You’re not even a journalism major?” she remarked.

“No ma’am.”

“You’re still in community college?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“You’re wasting my time. I’ve got journalists lining up around the block. Find me a good story, and maybe we’ll talk.”

A good story.

The next day, I stopped at a nursing home. I walked inside and asked if there were any storytellers in the bunch.

The woman at the desk gave me a look. “They’re ALL storytellers, sweetie.”

She introduced me to a ninety-four-year-old man. We sat in the cafeteria. I asked to hear about his life. He said, “You with the IRS or something?”

He talked, and he was eighteen again. A rural boy who’d never set foot in a schoolhouse. His father used a wheelchair. His mother was dead.

Then, he met her. She’d moved to town to teach school. When he saw her at church, he couldn’t take his eyes off her. He approached her with an idea.

“I played on her sympathy,” he said. “Was my only hope, she was too pretty to be seen with me.”

He asked her to teach him to read. She agreed. He made fast progress—which was no surprise. He would’ve rather died than disappoint a pretty girl.

They married. She taught, he farmed. During those years, he remembers how they sat together in the evenings, watching evening take hold of the world. Love can be simple.

She died before age forty.

It was crippling. He gave up living. His fields went to weed. He lost his farm. He lost himself. He checked into a room at the motor-inn.

“I had nothing left,” he said. “I sat on the bed with a thirty-eight caliber in my hand…”

There sat a leather-bound, bestselling book on the motel nightstand.

He opened it. He read a passage. Then another. And another. He stayed awake all night, reading the red words. That’s when he claimed everything changed.

He remarried. He had three kids, a career working for an auto-part distributor. He paid three tuitions, and watched five grandchildren grow.

“If Loretta wouldn’t have taught me to read,” he said, “I coulda never read the first word, and I wouldn’t be here, talking into your little tape recorder. She saved me.”

That night, I typed seven hundred words about him. It was the first thing I ever wrote that felt important. It took me a week to edit.

The lady at the newspaper showed me the door.

“Sorry,” she said. “This isn’t journalism, we don’t print this kinda thing.”

Like I said, I was young.

He died not long after. They buried him in a suit. Necktie. A ratty book in his hands. He wore a Gideon lapel pin and held a framed copy of an unpublished story some kid wrote about him.

I’m writing this because once, I wanted to be a journalist.

And because I’m grateful we don’t always get everything we want.

54 comments

  1. Melodie - August 2, 2018 5:47 am

    Yes! Thank God for unanswered prayers! I’m sure we can all think of a few. Love your work, Sean. My daily go-to. 🙂

    Reply
  2. cathy notaro - August 2, 2018 6:08 am

    Not printing ‘this kind of stuff’ is most likely the reason newspapers are almost extinct.
    And yes, thank God for unanswered prayers.

    Reply
  3. Maureen A - August 2, 2018 9:31 am

    What a blessing for all of us, that you didn’t become a journalist.

    Reply
  4. Pete m - August 2, 2018 9:40 am

    Amen

    Reply
  5. Carolyn Allen - August 2, 2018 10:35 am

    So thankful, Sean, that you didn’t become a stuffy
    journalist. If you had you probably wouldn’t be touching people’s hearts and souls like you are.
    Thank you for touching mine every morning.

    Reply
  6. Ruthie - August 2, 2018 10:36 am

    That woke me up – wonderful story.

    Reply
  7. Gale Smith - August 2, 2018 11:06 am

    Journalists are a dime a dozen….and most of them are light-years away from being Barbara Walters. Sean, you are something special: you are a writer. Your words will still be ringing out long after we are all gone. That’s as close to immortal as you can get.

    Reply
  8. LeAnne Martin - August 2, 2018 11:17 am

    This is beautiful, Sean. What a precious story. Thank you!

    Reply
  9. Barbara - August 2, 2018 11:21 am

    Thank you again Sean! You bring Memories, Feelings, and Hope to us Every Day! 💕

    Reply
  10. Ellen - August 2, 2018 12:08 pm

    What Gale said…
    Thank you and your words for making a difference in my life.

    Reply
  11. Clint - August 2, 2018 12:09 pm

    That’s why right or left, it’s all “fake news”. That story is real news. Perhaps you should start a newspaper with stories like this. Employee that kid in a necktie and use real paper. I’d subscribe to it. I’m sure everyone posting here would.

    Reply
  12. Anna - August 2, 2018 12:11 pm

    Thank you, Sean, for staying true to your “journalism”and not that of anyone else. The world is full of those, and there is only one you to bless so many every day as you do.

    Reply
  13. Jim Heywood - August 2, 2018 12:18 pm

    Sean, sometimes you just stun me with a completely unexpected bolt from the blue. Thanks again.

    Reply
  14. Barbara Pope - August 2, 2018 12:19 pm

    What a wonderful story about a real man in more ways than one.

    Reply
  15. Jan - August 2, 2018 12:21 pm

    Amen! Your stories are the kind of news we need … they remind us that the world is still made up of real people leading real lives, the kind of lives that matter!

    Reply
  16. Marilyn - August 2, 2018 12:26 pm

    I look forward to your blog each morning. It’s a great way to start my day, so keep on keeping on, Sean. I also like to see the art work that goes with your story.

    Reply
  17. Rebecca - August 2, 2018 12:52 pm

    I think this story is especially good. Thanks for helping me begin the day with a smile.

    Reply
  18. Dianne - August 2, 2018 1:00 pm

    Sometimes God’s unanswered prayers for us are the best answers. I never question the “No” answers anymore. Thank you for another beautiful start to my day.

    Reply
  19. Jeanne Butler - August 2, 2018 1:02 pm

    I am grateful you didn’t get what you wanted either. Way too many journalists in this sad world but only one wonderful Sean. Thank you. Love you Sean.

    Reply
  20. Donna - August 2, 2018 1:09 pm

    Exquisite! God is Great!

    Reply
  21. cronkitesue - August 2, 2018 1:21 pm

    I was a journalist and now I’m writing fiction. When I was an editor, I would have used that story. I would have given you free rein to find real stories. Just like the Anniston Star and the Birmingham News did for Rick Brag.

    Reply
  22. Jack Darnell - August 2, 2018 1:31 pm

    I have always thought story telling was important. Still do. We have too many ‘bleed stories’. My opinion, which evidently doesn’t mean much in this world, we have FEW real journalists. Ones who know a real story when they see it.
    Good visit as always, thanks.

    Reply
  23. Laurie Ulrich - August 2, 2018 1:32 pm

    So am I~

    Reply
  24. Richard C. - August 2, 2018 1:37 pm

    Indeed, let’s thank God for unanswered prayers (thanks Garth). Your epistles each morning restore my faith quite often. You have a gift not taught in school – the gift of seeing good in people. May God continue to bless you.

    Reply
  25. Ronnie - August 2, 2018 1:46 pm

    Thanks for sharing this one! Love it!

    Reply
  26. Betty Foster - August 2, 2018 1:53 pm

    Amen! We. Would have lost a beautiful window on the world.

    Reply
  27. P.J. Anderson - August 2, 2018 1:56 pm

    👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻The world needs fewer journalist and more Seans!

    Reply
  28. Phillip Saunders - August 2, 2018 2:19 pm

    Beautiful story, Sean. Bet that editor now wishes she had hired you; but, you are right – sometimes the best answer is “no.” Remember Romans 8:28.

    Reply
  29. Patti Pignetti - August 2, 2018 2:23 pm

    Do glad you didn’t stop writing

    Reply
  30. Edna B. - August 2, 2018 2:36 pm

    I agree with everyone else. There are too many journalists in the world and most of them don’t know how to write stories. It’s the stories we want and need. The ones about people and the good that is out there. I don’t read newspapers very often and I don’t watch the news very often. There’s not much good happening there. I loved today’s story. God Bless you Sean. Keep those wonderful stories coming. You have a fabulous day. Hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  31. Jones - August 2, 2018 2:38 pm

    Excellent, simply excellent. Thank you.

    Reply
  32. Martha Tubb - August 2, 2018 2:43 pm

    Beautiful!!

    Reply
  33. Jacque Kochak - August 2, 2018 2:46 pm

    Well, a lot of us so-called journalists really like your work. That editor didn’t know what she was talking about. This story really touched me.

    Reply
  34. Jacque Kochak - August 2, 2018 2:47 pm

    And I am so, so glad you were stubborn enough not to listen to her.

    Reply
  35. Dianne Correll - August 2, 2018 2:50 pm

    Love it. No opinions, just truth!!

    Reply
  36. Joy - August 2, 2018 3:00 pm

    You are so right..It is wonderful that God knows what is best for us, even if we don’t at the time. Psalm 23 says it all! Love you Sean and I am grateful for your writings.

    I am so glad my computer is fixed and I can read your articles…however, I have read all the ones that came in while it was down…just didn’t comment on them.

    Reply
  37. Dru - August 2, 2018 3:06 pm

    The story is the truth. I grew up loving my grandparents’ stories and taught several decades using stories to illustrate every important point. Stories are what students remember—not PowerPoints. Journalists pursue headlines, not stories, and the shortest route to headlines is accusation and blame, not truth. Your stories are gold, Sean—especially this one.

    Reply
  38. Pat - August 2, 2018 3:06 pm

    I am old now, but remember when I was about 12, I went to a revival with my mother. The only thing I remember from the sermon (and have never forgotten) was the minister saying that “sometimes our disappointments are God’s appointments”.

    Reply
  39. Edy - August 2, 2018 3:12 pm

    Excellent! A great reminder

    Reply
  40. Bruce Stover - August 2, 2018 3:21 pm

    This piece alone is probably far better than anything she ever wrote. Great story..’

    Reply
  41. Jack Quanstrum - August 2, 2018 3:25 pm

    Love the story. Life’s twists and turns are an amazing ride some scary some fulfilling!

    Reply
  42. Anne Trawick - August 2, 2018 3:43 pm

    Outstanding!

    Reply
  43. Janie's Jottings - August 2, 2018 4:48 pm

    This is the best kind of story. It touches your heart and you may even feel like you’ve been punched in the gut. It’s beautiful how a broken man can be reborn. Once again Sean you have blessed my day. Keep it up!!!

    Reply
  44. Susan in Wausau - August 2, 2018 8:48 pm

    I love your stories of real folks and real love. I think, however, that sometimes we misunderstand that God hasn’t answered. Sometimes the answer is no!

    Reply
  45. Sue Jones - August 2, 2018 9:06 pm

    I only wish I could write like you. My oldest granddaughter is in college now majoring in Journalism. I hope she does as well as you do.

    Reply
  46. Cheryl Clem - August 2, 2018 9:35 pm

    How you stir feelings in me that I thought we’re long dead. I look forward to waking up in the mornings to see what story lies ahead. You are a real inspiration and blessing to me.
    Don’t stop…..please.

    Reply
  47. Maria Shytle Painter - August 2, 2018 9:42 pm

    It’s been said that every time an elderly person dies, a library burns down.Thanks for capturing this one! My Dad finally wrote out his life story and had it published…it’s a treasure I give as a gift to so many friends.It’s called “Carolina Roots” by Tom Shytle… it’s all about a little boy who decides to join the Air Force after growing up in a dirt floor house in the mountains of NC…God sure is good!

    Reply
    • Janet Mary Lee - August 3, 2018 9:30 pm

      Liked your post,Maria! I great side to Sean’s great stories!! 🙂

      Reply
  48. Ed Steadman - August 3, 2018 5:33 am

    I love this story

    Reply
  49. Afi Scruggs - August 3, 2018 3:46 pm

    Sean, I’ve been a journalist for more than 30 years. You were blessed. She should have hired you on the spot because: you went out and got a story in less than 24 hours! It was a great feature! You exhibited enterprise and energy. (Like you do know). We know where you are. Where is she?

    Reply
  50. Katherine - August 3, 2018 4:12 pm

    My brother-in-law is a Gideon and will appreciate this post. I intend to forward it to him right away.

    Reply
  51. Linda Chipman - August 4, 2018 5:02 pm

    Thank God for unanswered prayers.

    Reply
  52. Lynda of Willow, Alaska - August 5, 2018 12:46 am

    Wow, Sean, wow. Very good, loved your story.

    Reply
  53. Mike - September 29, 2018 7:03 am

    Keep writing until you can write no more. Inspiring…..yes. Thank you for sharing your talent.

    Reply

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