Strangers in the Night

I’m sitting on the beach, it’s thirty-eight degrees outside. It’s colder than a witch’s sports bra. I am sipping a beer with my wife, eating Chili Cheese Fritos directly from the bag.

As a teenager, I used to sit on this beach a lot. When I needed to think, I would sit alone, long past sunset, until I would get so cold I was no longer able to biologically have children.

Sometimes I would sit for hours after the sky went dark and stare at an endless Gulf of Mexico. The sound of wind and water does things to me.

One night, I was on the beach in the dark. I was sixteen, and I was sad because of something that truly doesn’t matter now—though, back then it felt like the end of the world.

I felt overlooked by the universe, unexceptional, and unloved. They were feelings I couldn’t shake.

I was wondering why people act ugly toward each other. I was wondering if anything existed in the distance besides waves and foam.

That’s when I saw two shapes approaching.

Two elderly women were walking the shore, I could hear them laughing. They wore heavy jackets, wool caps, and carried backpacks. They were wiry, and athletic.

One woman was Puerto Rican, with white hair and a dark complexion. The other was from Australia. I will never forget them.

The women said they were traveling the world together on a shoestring budget. They had already visited four continents, walked hundreds of miles on foot, and relied on the kindness of strangers.

They had been sleeping in tents, riding in cabs, living out of backpacks, frequenting motels and hostels, and eating like royalty.

Then, both women sat next to me in the sand. One woman removed a hip flask. She asked if I wanted a sip.

“No thanks,” I said.

Not only was I sixteen, but I was Southern Baptist. And the last thing I’d been brought up to do was take a nip in front of a woman who looked like Barbara Bush.

But Aussies and Latinas are not like Americanos. They insisted. I took one sip. It burned my throat. They applauded me.

Afterward, I kept waiting for the Devil to pull up on a motorcycle and drag me off to Hell, kicking and screaming.

But that didn’t happen. Instead, we talked. They told me about their countries, I told them about myself.

And I found myself telling them a lot. My life story, actually—which wasn’t a very lengthy one back then.

While I spoke, the Puerto Rican scooted close to me, the Australian did, too. They placed arms around me, then pulled me tight. And I learned that some foreigners don’t respect personal space like most Americans do.

When I finished talking, we sat in silence for a little while, huddled together, watching a violet sky.

One, an elderly Australian. One from an Isla del Caribe. And one kid so cold his butcheeks were stuck together.

We were from different places on the globe, and we had different values. But that night we were the same. We were human, beneath our stars, and a moon we all share.

“I’m sorry I talked so much,” I told them. “I didn’t mean to carry on.”

“Well, I’m not sorry,” said the Australian. “Because now we’re not strangers anymore.”

The Australian reached into her coat pocket and gave me a small clay figurine that was painted multi colors.

“What’s this?” I said.

“I made it,” she said. “It’s good luck.”

So, I reached into my pocket for something to give in return. All I could find was an aluminum pop-top from a Coke can.

She laughed. “Thank you,” she said. “I’ll keep it forever.” She strung it onto a chain she wore around her neck.

“We should go,” the Puerto Rican woman announced. “We have a long way left to walk to our hotel.”

They each kissed me on the forehead. And soon they were gone. I saw them walk along the shoreline until they disappeared into the night.

From time to time I wonder about them. I wonder where they finally landed. I wonder if they know how good they made a kid feel by giving him the kindness of their attention.

Sometimes, I wonder if they were truly from Australia, and Puerto Rico, or from somewhere much, much further north. I don’t know.

So I might be a stranger to you, whoever you are. We might never meet in person before this life is over, but if you’ve read this far, we’re not strangers anymore.

I want you to know that you are loved.

Please don’t tell my mother about the flask.


  1. Lisa - January 31, 2019 6:41 am

    You’ve lived an interesting life! This is just beautiful! Thank you for sharing in your unique & heartwarming way!

  2. Nancy Rogers - January 31, 2019 9:56 am

    Ah come on, who are you kidding Sean? You know they were those Angels who walk among us. God bless.

    • rita j naftel - January 31, 2019 3:29 pm

      Absolutely! You met 2 Angel’s that dark, cold night!

  3. Naomi - January 31, 2019 10:57 am

    You never know when you are going to “entertain angels unaware”, even one with a flask. Angels aren’t Baptists, by the way.

  4. Jean - January 31, 2019 11:00 am

    Sean…no, we have never met but I consider you friend and you are the first thing I read every morning. No I wont tell your mama….friends are like that you know. As for the 2 ladies….maybe they were Angels walking among us…sent just for you.

  5. Barbara - January 31, 2019 11:21 am

    I love your stories so much. I look forward daily and am never disappointed. Others have already commented about angels among us. Truly! Because of the personal way you express yourself, it never feels like we’re strangers. The older I grow, the more I realize how important “giving the kindness of attention” is. ‘‘Tis a gift. Thanks for your daily gifts, Sean. ❣️

  6. Camille - January 31, 2019 11:39 am

    Sean, I wonder if you are aware of the change you are making in the world. It may be subtle and some may not even realize it is happening, but I assure you we are feeling it. You are the antithesis of today’s voices that are loud and toxic and seek to destroy us. Grace is defined as courteous goodwill and you Sean, are a saving grace.

    • Debbie Shiflett - March 1, 2019 4:29 pm

      Amen, amen!

  7. Debbie - January 31, 2019 11:58 am

    You had me at the Chili Cheese Fritos….. Love this story. I, too, believe that you’re making a change in the world, one person at a time. God gives us grace. We should pass it on.

  8. Karen - January 31, 2019 12:17 pm

    What an amazing story. Those two women were certainly adventurous, and you became part of their adventure. They had a hand in shaping who you have become. Thank you for using your writing to help shape all of us.

  9. Jane - January 31, 2019 12:27 pm

    We are not strangers anymore even though you don’t know my story. Thank you for sharing yours you are loved and so am I. May we live into that love every day and share it as widely as possible.

  10. turtlekid - January 31, 2019 1:11 pm

    Love the Aussies,visited their country and love the people. Latinos are in my blood. We are all created by the same loving hand, and HE wanted you to feel better. Now you are paying it forward by reminding us of these common experiences among our fellow humans. I received a gifted book in the mail yesterday. My friend bought one of your books at a Gadsden gathering recently, and you signed it with MS love! Hugs from Mississippi!!

  11. Dorothea - January 31, 2019 1:16 pm

    My granddaughter turns 16 today, and due to some family drama she is probably feeling much as you did that night. I hope someone wraps their arms around her today.

  12. Jan Hammett Smith - January 31, 2019 1:23 pm

    Sean, you just took a can opener to my heart.

    • Sandi in FL. - January 31, 2019 7:00 pm

      Hi Jan, my maiden name was also Hammett. Not a common last name, so when I saw your comment, “Hammett” jumped out immediately!

  13. Phillip Saunders - January 31, 2019 1:34 pm

    Like you, I wonder if those ladies had wings folded under their backpacks. They appeared out of the night, sat with you and lifted your spirit, then disappeared into that same night. Hmm…
    BTW, I never really knew my mom. She died when I was three; but I bet if she were alive when I drank my first beer, she would have somehow found out. Mothers mysteriously have spies everywhere Beware.

  14. Laurie Wasilewski - January 31, 2019 1:42 pm

    Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing, Sean!

  15. Peggy Savage - January 31, 2019 1:43 pm

    Don’t worry Sean, what happens on the beach stays on the beach……have a good day my friend.

  16. Pat Bice - January 31, 2019 1:45 pm

    What a beautiful story of pure love!!!

  17. Paggie - January 31, 2019 1:58 pm

    You, my friend, are a light to all who read your words.

  18. Deena - January 31, 2019 2:01 pm

    I love you too, Sean. So sorry we haven’t met on the beach – though I prefer 80*-. Every blog you write touches my heart. Thank you!

  19. Liz Watkins - January 31, 2019 2:03 pm

    Kindness of strangers❤️❤️❤️❤️

  20. Shelton A. - January 31, 2019 2:10 pm

    Yeah…the kindness of strangers. Do you still have the figurine? Good luck is sometimes hard to come by.

  21. Sherry - January 31, 2019 2:18 pm


  22. bob stoddard - January 31, 2019 2:31 pm

    Hey Sean; you are a writer. It gets proven over and over. Keep it up, brother!

  23. Mary Hinton - January 31, 2019 3:03 pm

    I loved this story. I love all your stories. You have such a wonderful gift thank you for sharing it with the world. Mary Hinton.

  24. Bill - January 31, 2019 3:45 pm

    Sean, I enjoy your blog each day. You have a gift for writing, and it uplifts us all. I also want to give a big shout-out to the readers who write such great comments. I find those to be a significant addition to the blog, and always read them immediately after the blog. I think the ladies are more willing to express themselves and share their personal feelings than we guys, but we all benefit from both the blog and the comments. Great way to start each day! Thank you all! Bill

  25. Just jack d - January 31, 2019 3:57 pm

    Okay: Mama did you know that your baby boy would someday drink with strange women, Mama did you know your baby boy would be on the beach at night with strange women with a flask.

    But in the long run the baby boy will turn out okay and sit in his pickup with his wife. He will also entertain lots of folks who need more than a flask and wild wimmin!
    Good one dude!

    • Just jack d - January 31, 2019 3:59 pm

      I meant:Okay: Mama did you know that your baby boy would someday drink with strange women, Mama did you know your baby boy would be on the beach at night with strange women with a flask.

      But in the long run the baby boy will turn out okay and sit in his pickup with his wife. He will also entertain lots of folks who need more than a flask and wild wimmin!
      Good one dude!

  26. Ala Red Clay Girl - January 31, 2019 4:00 pm

    This reminds me of Mother Teresa who once said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” A smile, a hug, a kind word or two costs us nothing, but it might make a huge difference in someone’s life.

  27. Sue Cronkite - January 31, 2019 4:20 pm

    I noticed you cleaned up the cold witch’s reference. That takes talent.

    • Patricia Byers - January 31, 2019 7:32 pm

      I noted that too. and smiled. your mama would be proud.

  28. Brenda McLaine - January 31, 2019 5:25 pm

    Love you too Sean.

  29. Nancy Wright - January 31, 2019 6:39 pm

    I’ve walked a beach alone many, many times, Sean. I know what that amount of loneliness feels like. I can only say that God gave me more — much more — than I ever thought He would or even could. I have learned He is not nearly so limited as I thought. And I have learned to be so very thankful. And i’m Thankful for you, Sean. You bless my old heart daily!

  30. Barbara Bray - January 31, 2019 7:53 pm

    I don’t like January 31 . It is the anniversary of the day my daddy went to Glory. I should be happy for him..but I’m sad for me. I look for little ways to still enjoy the day .. little “pockets ” of joy. This one is going in my pocket. Thank you , Sean.

  31. Debbie Britt - January 31, 2019 8:25 pm

    You are exceptional! Thanks once again!

  32. Kristine Wehrheim - January 31, 2019 9:00 pm

    I don’t think your Mom cares anymore! ?

  33. Marykay Evans - January 31, 2019 9:33 pm

    I can smell the beach and salt air!! And yes, I can feel your situation!! Growing up Southern with a dose of Baptist, you took me back to the good old days. Well, most of them were “ good”!

  34. Lois Young - January 31, 2019 10:36 pm

    Wonderful! as usual. Thanks, Sean

  35. Bob Hubbard - February 1, 2019 12:07 am

    Sean, we constantly meet ‘angels unawares’, don’t we? Most of us just don’t have the ability you do to define them within our lives. Shame, that…

    Bob Hubbard
    Perry Ga

  36. Edna B. - February 1, 2019 12:20 am

    Angels? Hmmm, probably. Somehow they always show up when you need them most. You have a wonderful evening, hugs, Edna B.

  37. Gale Smith - February 1, 2019 1:45 am

    Believe it was Tennessee Williams that once remarked he had lived on the kindness of strangers. We all do at times. And in the end, only kindness matters.

  38. Bobby Reeder - February 1, 2019 4:46 pm

    ? angels……. or just humans with the heart of angels! God knows. ?

  39. MaryJane Breaux - February 1, 2019 7:05 pm

    Oh Sean! You are makin me cry again! How wonderful, affirmation in its purest form. ❤️

  40. Georgia - February 2, 2019 8:04 pm

    so pretty, so special and sincere. you are wonderful and I love you back!

  41. Mary Ellen Hall - February 3, 2019 7:28 pm

    You also are VERY LOVED, Sean!!!??

  42. Cay Weaver - February 7, 2019 1:26 am

    This story made me feel good. You make me feel good, Sean! Keep it up, I need all the help I can get!

  43. unkle Kenny - March 1, 2019 3:48 pm

    I started fishing Monday late on the beach, sunset, I sat . There is solice in the sea .I once head a speach about the sea and that our blood has the same amount of salt in it as sea water. I don’t know if that is true, but I want to believe it . People come into our lives on a very timed schegule , we often don’t thank about it in the moment but when you reflect back it is very clear. They gals and you were exactly where you ment to be .

  44. Steve Winfield - March 1, 2019 3:50 pm

    I love you back, Sean. I get your email at midnight, also one Facebook story daily. Now I have one of your books stuck behind the TP roller so I’m reading at least 5 stories er day. You have become a very big part of my life and I hope it stays this way forever. I do feel like I know you. Just… thanks.

  45. Kathryn - March 2, 2019 2:24 am

    Love this. I, too, find the beach to be the perfect spot when something is bothering me. I wonder about those ladies. . .


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