Last night we stood in a long line for the symphony, waiting to get into the theater. My wife and I were dressed in our finest Christmas clothes purchased from T.J. Maxx.

There was light frost on the sidewalk. I was rubbing my hands together, trying not to freeze off my Blessed Assurance.

So I did some people-watching to keep my mind off the cold.

The first person who caught my eye was a construction worker across the street, wearing a watch cap. He was talking on a phone, smoking a cigarette. It sounded like he was speaking to a child.

“Don’t cry, sweetheart,” the man said. “Daddy loves you. Don’t ever forget that. No matter how bad it gets, remember your daddy loves you.”

He spoke so sincerely it hurt.

Also in line was an old couple. They were conversing in a foreign language. Their skin was olive; their hair was cotton. They were dressed in fancy clothes, the kind they don’t sell at T.J. Maxx.

The old lady kissed the man, and I saw the man hold her tightly, as though he’d won her at the fair.

I don’t know what their strange words meant, but if I had to guess, they were probably saying, “It’s cold enough to freeze the nuts off a pecan tree.”

I saw a teenage boy accompanying a young woman who was in a wheelchair. I think they were out on a date.

The girl wore a satin blue dress and a shawl. The boy wore a tux. He was staring longingly at his date. Occasionally they would kiss and you could see sparks fly off their bodies.

Everyone was watching them and smiling.

Meantime, in the parking area across the street I saw a middle-aged woman and her elderly mother arrive in a Lincoln, dressed in heels and silk, carrying sequined pocketbooks.

The younger woman was helping the elderly lady out of the car. It was a long and painstaking process, but the younger woman was gentle, patient. She bore the unmistakable traits of a caregiver.

Once the old woman was out of the car, on her feet, she told the girl to come closer. They embraced for nearly two full minutes.

I timed it.

Finally, the theater doors opened and we cattle were all told to—big surprise—stand in yet another line.

I am convinced that as a human being I have spent two thirds of my life standing in lines. And when you die, it won’t be any better. You will stand in line and wait your turn to speak to Saint Peter.

As we waited to get our tickets scanned, I met a man originally from Zimbabwe who was attending the event with his wife. She just found out she’s pregnant with her first baby.

And I met a family from Virginia. The family just lost their father to pancreatic cancer. The newly single mother was taking her teenage sons and daughter to the symphony to help get their minds off the grief.

I also met a gaggle of Carmelite nuns. Their habits were chocolate brown, and they were all smiling and laughing in the cold. Their collective breath vapor rose in the night air like incense.

One nun spoke to me and said, “Oh, isn’t this a wonderful night?”

I nodded and smiled.

“It’s beautiful,” I said, since I didn’t know how else to respond.

And it struck me that her words weren’t just idle words. This older woman in the medieval headdress wasn’t making chit chat, she truly meant what she was saying. She was taken with the beauty of the starry night.

Would that I might be so awestruck with such simple things.

Later that evening, when the symphony played the “Hallelujah Chorus,” everyone in the auditorium spontaneously rose to their feet.

The nuns, the families, the lovers, the grieving, the elderly, and me.

The old man beside me was so moved by the experience that he started to cry and sniffle. He didn’t want anyone to see so he hid his face in his sleeve. That’s when his wife slipped her arms around his waist. And I heard her say, “Oh, John.”

They wept together. He kissed the old woman’s scalp, and his tears fell into her hair. I don’t know what he was crying about, but it made me start to cry a little, too.

I held my wife and thought about all the people I’d seen in one night. Ordinary people, like me.

Sometimes, I see love everywhere. I see it on sidewalks or at stoplights. I see it in people walking their dogs, in young couples in Walmart, and in the families camped outside the ICU.

I know love is not newsworthy stuff, or particularly noticeable in our world of sorrow and horror. But if you look around you’ll see it. It’s floating around you. Like humidity. Like vapor.

There are fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, and women in brown habits who work in love the same way an artist works in pastels or watercolor.

And even when you can’t feel this love, that doesn’t mean it’s not there. In fact, that’s when it’s most present; when you’re convinced it has evaded you. When you are scared. When you are filled with the kind of grief that knocks the wind out of your diaphragm. That’s when I believe love is nearest.

That’s when it’s important to remember the words of a humble construction worker on the sidewalk.

“Your daddy loves you. No matter how bad it gets.”

45 comments

  1. Christina - December 21, 2021 6:36 am

    How did you know I needed this tonight? Thanks for noticing and sharing the love, Sean.

    Reply
  2. tmitsss - December 21, 2021 9:51 am

    When the legend becomes fact print the legend. The legend: When George II first heard Handel’s Messiah, he was so moved by the music he stood up during the Hallelujah chorus and it became tradition.

    Reply
  3. Pilgrim Jacksonville FL - December 21, 2021 10:44 am

    I was stage manager for a community orchestra for 4 years.
    The highlight of the season was the Christmas program of Handel’s Messiah.
    I’ve been reading you for at least 5 years .
    Your depth into the hearts 💕 of people has increased since the passing of Mother Mary.
    Thank you for sharing the beauty of life.

    Reply
  4. Laurie Wasilewski - December 21, 2021 11:25 am

    That has to be one of your most beautiful and moving pieces ever, Sean, and you certainly have many that tug at my heart. Many, many thanks for your gift, and I wish you and your family a wonderful Christmas!

    Laurie

    Reply
    • Annette - December 22, 2021 1:54 pm

      Touched me deeply. Thank you thank you for sharing your gift. You make things better. Never forget that.

      Reply
  5. Audra S Isenhour - December 21, 2021 11:34 am

    Amen and amen!

    Reply
  6. Ann - December 21, 2021 11:35 am

    You not only SEE the simple things but you make them important and make us aware of the goodness around us…this is a beautiful Christmas column. It’s fitting all year long.

    Reply
    • Joe - December 21, 2021 3:27 pm

      So true

      Reply
  7. Thames Robinson - December 21, 2021 11:50 am

    Thank you Sean.

    Reply
  8. Susan - December 21, 2021 12:01 pm

    Thank you for another great story Sean and for reminding me that no matter how bad it gets, “my daddy” still loves me. ❤️

    Reply
  9. Ron Mahn - December 21, 2021 12:34 pm

    “No matter how bad it gets”, indeed! This last 15 months has been testimony to that “Love” in my own life. May the quality of such love define the life that I now get to live … especially in light of the 10% survival “statistics”, that said told us otherwise. Amen

    Thank you Sean for lifting up that truth in such a creative way this morning R

    Reply
  10. Suzanne Jones - December 21, 2021 1:18 pm

    Amen. This is beautiful

    Reply
  11. Paul McCutchen - December 21, 2021 1:25 pm

    Thanks again for a touching story. Maybe my day will be better.

    Reply
  12. Susan - December 21, 2021 1:26 pm

    Thank you, Sean, for being a people watcher and sharing the beauty that is all around us ♥️

    Reply
  13. Lisa - December 21, 2021 1:34 pm

    My Father will always love me and He works for the for the best for me in all things! Amazing love!! Thank you for faithfully sharing His love and Merry Christmas!!!

    Reply
  14. Cynthia Russell - December 21, 2021 1:50 pm

    Thank You Sean.. so beautiful …

    Reply
  15. Jan - December 21, 2021 1:53 pm

    I know I write this a lot but … this is one of your very best ever, Sean! And boy do I need it. So much of what I hear and read is filled with negativity. My inbox is often filled with the “hopelessness” of our current world. Your story this morning was just what I needed, just what the world needs – hope and love! Thank you!

    Reply
  16. Ann Chumley - December 21, 2021 2:07 pm

    Today I need to be aware of all the love around me, Thank you.

    Reply
  17. Shelton A. - December 21, 2021 2:13 pm

    Christmas brings out the best in us. No matter our faith, where we’re from, the joy is contagious. Thank you for sharing this story. We all need to know our Father loves us (both of them!). Merry Christmas and God bless.

    Reply
  18. Johnny Bracey - December 21, 2021 2:16 pm

    Sean, This was so appropriate for this season. Mary Ellen and I were there last Friday night. I may have been the old man who was tearful. What a wonderful experience. Merry Christmas!

    Reply
  19. Patricia Gibson - December 21, 2021 2:18 pm

    Love is God’s greatest gift❤️🎄Love your column as always!

    Reply
  20. Cathy M - December 21, 2021 2:32 pm

    You keep blessing us this week of Christmas with these wonderful stories. You are such a gift to all your readers and we carry your stories in our pockets every day. I am truly thankful to have you in my life. I just hope you realize how much you do for so many. God bless you and Merry Christmas

    Reply
  21. Larry - December 21, 2021 2:43 pm

    Extraordinary, brother. Thank you for this.

    Reply
  22. Dorothy Sheppard - December 21, 2021 2:43 pm

    Thanks so much Sean! I needed that so badly today. It’s been a tough 2 years for everyone but especially for me. On top of COVID my hubby passed away in 2020 and I am lost. The holidays are the worst. Thanks again.

    Reply
  23. Stacey Wallace - December 21, 2021 3:01 pm

    Thanks, Sean. Last Sunday as we sang “Oh, Holy Night” and “Silent Night,” I cried, too. The week before had been rough, but those beautiful Christmas carols reminded me that Christ will never leave me. You are such a blessing to me and my husband Mike. May God bless you and Jamie.

    Reply
  24. Donna from Iowa - December 21, 2021 3:15 pm

    thanks for washing my eyes out this morning

    Reply
  25. Linda Moon - December 21, 2021 3:19 pm

    My diaphragm will be knocked around today, for a good purpose. Pray for the continued purpose of LIFE, please. And I’ll return to read this again for better comments later.

    Reply
    • Lulu - December 21, 2021 3:34 pm

      Linda Moon I’ll pray for your diaphragm today…hope all goes well. Sean, Love is my favoriite word and thought. God is love and oh how marvelous it is. Love is in the air and it should always be circulating everywhere. What a better world it would be. I love this today…people watching is very good…keep it up! Merry Christmas to you and Jamie…the pets.

      Reply
  26. Jan - December 21, 2021 3:25 pm

    Such truth. Love never fails. Thank you for sharing this. Your writing is deeply impactful.

    Reply
  27. Joe - December 21, 2021 3:29 pm

    Thanks for pointing out the wonderful things I often miss

    Reply
  28. Patricia A Schmaltz - December 21, 2021 4:55 pm

    … I’m too busy crying to respond. I love you and your writing. And your heart.

    Reply
  29. Becky+Souders - December 21, 2021 5:32 pm

    Just the right words today, Sean. Thanks. Merry Christmas to you and Jamie! You have an extra angel this year!

    Reply
  30. Susie Flick - December 21, 2021 5:43 pm

    Your observations are best as we can see these through your eyes. Wishing for a continuous season of love for all.

    Reply
  31. Pingback: Sean of the South: Symphony | The Trussville Tribune

  32. Karen Snyder - December 21, 2021 9:33 pm

    Each day you manage to outdo what you gave us the preceding day. What a blessing to read of all this visible love. Thank you. 🧡🎄

    Reply
  33. Mary McNeil - December 21, 2021 9:33 pm

    To anyone who doesn’t understand why the older couple cried during The Hallelujah Chorus – ypu just need to sit down and listen to it.

    Reply
  34. Debbie - December 21, 2021 9:41 pm

    The Hallelujah Chorus never fails to make me cry…Like many of your columns. I love people watching, too, and I learned from my daddy….one of the best people watchers around. Merry Christmas to you and your wife. I know this will be a hard one for y’all. Thank you for keeping it real for us.

    Reply
  35. Gayle Wilson - December 21, 2021 9:51 pm

    Sean, once again you knock our socks off with your words of comfort and joy. Yes, you Sean Dietrich, who has filled the lives of so many people with hope, love and joy. Merry Christmas to you and Jamie. And may both of you be surrounded with love.

    Reply
  36. Rebecca Friddle Vaughn - December 21, 2021 10:53 pm

    Thank YOU for sharing with us. This is so beautiful that it made me cry…tears of joy.

    Reply
  37. Rhett Talbert - December 22, 2021 12:05 am

    Wonderful column today. Merry Christmas, Sean.

    Reply
  38. Susan Granade - December 22, 2021 12:31 am

    I NEVER fail to be moved by one of your essays. I may laugh. I may cry. I may spend an evening in reflection or in awe of your talent.

    Reply
  39. Linda Moon - December 22, 2021 1:14 am

    I made it out alive from what seemed like a long time inside a large coffin-like machine that “looked” through my diaphragm and other body parts for whatever might be lurking around in there. And, no matter how bad it gets, I know I’m loved by lots of ordinary people like you. The better comment I promised to make earlier is that YOU are loved by lots of people, too, Sean Dietrich. And, thank you, Lulu.

    Reply
  40. chip plyler - December 22, 2021 2:17 pm

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

    Reply
  41. MAM - December 23, 2021 4:08 am

    God equals Love and Love equals God. We can’t live without both!

    Reply
  42. Cynthia - December 24, 2021 12:53 pm

    Thank you for reminding us that love is usually all around us—we just need to look for it. Also we can be the ones sharing the love. Merry Christmas.

    Reply

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