He sits on the steps of the Shell Station. A backpack beside him. His skin is rawhide. His beard is white.
His name is Buck. He’s from North Carolina. He fought in Korea, and completed two tours in Vietnam.
He’s not here begging, he’s resting his feet.
“My old feet hurt more’n they used to,” says Buck. “It’s a bitch getting old, buddy.”
There is a half-smoked cigar next to him. He dug it from an ashtray. It still has life in it, he says.
He’s sipping coffee.
“First cup’a Joe I had in a week,” he tells me. “Fella gave me a quarter, few minutes ago. Piled my coins together to buy me a cup.”
When Buck went inside to buy it, there were only cold dregs left. He asked the cashier if it were possible to brew a fresh pot. She told him to get lost.
So, he’s drinking dregs—for which he is grateful.
There are holes in his shoes. He found these sneakers in a sporting-good-store dumpster. Buck estimates he’s put nearly eight hundred miles on them.
His bloody toes poke through the fronts. His middle toenail is missing.
Buck explains, “God say, ‘Don’t worry what you’ll eat drink or wear.’ That’s hard sometimes. Specially when you ain’t eaten.”
I walk inside the gas station on a mission. I ask the aforementioned cashier to brew a fresh pot of coffee—for me.
She smiles and says, “Sure, sweetie.”
Ain’t she nice.
I buy a hot cup, an armful of snacks, and a pack of Swisher Unsweetened Mini-Cigars. I give them to Buck, and I tuck a bill into his hand. I wish I had something bigger, but I don’t.
Buck starts crying.
And the truth is, I’m embarrassed to even be telling you this. Because this story isn’t about me—it’s about Buck.
“Did you know that I see God in you?” Buck tells me through glazed eyes.
And now I’m the one who’s crying.
I stumble over my own words. All I can get out is, “Thank you for your service.”
I’m a bumbling fool.
He gets up to walk away. His big backpack must weigh a hundred pounds.
“Going to Walmart,” he says. “Gon’ buy new shoes. Gon’ get me a hot pizza, man. Yessir, I just saw God on the street corner.”
And he’s gone.
I’m spoiled. I’m lazy. I’m selfish. And sometimes, I get so lost in my own self-centered world that I can’t see.
I just met someone. An invisible someone. A man who—despite whatever his problems may be—isn’t lost. A man who knows things. Who smokes used cigars.
He sleeps in the open air, counting stars, covered by a military-issue blanket. He prays for heaven to feed him every day.
A man who people overlook because it’s easier that way. Who asked me for nary a damn thing.
Mister Buck, sir. Today, you met a spoiled redhead who happened to have a few extra dollars. A kid who wishes he could do more for an American hero, but is too dumb to know how.
You’re wrong, sir. You didn’t see God on a street corner today.
Connie - October 20, 2017 10:28 am
There are so many people out there, wandering. It’s heartbreaking for them all, but especially for our veterans. We are supposed to help people. I’m not real sure where that spirit went. Thank you once again for sharing.
Marty from Alabama - October 20, 2017 10:31 am
Spoiled? Don’t think so. You would not have even stopped if that was true. Dumb? Wrong on that one, too. You knew how to help the hero without degrading him.
No, you are a kind-hearted young man that has seen some hard times in your life and now you do what you can to make someone’s day a bit better.
God bless you, Sean of the South.
Jacquie - October 20, 2017 10:31 am
Wow, Sean dear you are amazing!!! I’m bawling again! Just beautiful
Molly - October 20, 2017 10:39 am
Thank you for the reminder.
Joyce Crook - October 20, 2017 11:14 am
You did what Jesus would have done. …. only maybe included a parable. Good example for the rest of us.
Pat Byers - October 20, 2017 12:02 pm
i can barely type. my eyes are wet and it falls over my face down to my chin. i am brewing my fresh coffee and waiting for the sun to come up to sit in the darkened living room to drink it and wait for the sun.
the old man saw God in a red haired kind man. i think we see a bit of God in him every day. THANK YOU for this writing. and for seeing the worth in the old man.
Gary - October 20, 2017 12:23 pm
Another important lesson for us all,thank you.
Suzette Allen - October 20, 2017 1:07 pm
What a statement on how we treat one another. It’s sad and uplifting at the same time. Your words always move me.
Annette Hopper - October 20, 2017 1:40 pm
Your words are wonderful. I am blessed by them. Please continue your mission. A sermon everyday.
Pam Bishop - October 20, 2017 1:45 pm
Carolyn Huggins - October 20, 2017 1:57 pm
Your stories always touch my very soul…and some bring tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing, Sean!
rustyshouse - October 20, 2017 2:25 pm
Thank you for the reminder!!! And please keep noticing, caring and sharing your gift…we need more of this!!!! God is all around us…we just need to look. Sadly, there are those who cannot see. God bless you!!!!
Carolyn Woods - October 20, 2017 2:29 pm
I think you met an angel today named Buck!
Jack Quanstrum - October 20, 2017 2:32 pm
Fantastic, unbelievable, inspirational, story! Thank you for sharing it! I felt I was there with you. Peace be with that man and you for being the Good Samaritin!
Sara Shaver - October 20, 2017 2:38 pm
Thank you, I love your way of sharing God and his love
JANE HUMPHREY - October 20, 2017 2:46 pm
Pat - October 20, 2017 2:47 pm
Angels walk among us and two angels met at the Shell Station, each seeing God in the other………………….
Diann - October 20, 2017 2:54 pm
“Whatever you do to the least of these my brothers, you do it unto Me”. Matthew 25:40
Frank - October 20, 2017 3:11 pm
I almost always like what you write. In fact, I like most of it a lot, and every now and then you hit one clear out of the park.
This one was a tape measure shot, Sean.
Terri Thorn - October 20, 2017 3:34 pm
Wow! Sean, Just, Wow! Personally, I think you BOTH did….in each other!! SO moving – BUT then, aren’t ALL of your stories??! Thank You, Thank You, Thank You For Sharing Your World With US!! ??????
Kris Perez - October 20, 2017 4:00 pm
Very moving like many of your “stories.” Enjoyed this and so many others. Also enjoyed your talk in Bay Minette last night. Hope you enjoyed the brew, too. I would have gotten PBR at the Fairhope Pig ( where I work), but only cold six packs were available. Didn’t know if dragging an ice chest in would be appropriate!!! Keep writing, and I will keep reading.
Peg - October 20, 2017 4:05 pm
Sean, thank you for your inspiration to me each day through your words.. You truly don’t seem to be spoiled to me. And when you see God on the street, in a church, by the ocean, in a beer joint, you share Him with the likes of me. My thanks to God for your wonderful talent!!!! It brightens my day EVERY day!
Barbara J Schweck - October 20, 2017 4:07 pm
This one brought tears for sure. We do try to make these people invisible. But thankfully through you, Sean, I am stopping more now than ever before to speak to people that I otherwise would walk around. You did exactly what God wants us to do-see the person, fill the need, and let him see God’s work. We do not need to shove it down their throats. This man is a hero, and Sean, you are too!
Linda Chipman - October 20, 2017 4:30 pm
With tears in my eyes I say – At least you did something Sean. Bless you and bless Buck.
Laura - October 20, 2017 6:15 pm
I sat here for 5 minutes after reading this- so moved I could not even see the screen through the tears. I never read the newspaper or turn on the news anymore because I hear about is one more murder, another protest from an NFL player who chooses to kneel during the anthem because he feels “his people” are oppressed by the police (he was probably the one arrested for DUI or maybe even the hit and run and was sentenced to a whole 24 days before someone got him off), or another robbery with a 92 year old killed..you get the picture- all I see in the news is bad stuff. I can’t stand it. I will soon be 70. I have been a nurse for 47 years. I have seen the poorest of the poor, bathed old men who must have had 10 layers of dirt covering his skin, seen patients with maggots in wounds because they had been too embarrassed to get care sooner and had no money for medicine, had patients who caught pneumonia because they could not pay the heating bill, etc. Some stories you might not believe. During all that time, I saw so many angels – folks who called home and had a family member bring a coat for the old dirty man, or who collected enough money form the ER staff to get the man’s medicine and send him home in a cab, or the one who paid the power bill and contacted her church who agreed to pay the old lady’s power bills for the next year. That old vet touched you Sean as angels often do and you touched him. There is so much good in the world- some of us can see it. You are one of those- thank you so much!
Terri Thorn - October 20, 2017 8:35 pm
YOU are one too Laura! Thank You for All you do! Caring for others isn’t an easy job at times – some people make it SO easy, others can make it rather trying..? BUT it’s All worth it in the end I think! Thanks Again!
gary - October 20, 2017 7:43 pm
Actually Sean you and Buck both saw God. Funny how that works… Love ya, man!
Sharon Reaves - October 20, 2017 9:00 pm
Oh my, how we ALL need to show just a little more kindness to those around us!! I love this Sean!!
Molly Pinkston - October 20, 2017 9:22 pm
Thank you Sean for being the hands and feet of God! Molly
johnallenberry - October 21, 2017 2:55 am
“I was hungry, and ye fed me, naked and ye clothed me” – Matt. 25:35
Larica - October 21, 2017 4:57 am
Sue Cronkite - October 21, 2017 4:25 pm
Amen! Thanks for the reminder.
Jody - October 23, 2017 12:50 am
“Open the eyes of my heart Lord I want to see You”. Thanks Sean.
Diana K. McAfee - October 27, 2017 2:15 am
Thank you Sean!! Beautiful story! You have the most amazing way with words..I love how God moves through you. He puts people in our path, just like he put “Buck” in yours. God Bless You.
Sam Hunneman - November 3, 2017 12:41 am
Laying up stores in Heaven. Bless you for stepping in, stepping up. Bless Buck for signing up and serving. But for me, the bigger question is how, in this rich, strong country, “founded on Christian principles” is Buck left praying for small change and the kindness of strangers.
Katy - November 15, 2017 8:11 pm
Thank you, Sean.
I could use more stories like this with the craziness of this world we live in. A world where a friend of my son was shot dead jut because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
We need more God, whether it be you doing a selfless service for this man, this man for the selfless service he’s done for our country or those out there just trying to live their lives and be the best they can be for themselves and for those around them.
Again, thank you, Sean.
Melissa Mikkelsen - November 22, 2017 9:29 am
Sometimes I wonder why my black and tan coonhound wakes me up so early. Sometimes I get mad at her. But this alone time early in the morning is perfect for putting on a load of laundry making myself an unhurried cup of coffee and reading your column. Your words resonate with me so deep. And put me in the exact right frame of mind to have a good day. I hope you have one too Sean.
Deb Chaffin - November 22, 2017 12:35 pm
We are supposed to be the hands and feet of Jesus everyday. You did that Sean. God bless you. Helps us to remember what’s important.
Phyl Matteson - November 22, 2017 12:36 pm
At times I lose faith in humanity….. Then along comse Sean of the South. Thank God for you. You make me realize there are still decent people. The news makes me desperate to know this. Steve Hartman is one of the few newscasters I care to follow.
Marlene Willis - November 22, 2017 3:15 pm
You are right Sean. We are spoiled. All of us who have food, clothing, and shelter, loved ones and friends are spoiled. We forget that God supplies all our needs and more so that we can share with others in need. Thank you for seeing and caring.
Martha - January 6, 2020 3:10 am
Yes there is still some good in this old world but it gets harder to find, seems like with everybody fussing & fighting and hating one another. Sometimes I wonder why I’m still here to see it when my heart gets to grieving to go home.
Thanks for punching a hole in the cloud of dust we so often travel through that’s been kicked up around us and blocking the view, giving us a fresh insight and making it easier to see what remains.
Thank God we can still see him if we’re looking & observant because it might surprise you to see him in some places you never dreamed until someone comes along and parts the dust cloud.
Thank you for letting us see the view too! I needed to, today, so very much.
Jeff Dockery - January 6, 2020 3:33 am
I left the post office the other day, a few days before Christmas having a lackluster day. As a real estate guy, couple deals weren’t going good and were gonna mess up my goals I had hoped to reach this year. Walked in, got the stack of mail out of the box and headed back to my truck. I had seen some Christmas cards in the stack but really didn’t care to open and see who they were from. Got in my truck, turned the key and looked beside me. It had to be like a 1985 GMC Astro van with an older man getting in. He sat in the seat and closed the door then opened a Christmas card he had received. His face lit up with a huge smile and love poured from that card to him. It showed me how the little things in life still matter. The time someone took to mail this gentleman a Christmas card was such a blessing to this poor man who appeared to not have much in this material world we live in. It made me realize I am so blessed. I have so many people who love me and do things to show me how they care, I need to focus more on the people in my life instead of the drive in this materialistic world that tells me to push to do more to have more. Great story you told, keep sharing.
Ann Biggs Williams. - January 6, 2020 4:01 am
The “Poet of the Down and out” hits another home run.
gayle iriwn - January 6, 2020 4:37 am
Kicker story —– I really like your style —- im not sure that God wasn’t “seen double “