Last night, while America was fast asleep, stuff happened. Lots of stuff.
Take the two college guys named Greg and Blair. They were driving toward Florida, careening along an interstate.
These are your average college age kids. They had loud music blaring, they were laughing, talking about a topic all college boys talk about. Hint: rhymes with “whirls.”
At first glance Greg and Blair might look like typical teens who skip haircuts, wear unwashed clothes, bathe once per presidential administration, and eat pizza six times per week. But they’re so much more than that. They also eat tacos.
When Greg and Blair saw a compact car on the side of the road last night, they stopped to help. The car was owned by a middle-aged woman who was struggling with a scissor jack, lying beneath her vehicle. Her kids were in the backseat, eating from a jumbo-sized bag of Jolly Ranchers. The woman was praying a semi didn’t run her over.
When Greg and Blair pulled behind her, the woman became guarded. This is a dangerous world, and being a female alone on a major highway in the middle of the night is not exactly an ideal scenario.
Not to mention the boy’s pandemic-style surgical masks made them look like train robbers.
She gripped a tire iron in her hand until her knuckles went white.
“Need any help?” shouted one boy over the din of traffic.
Greg saw her squeeze the iron harder.
“We’re friendly,” said Greg, hands held in surrender.
Her tough demeanor broke. She almost started to cry. She admitted she had no idea how to position a scissor jack. “Thank you.”
The young men got to work. They attached her spare within minutes. When it came time to tighten the lugnuts with a tire iron, rather than ask for her tire iron—which she still clutched in a death grip—Greg retrieved one from his own car.
After the tire was changed, the woman tried to pay them. The boys would not accept money, instead, the woman’s children offered the young men selections from their bag of Jolly Ranchers.
The young men, because they are still very young, cheerfully removed every last green-apple-flavored Jolly Rancher from the bag.
Meanwhile, in rural Georgia, there was a woman exiting the supermarket. It was night. She’s just gotten off work. A dog started following her in the parking lot. The stray was covered in blood. No collar.
She invited the old dog into her car, tempting him with Saltines. Surprisingly, the stray leapt into the passenger seat. Soon there was blood all over her upholstery. She wasn’t sure what to do next, so she called a girlfriend who volunteers in a veterinary office.
An hour later, the veterinary doc himself arrived at his office still in pajamas. It turned out the dog needed stitches. The doctor gave the animal the full treatment. The old animal got wormed, bathed, stabbed with needles, and he even received a minor pedicure.
When the dog came trotting from the back room, his young rescuer was already picking out his new name.
“I will call him Elvis,” she said. “That way I will be one of the few who can say I went home with Elvis.”
Hey, whatever works.
Which leads us to Wisconsin. Our story starts long ago when Bill received a phone call at three in the morning from a stranger. “I need help,” said the young man on the phone.
The 24-year-old kid said he was an alcoholic who had been trying to get clean. He locked himself in his girlfriend’s apartment when the withdrawal symptoms started. But he was in bad shape. Sweating, vomiting, trembling, hallucinating. He was terrified and didn’t know who to call.
“How’d you get this number?” asked a surprised Bill.
The young man said he had called his friend, a recovering alcoholic, in Canada. Whereupon this friend called HIS recovering-alcoholic friend in Chattanooga, who immediately called Bill, who still lives in Wisconsin. Bill had been a recovering alcoholic for 32 years.
Bill jumped into his car and brought the kid home. He gave the kid his spare bedroom. He cooked him breakfast and held the kid’s ponytail while the boy vomited it into Bill’s commode.
Sometimes, when the withdrawals got particularly bad, Bill let the kid cry into his chest all night.
The young man went through a period of pure purgatory, but he dried out. Bill took him to support meetings, he helped the young man find a place of his own. Bill stuck with the kid through some very difficult times.
The kid has been sober for 13 years. Last night, that young man got married. Bill, who is still a spry 72-year-old, was best man.
All over the U.S., in every state, county, city, zip code, and rural school district, average people do things like I just told you about. These do-gooders are often folks who don’t make much fuss, and make even less money. They aren’t proud, they won’t ever get their pictures in the paper.
Often they do their deeds under the cover of anonymity, without vainglory, away from stage lights. They don’t film their acts of charity, they have no interest in going viral, no need for praise, and in fact most will never tell a soul what they’ve done.
These people simply keep their heads down and help others. They help others get sober, they rescue bleeding creatures, they change tires on interstates, they save things, mend things, heal things, grow things, build things, and love things.
What this writer wants to know is why. Why in this hellish worldscape do people do such good stuff? What makes people kind? Why does anyone give to another?
The answer is simple, Greg and Blair say. “We do it for the green-apple Jolly Ranchers.”
Sandi. - March 9, 2021 6:28 am
Doing good deeds never goes out of style.
Julie - March 9, 2021 6:32 am
Green-apple Jolly Ranchers or pure and simple joy…they both make a person feel good for doing good stuff!
charlie - March 9, 2021 6:44 am
People are far better than the news media wants us to believe …
Christina - March 9, 2021 6:45 am
Of course, and chocolates, ice cream and pound cake will draw out the best of us 😂
Shoutouts to all the quiet, unsung heroes of kindness!
Mary Parry - March 9, 2021 8:02 am
This made me feel encouraged. After looking at fb posts for awhile, I was pretty discouraged. Your posts always give me hope.
KS - March 9, 2021 8:33 am
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Thank you for making this real every day!
MermaidGrammy - March 9, 2021 11:17 am
I first want to congratulate you on the use of “vainglory”! You took a chance and it worked. As for your stories today – you are so right. People do good things because they are good. You do good every morning by sharing yourself with us.
Jay Penton - March 9, 2021 11:50 am
Good stuff Sean! Thanks!
joan moore - March 9, 2021 12:09 pm
You done good,son.
Jean - March 9, 2021 12:12 pm
Thank the Lord for good people everywhere!!!
Marilyn - March 9, 2021 12:26 pm
This is what we need to hear more of in place of all the negative! Thank you for your daily positive reinforcements, Sean. Your last sentence did throw me a bit, but humor also goes a long way to make this older lady’s day. Keep up the good work.
Leana - March 9, 2021 12:38 pm
Thank you Sean. I am a nurse and the last year has been a tough one to be in healthcare. My heart is looking for the good in people. I needed stories like these this morning. My day is now a little brighter. God bless you sir.
Liz Watkins - March 9, 2021 12:45 pm
God is everywhere-it’s apparent in all of these beautiful people🤩🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🤩
E. Ann P. - March 9, 2021 12:51 pm
This one is another keeper, Sean. I love it, needed its reminder, and I’m sure many others do too. Thank you.
Norma Jeane Williams - March 9, 2021 12:52 pm
We do it because we are Christ followers and that’s what He wants us to do. Just like you, Sean, when you write pieces like this to encourage such actions! Thank you.
Mickey - March 9, 2021 1:00 pm
Hawk - March 9, 2021 1:07 pm
About 25 years ago a family of 5 very young kids and a mother and deadbeat dad found their way to my neighborhood. They and my neighbors were Mennonites. They had no place to stay. I offered them a home I owned which I intended to convert to a business but not for a few years. I paid the electric bill. I was always amazed at the low bill. I found out they were using the wood stove to cook and heat. So, I saw to it that they had wood. They would not use the air conditioning. They raised chickens and had eggs. A lot of people were helping them. 20 years later hurricane Ivan hit. I had trees down and limbs on and through my roof. The next morning, I heard a crew of men and machinery clearing my driveway. Leading the crew was the youngest of the 5 kids. The first thing he said was “I told them first person we are going to help is Mr. Broo…” They cleared my home, my drive and refreshed my belief in GOOD. By the way, all 5 kids grew to great men and women. Not rich. Not famous. GOOD.
Rich Owen - March 9, 2021 1:08 pm
As someone who was once the photographer at the Walton Sun weekly, these people DID make our newspaper back in the day (1998-2008). I used to love seeing the look on someone face as their eyes glistened when they would tell me about seeing their photo in the paper on Saturday. It made my 70-80 hour weeks totally worth it.
Tammy S. - March 9, 2021 1:10 pm
Another great one!! 🍏💙
Terry - March 9, 2021 1:13 pm
I read your post everyday and I look forward to reading the stories of ordinary people doing extroinairy deeds. We need more happy news. I would like to suggest to your readers to tune in on Sundays to watch Sunday Morning on CBS. This news program always high lights stories of small town America and the extroinairy people who live there.
Starr - March 9, 2021 1:15 pm
You make my day ! In this world of craziness and hate and political turmoil, YOU, Sean remind me of the calm and love and hope for peace ! I love your writings so
Phil (Brown Marlin) - March 9, 2021 1:22 pm
Your story doesn’t say if these good folks are Christians, and if they are, whether they are Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal, etc. – or just plain Holy-rollers – doesn’t matter. I bet deep down, whether they even realize it, they have Him in their hearts. Either way, thanks for reminding us that there is much good happening by just good, ordinary, backstage people who do their acts of kindness simply because they love their neighbors as themselves.
Paul S Gawrych - March 9, 2021 1:35 pm
I firmly believe it is part of our genetic makeup to do good for others and make a difference in the short time we are here. We just managed to throw a wrench in all of it a few hundred years ago by recognizing so called good deeds, acts of heroism and so on. It unfortunately helped build our now instantaneous feel good for thyself mantra. No matter, the silent good doers march on and yes fortunately, they out weigh all of the self promoters. Thanks for your words sir!
Norma Hiay - March 9, 2021 1:37 pm
I love the word “vainglory.” Thank you, Sean.
Denise Walker - March 9, 2021 1:38 pm
It is so good to hear positive things after hearing/reading so much negative. Thanks for reminding me of all the good people ‘out there’
Ralph Bryson - March 9, 2021 1:49 pm
Sean, good article! Much better than the routine doom/gloom! Don’t go back to the “dark side”
Jo Ann - March 9, 2021 1:53 pm
I can’t add anything more to those comments already written, other than “thank you, Sean.” You remind us about the good people around us.
Chipper - March 9, 2021 1:53 pm
Doing good deeds never gets old, especially even more endearing when they are not looking for praise in the process. We need to hear more stories such as these, unfortunately mainstream media thinks the hatred & vileness around us is what should be promoted. Hopefully soon that tide will change.
Becky Kaufman - March 9, 2021 2:03 pm
And you are kind to remind us that people are and we should be KIND.
Ba - March 9, 2021 2:18 pm
I love you for all the ways you enrich and enlarge my days.
Leigh Amiot - March 9, 2021 2:24 pm
Sean, I enjoy the comments following your blog as much as the column itself. Hawk’s story was heartwarming, more than just a one time good deed, but a long haul investment into an entire family by a neighborhood and the joy of seeing the dividends—five good adults! How things should be is out there, and to discover these kindnesses under the veil of anonymity is more meaningful than seeing it for “likes” on social media—which I have deleted completely from my life.
Hunter Winton - March 9, 2021 2:52 pm
Hi Sean. I recently discovered your blog and books. Your stories are a ray of sunshine in dark world of clouds right now. They now kick-off every morning for me with hope and positive outlook. Also, as a southerner living the in the Southwest, they are great reminder of home.
Jan - March 9, 2021 3:13 pm
Tears are flowing through my smile (about the green-apple Jolly Ranchers). Beautiful stories about beautiful people! Love this, love you, love them all!
billllly - March 9, 2021 3:21 pm
Thank you for these stories!
Tom Wallin - March 9, 2021 4:00 pm
God bless everyone, especially you Sean. Thanks.
donna - March 9, 2021 4:33 pm
Amen n amen…
Patricia Gibson - March 9, 2021 4:36 pm
Lots of good people in this world and thank you for helping us remember that. Love to you and your family
Linda Moon - March 9, 2021 5:32 pm
Stuff happens. I like stories about good people and stuff. You told us about some really good people, Writer. I know and love some of those kinds of people who would’ve simply done good deeds for green-apple Jolly Ranchers and then kindly share some with me!
MAM - March 9, 2021 10:32 pm
It’s totally God at work.
Kate - March 10, 2021 1:12 am
I had a friend once who was driving back from South Carolina and saw a man stranded in an old truck which had broken down, and a trailer full of watermelons. She asked her husband to stop, and then she moved to the back seat of their truck so they could take him to a Love’s truck stop. When they got to Loves, she asked her husband if she could give the “watermelon” man her emergency money. It was a 100 dollar bill she always carried for an emergency. The husband said yes, so she offered it to the man, who with tears in his eyes, asked her husband if he could hug her. So a three hundred pound man gently hugged a 120 pound lady. The “watermelon” man was from Florida on this way to Atlanta after picking up watermelons in South Carolina to sell in Atlanta for the 4th of July. While they were from different worlds and lifestyles, and had nothing in common on the surface, but both had love and gratitude.
Barbara Foley - March 10, 2021 3:13 am
You are the best. I look forward to your stories everyday. I saw your Alfa Insurance commercial and loved it. I’m so glad a friend of me told me about you last fall. Barbara (a 72 year old fan in Mississippi)
Bob Brenner - March 10, 2021 12:05 pm
You are a great teller of heart warming stories! You have a gift Sean, thanks for sharing it. ❤️
Chasity Davis Ritter - March 20, 2021 4:28 am
May the world never run out of green apple jolly ranchers!!