The L Word

Noon. A Mexican taco truck. Birmingham. This parking lot is packed, if there was an empty square-inch of space it’s already filled with a Nissan or a Kia.

Earlier this morning, I was on a radio show. The host drilled me with loaded questions. It was a disaster. I was supposed to be plugging my new book, instead the host was asking slanted questions about hot-button, divisive topics.

The problem is, I don’t know how to answer divisive questions. I’m not a smart guy. I didn’t graduate high school.

Moreover, I wasn’t a particularly bright student to begin with. I was always getting letters and numbers mixed up. In fact, it took me 30 years to figure out that “taters” was spelled with a P.

I’m not qualified to talk about controversial issues. I have a hard enough time just spelling my last name.

The host’s main question of the morning was, “What do you think will save this country?”

Sadly, I had no answer for him. My only salvation was to fake a bladder emergency.

But I’m thinking about his question right now, standing in this taco truck line.

What will save this country?

Ahead of me in line is a female police officer. She wears a blue uniform, ballistic body armor, and a chest-mounted radio. She is powerfully built. She could twist me into a human pretzel, dip me in garlic sauce and serve me with a Mick Ultra.

“Ma’am,” I begin, “can I ask you a personal question?”


“What do you think will save this country?”

She frowns. “Save this what? Whatchoo mean?”

So I repeat the question.

“You know what I think will save this country?” she finally answers. “People looking out for each other, people being a blessing instead of being selfish.”

I nod and write it down.

I order chilaquiles verdes, which is my all-time favorite Mexican dish. I was first introduced to this dish when I played accordion in a Mexican band. Don’t ask.

The guy at the window is Latino, hair slicked to his head. He is young. Robust. His apron is stained in reds and greens.

“What do you think will save this country?” I ask.

“No inglés,” he answers.

Luckily, his wife is from Kansas City. She translates, then interprets his answer.

She speaks: “He says he thinks kindness will save this country.”

I write it down.

I get my food in a foam box. I sit at a picnic table and commence shoveling. The food is delicious. The salsa verde is tart enough to make a grown man cuss with delight and look around for inanimate objects to slap.

The woman eating lunch across from me is wearing a fast-food uniform. She says she’s just gotten off from the late shift. After she finishes eating, she will pick up her three kids from daycare, then go home and sleep for eight hours.

I ask her what she thinks will save this country.

She thinks about my question as she drags a chip through a slurry of salsa.

“Well, I think it’s up to you and me. I think people acting super sweet to everyone. I think just being nice and, I don’t know. I mean, there are a lot of people out there who could use a real friend. I’m one of’em.”

Not a bad answer. She would have done great on talk radio.

When I finish my meal, I am already in serious need of Rolaids. I walk to my vehicle, jingling my keys, thinking about what a failure I was on the radio this morning. Why is eloquence so hard for me?

In the parking lot I see a young man deboarding his minivan with the help of his mother.

His mother lifts him out of the car, hoisting him into a wheelchair. No hydraulic lift. The woman simply bear hugs her son and muscles him into his chair.

“My son loves Mexican food,” she tells me. “I get him out of the house a few times each week, I take him here. He loves tamales. These are the best in town.”

I ask her what she thinks will save this country.

She is taken off guard by my question. She asks what exactly I mean. So I repeat myself. She is confused, and I am starting to feel ridiculous for having even asked.

But I am saved. Because the young man interrupts her.

“I know what will save this country!” he says.

“And what’s that?” I ask.

He holds up a finger. “One word,” he yells. “And it starts with an L!”

Just as I thought.



  1. Leigh Amiot - October 25, 2022 6:12 am

    I believe you *are* qualified to speak about divisive issues, but exhibit the good manners and grace not to. With the onslaught (sic) of social media, everyone thinks they are a political pundit. I love the answers everyday folk from all walks of life gave you as to what will save this country, and it’s remarkable how similar they were. Looks like the ordinary among us are on to something while the pundits keep stirring the pot.

    • Priscilla Rodgers - October 25, 2022 12:16 pm


  2. Tim - October 25, 2022 7:37 am

    L Words…
    “Live” spelled backwards is “Evil”.
    Some folk
    Just Get

    “Love” spelt backwards is “Evol”.

    But, I don’t want to live in a backwards country,
    So I choose to “Love Life”.
    L words are some of my favorite.
    They tend to “Spice” life up and add some kick to it.

  3. Julie - October 25, 2022 9:50 am

    Sean, you are helping save the country one book and one blog at a time. Thank you for all you do.

  4. Debbie - October 25, 2022 9:56 am

    Enough of us living the life Jesus would have us live will save this country. Following His example is the road map out of this tangled web we are living in now.

  5. Carolyn Kelley - October 25, 2022 10:44 am

    Great story

  6. Renee Welton - October 25, 2022 10:52 am


  7. Mary Dietrich-Kauflin - October 25, 2022 11:11 am

    Just finished your new book. Bought it because of the title. My Mom used to say this and because of your signature and last name. (My Moms name was Jean Dietrich) I was not disappointed. Loved it for many reasons. You have a way that hits home in so many ways. Bless you.

  8. Rhett - October 25, 2022 11:21 am

    Good question. But I doubt if it will be talk radio.

    • frank plyler - October 25, 2022 5:35 pm

      …coffee just came out of my nose at a very high rate of speed lol

  9. sheilla - October 25, 2022 11:24 am


  10. Diana - October 25, 2022 11:37 am

    Love this and I believe they are all right.

  11. Jon LitwillerI - October 25, 2022 11:48 am

    Putting God first in our life would definitely be a step in the right direction, then other things will follow.

  12. Debbie g - October 25, 2022 11:57 am

    Love. Pass it on
    And I will !!
    Our amazing Sean. Thanks for passing us love every day
    Love to all

  13. mccutchen52 - October 25, 2022 12:09 pm

    The “L” is also the first letter in Lord. You get that word then Love Life like Tim said. You also get Ltaters, which is my favorite word also, Sean. Confusing, I know, but my wife fixed me pancakes and sausage this morning and not Ltaters.

  14. Suellen - October 25, 2022 12:09 pm

    It sounds like your interviewer was a dud more like. He should know the subject he is interviewing and not pepper them with unrelated questions. He missed an opportunity to treat his listeners to the wit and wisdom of the Sean Dietrich we’ve all come to know.

  15. Priscilla Rodgers - October 25, 2022 12:13 pm

    What a great article. There are so many people who know this, why do we let a few push the L right out of us?

  16. elizabethroosje - October 25, 2022 12:20 pm

    I would absolutely NOT want to be asked divisive questions and especially not on the radio 😳 that would be really stressful!!!! Sean I really enjoyed your new book!!!📚

  17. Roxanne Taylor - October 25, 2022 12:28 pm

    Sean, I just love your pea picking heart! I am buying every single one of your books. I’ve started with 3 of them, and eventually I’ll have the whole collection. That’s because I LOVE your writing, your message, your style and your heart. I’ll answer your question myself. I believe our country is desperately in need of a spiritual revival. There are so many hurting people that need God’s touch in their lives. Remember back right after 9/11 how people turned to God, and there was unity in this great country. It was wonderful. Thank you for being so transparent and encouraging us each and every day. You are my hero! Don’t worry about the stupid guy on the radio interview, you’ve got this. You are blessed and you bless others!

  18. Carol - October 25, 2022 12:37 pm

    Another fine gift for our morning. And it’s absolutely correct.

  19. Melissa Norman - October 25, 2022 12:47 pm

    Saving our country has been on my mind for some time, too! With all going on in our crazy world, I have to agree with the everyday “Joe” & “Jane”. Kindness shown to those who are put in our path will help to change my corner of . Attention & care given to those in need. You are sensitive to those in need as your writings reflect these people’s daily struggles. Thanks for speaking to my heart to remind me to focus on people. God Bless America and her incredible people!!!

  20. jblackburn34 - October 25, 2022 1:09 pm

    Then The Beatles said it best…All you need is L!

  21. Carlin Brooks - October 25, 2022 1:22 pm

    Don’t sell yourself short. You are brilliant. Have a blessed day.

  22. Ann - October 25, 2022 1:23 pm

    Not every day do I stop to read your column although it hits my email every single day – forgive my Laziness! Your title captured my attention – the L word in my youth was an adjective an adult at camp used to accuse/describe me when I was 12, I had to ask a friend what the word meant! It was true – how did she know? I was beaten with shame. I tried endlessly for years with no success to shove it way down deep inside. At 58, I have embraced the L-word, mostly – I say mostly because it still catches my breath when someone doesn’t show me Love or kindness because of my Lesbianism! Thanks Sean, are you Left-handed? I am!

    • Paul Sams - October 26, 2022 3:17 am

      Ann, over the years I have realized that everyone should be treated with kindness and respect. The more I have met people who I used to perceive as different from me, I have learned that people have more in common than we do in differences. From my Christian faith, the words of Christ are the most important to me. He instructed us the most important thing is to love others. He was kind to the outcast in his time on earth, he was forgiving, and he treated people with kindness. I feel that is a good roadmap to follow. I feel I must love those who’s faith is not the same as mine. I was lucky in my life to know Jews, and they are kind and want a better world. Muslims in the Birmingham Metropolitan area join with other faiths to help the homeless, those who need food, and they are kind and gentle people. I think we often confuse governments with the citizens of a country. Regrettably, there are people who try to use religion as a weapon. Those people do not represent the religion they claim to represent. We should help one another, not judge one another. Take care of yourself, you deserve it.

  23. Brenda Lynch - October 25, 2022 1:25 pm

    Taters is absolutely spelled with an L. I always say it never fails!! The young radio guy needs to get out more!!

  24. JimmyT - October 25, 2022 1:28 pm

    Give ’em L, Sean!

  25. JC4givs - October 25, 2022 1:32 pm

    A good and witty read. Thank you Sean! I’m a new subscriber and am glad my friend turned me onto your column.

  26. Ruth Mitchell - October 25, 2022 1:33 pm

    Every answer you got was spot on. Even Mark 12:31 in the Bible has the answer: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Now if we could start with ourselves and model that commandment, maybe our love would spread and ultimately “save our country.” (My personal goal for today!) Thank you for sharing.

  27. sonyatuttle6762 - October 25, 2022 1:39 pm

    Smart young man! Nothing wrong with his brain! 🌈🌈🌈

  28. Patricia Gibson - October 25, 2022 1:41 pm

    Out of the mouth of babes❤️

  29. Beth Morgan - October 25, 2022 1:57 pm

    Wow! These people should run for office. They nailed it!

  30. Serena - October 25, 2022 1:59 pm

    L word.

  31. David Britnell - October 25, 2022 1:59 pm

    L you Sean! Also L your readers. Are we a different breed? I try to share your reads with everyone, hopefully more and more people will catch on.

  32. Kathy - October 25, 2022 2:31 pm

    First, I need to find that food truck; my husband loves chilequiles. In Chicago, there was this neighborhood restaurant that made them with a cream green chile sauce.
    Secondly, that young man was right, but we need the heavy-duty sort like his mama shows.

  33. Dot Coltrane - October 25, 2022 2:49 pm

    I hear the L word (love) and the K word (kindness) every day. A helpful older man ( younger than me) at the drugstore asked me to wait outside at my car — he was in line behind me at the cash register — so that he could put my bags in my car. As I thanked him for his kindness, he said “I try to be kind — I just hate all this not gettin’ along.”

  34. Pubert - October 25, 2022 3:06 pm

    United We Stand. Divided We Fall! Throw in a big helping of right and wrong, peronal responsibility, working for a living, Love thy neighbor as thy self. And stupidly I almost forgot God and Jesus. And forgiveness. We can all do better.

    All starts with G abd J.


  35. Harriet White - October 25, 2022 4:00 pm

    Plove- the p is silent 😁 so it’s Love. I just made this up. 😊

  36. Techcat - October 25, 2022 4:33 pm

    I came to the conclusion a few years ago (and really I should have recognized the strategy sooner since I’m borderline old fart) that both sides of the track use distraction to not deal with major issues. I watched education deteriorate for over 30 years for reasons that were either potentially controllable or beyond control (i.e., life outside of school). Mental health resources for the young and old weren’t funded well in some states. Limited access to jobs. Limited access to emotional support. On and on…. Lots of anger and worry about a comfortable life style declining. Lots of money thrown at creative grants to establish resources for the homeless, develop accessible tech for public schools, job retraining, etc…. No one at the top ever truly evaluates the process and outcomes. Showing kindness and love and trying to be proactive in helping where and when you can will help. I for one just have to try to stop being apathetic about everything outside my own sphere of existence. Not easy.

  37. madeleine - October 25, 2022 4:53 pm

    you’re a talented writer, and this was a great slice of life that you captured, hinting at the difficulties of life for hard working parents and people with disabilities.

    everything wrong with this nation and every other nation is incompetent parents raised by incompetent parents who were raised by incompetent parents ad infinitum. education and rational thinking are the only answers that can help the children of incompetent parents.

    when incompetent parents pass on to their children their own irrational hatred towards complete strangers based on skin colour, birth place, religion, sexuality, (or any other factor that no one has control over) and misdirected anger about their own dysfunctional lives, this inheritance dooms the new generation to continue living in a strange warped world that has nothing to offer except primitive tribalism.

    not all sh*te parents have sh*te children, but all sh*te children are guaranteed to have sh*te parents.

    religion is not the answer, it’s a crutch for people who aren’t willing to face their mortality. we’re all food for worms at the end, deal with it at a young age and you won’t fear the reaper 😉

  38. Sydney - October 25, 2022 4:59 pm


  39. Chasity Davis Ritter - October 25, 2022 6:49 pm

    They sure weren’t wrong. All those things will definitely help!! More people spreading the positive things like my good friend Sean does. More people looking up from their phones and really SEEING the people around them also like my friend Sean does. And finally being a good neighbor, a helper and definitely a friend. We can all use one.

  40. Linda Moon - October 25, 2022 6:56 pm

    I’m glad you’re smart enough to dismiss divisive questions. I’m also glad you asked and repeated “the question” to the Police Officer. She’s right, you know, and the other folks are too. Taters to you, Sean…it don’t need no P! Eloquence is always from your words…P or no P.

  41. Rebecca Soude4rs - October 25, 2022 7:58 pm

    This column, and all those before it, Sean Dietrich, prove that you are, indeed, eloquent. Thanks for all the fine words you give us!

  42. Cindy Anderson - October 25, 2022 8:05 pm

    I agree with every answer they gave you. Love, kindness, respect… our country is not the same as it was years ago, and it shows. Remember how it was right after 9/11? We were united! We were on the same team. But not anymore. We need the Lord. He is love, and kindness…

  43. Carol - October 25, 2022 8:11 pm


  44. Linda - October 25, 2022 8:35 pm

    I hope your self-deprecation is just your schtick because you are truly brilliant.

  45. Joe - October 25, 2022 8:40 pm

    Wonderful answers Sweet Taters or Irish Taters?

  46. Bill prather - October 25, 2022 10:10 pm

    I think u have something here

  47. MAM - October 25, 2022 11:46 pm

    It was the opposite of “live” what that ignorant interviewer did to you. And sometimes writers depend on writing things down for it to make sense. I know I prefer writing to public speaking. I believe you could have come up with just as good an answer as you got from the real folks you talked to. You are the correct kind of interviewer. And you give us all those good L words every day, Live, Love, Lord, even when you don’t use them.

  48. Karen - October 26, 2022 2:15 am

    I wish the government would listen to the folks who answered your question.

  49. Sean of the South: The L Word | The Trussville Tribune - October 26, 2022 12:48 pm

    […] By Sean Dietrich, Sean of the South […]

  50. Mary - October 26, 2022 1:31 pm

    And so easy. Love one another as our Father has instructed us. Is that so hard?

  51. Sean of the South: คำว่า - EWORLDSMS - October 26, 2022 2:28 pm

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  52. Linda Moon - October 26, 2022 5:17 pm

    …so I’m wondering where today’s new post is….October 26th…hope all is well & normal (whatever that is!)


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