The Widower

The first thing you should know about Joseph is that he isn’t an optimist. In fact, he has no faith in this world. And he has even less faith in people.

Losing your wife will do that to you. She died and left him with three kids. A small girl. A boy. And a twelve-year-old girl.

So Joseph works hard for a meager living. Very hard. He barely makes enough. He comes home late each night, wearing muddy clothes. Sometimes he puts in overtime and sleeps in his truck.

Joseph’s eldest daughter is half mother and half child. At night, she tucks her siblings into bed. She cooks. She helps with laundry. Life is not easy. And on many days, life just plain sucks.

At night, Joseph is in bed, thinking of how bad life is. Not only does he miss his wife, he misses the man he was when she was alive. She was taken too early.

How could anyone think this world is a happy place when good women die so young? How could any widower feel warm and fuzzy about this world?

And the hits keep coming

One day he’s at his job. He’s exhausted from two night shifts in a row. He makes a catastrophic mistake while operating the bulldozer. It costs the company big money. They fire him.

Later in the afternoon, he’s sitting on his steps, face in hands, crying. His oldest daughter finds him, she sits beside him. She drapes her arm around his shoulders.

“What’s wrong, Daddy?” she asks.

He doesn’t want to tell her. He doesn’t want her growing up hating life as much as he does. She’s been through enough. She’s already more woman than girl.

“Nothing,” Joseph says. “I’ll be alright.”

The next day, he wanders through town, looking for work. He visits local businesses—hat in hand. He’s practically begging for a job. He’s only a few steps away from standing on the corner with one of those cardboard signs and asking for lunch.

A full week of job hunting, no luck. Joseph is at his bitter end. It doesn’t take much for a man to lose confidence in this world. A few punches, that’s all.

One Sunday, he takes his family to church. They sit together in a pew. They sing. He fake-smiles and pumps hands.

After service, church folks leave to enjoy a sunny day with their families. Joseph stays. He watches his motherless children play on the church playground. He feels sorry for them. And himself.

The minister finds him. He strikes up a conversation. The minister asks if Joseph happens to know how to change air-conditioner filters.

“Sure,” says Joseph. “It’s easy.”

They walk inside. Joseph changes the filter. It takes five minutes. No tools required. Simple.

The minister thanks him and hands Joseph an envelope. Joseph opens it. There are several hundred-dollar bills inside. A thank-you card.

“We’re looking for a maintenance man,” the minister adds, placing a hand on Joe’s shoulder. “It’s not much of a job, but it’s full-time, and it pays pretty good.”

Joseph is too moved to answer. He can only choke on his own saltwater and nod. Lots of nodding. Lots of hugging.

Well, that was a long time ago. A lifetime ago, you could say. But after thirty-six years of changing air-conditioner filters, washing baptismals, and shampooing church carpets, Joseph wants you to know something before you cash in your chips:

This world ain’t all that bad. And neither are people who love us.


  1. Joan - September 8, 2022 7:12 am

    What a wonderful church family!

  2. Nell Thomas - September 8, 2022 8:53 am

    Great story to wake up to this A.M. – Thanks.

    • Tara - September 8, 2022 10:23 am

      Thank you! Every time I read your stories they touch my heart. I usually read them at the beginning of the day. Each time my worries for our country are lifted. We live in such awful times it’s comforting to know that you are here writing bringing hope back to my heart as well as others. ❤️

  3. Juanita - September 8, 2022 9:09 am

    Thank you for bringing a ray of sunshine and hope to the world.

  4. Debbie - September 8, 2022 10:13 am

    It is good to see how God directed Joseph, through closed doors, to the door He had open for him. He loves His children. God, continue to bless Joseph. Thank You for your love for us.

  5. Jan - September 8, 2022 10:43 am

    Thank you, Sean. Your comment Debbie gives me hope because I’ve been “knocking at the door” for a long time and waiting for God to answer!

    • Debbie - September 8, 2022 1:16 pm

      Jan, don’t ever give up on God, no matter how often you knock. Jeremiah 29:11 has helped me. 🙏

      • MamaD - September 8, 2022 4:56 pm

        My favorite verse, too, Debbie! Jan, I also pray that you’ll soon see God’s answers and find His peace in your circumstances. You are loved!

      • Eve - September 9, 2022 2:10 pm

        I think this is such a comforting passage . Yet in light of what has happened in Memphis the last several days (and what occurred in Uvalde ) – I am having trouble wrapping my mind around it’s meaning.

  6. Steve McCaleb - September 8, 2022 10:52 am

    Thank you Sean. Powerful story….powerful message. Parents, please teach your children to be fair in their dealings with others but to NEVER expect life to be “fair”. Fair is where they hang blue ribbons around the necks of hogs. Life knocks you down just for the pleasure of letting you get back up to flatten you again. But that’s what separates us from all other species….we’re too dumb to know when we’re beat. You’re not beat until you quit. And God bless those us who, who with His help, keep on getting back up.And please bless and help all the Joseph’s and family’s like his. There’s a lot of them out there. With more every single day.

  7. Judy - September 8, 2022 11:17 am

    I needed this to get my day started, thank you.

  8. Bill Henderson - September 8, 2022 11:22 am

    What an encouraging writing! Thank you for taking time to put this together and send out! And praise God for His church and pastors attentive to needs and hurts.

  9. Anne Arthur - September 8, 2022 11:40 am

    A human angel had eyes to see and recognize a good man who needed help to provide for his kids and be the father he wanted to be.
    There are many good people in this world.

  10. mccutchen52 - September 8, 2022 11:50 am

    His wife made him stronger than he knows

  11. sjhl7 - September 8, 2022 11:57 am

    Love this story! Great way to start my day … in tears but they are happy tears! Thank you Sean.

  12. Dolores - September 8, 2022 12:02 pm

    Prayers for all those who are feeling like Joseph, in similar dire straits. When you’re at the end of your rope, reach for the hem of His garment. He sees you.
    Bless those who are His hands and feet today, to those who need a miracle. Amen

  13. Sean of the South: The Widower | The Trussville Tribune - September 8, 2022 12:34 pm

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

  14. jan averett - September 8, 2022 12:52 pm

    So thankful he did not give up on God or his fellow men. God had a plan for his life and he has one for you too.

  15. Cathy M - September 8, 2022 1:02 pm

    This makes my day start out on the right foot. God led Joseph to church that day for a reason. Thanks be to Gid

  16. Lynn B - September 8, 2022 1:14 pm

    As I looked at your sketch of the folded hands, I wondered where the rest of the fingers were. Once I read your story, I realized, “Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors….!” Wonderful! You are always letting us discover things!

  17. Betsey - September 8, 2022 1:41 pm

    Teary eyed!

  18. David Britnell - September 8, 2022 1:42 pm

    Beautiful story! God bless all the Josephs out there!

  19. Henry Armour - September 8, 2022 1:51 pm

    God does answer prayers. They are answered in His time which is often not our own. But He does listen and He does care. I am thankful the good father and widower found a job, or rather, a job found him. God bless him and his now grown children and bless the pastor who gave him the job.

  20. Peggy M. Windham - September 8, 2022 3:41 pm

    I love this! 💜 God is so good! You were at my church last night, Christ United Methodist in Mobile. It was an amazing to see you and hear you in person. You blessed us all with your wit and your music! Thanks so much, Sean!! I hope you’ll come back soon!

  21. MamaD - September 8, 2022 4:53 pm

    Sean – this was greatly needed in this day and time, and beautifully written as usual. Thank you for reminding us how much we all gain from recognizing everyday opportunities to be kind, and then following through with whatever kindness we can give. Not much in life is more significant than this.

  22. Suellen - September 8, 2022 5:23 pm

    God always provides. We’ve had times that we honestly didn’t know where the next loaf of bread was going to come from but it always came from somewhere. We learned to live cheap and we learned to make do but we always had what we needed.

  23. Linda Moon - September 8, 2022 5:25 pm

    Thank you for the message, Joseph. I just now loved on you because of Sean Dietrich’s words about you. Add me to your growing list of “love people”, please!

  24. Joan Brisbois - September 8, 2022 5:46 pm

    Thank you so much Sean for your heart warming
    Stories. I’m a Southern girl from New Braunfels, Texas who somehow ended up in Boquete, Panama.
    I miss the South so much. As I’m sure you know, life is very different here.
    Reading your stories makes me closer to home.
    I would love to purchase your books.
    Thank you !

  25. pattymack43 - September 8, 2022 6:01 pm

    So true! We all must have faith! Blessings!

  26. Gordon - September 8, 2022 7:49 pm

    Such a precious, wonderful story. Thank you for sharing it today, Sean. For some reason, it really touched me; to tears.

  27. MAM - September 8, 2022 10:07 pm

    Dang it, Sean. I’m tired of tears falling – good, happy ones for happy endings, but tears nonetheless. We all must remember that not only people love us but God loves us. Sometimes, we forget! But you, Sean, remind us every day of the good people in this world.

  28. oldandblessed - September 8, 2022 10:22 pm

    Funny thing about this world, you don’t have to look for the good all the time. Sometime, it finds you.

  29. Ruth - September 9, 2022 1:40 am

    Thank you for a good reminder of what God and good people can do. Peace be with you.❤️

  30. Charles A Wyborny - September 9, 2022 3:26 am

    That is so enjoyabe Sean. I still gaze aafferctionaly at the pics we took of You and me andyour wife and me. Good folks.

  31. Ellen - September 9, 2022 4:23 pm

    Being an oldster from the south I well remember when this was much more common than it seems to be in these times. Thank you for reminding me there are still some.

  32. Peter - September 10, 2022 2:47 pm

    Very good! Hard to be optimistic for folks that have taken such a beatin’ from life. I do believe if you keep your chin up, luck can turn, God can move and people around us can help out – -thanks for your inspirational stories!

  33. Deborah Thompson - September 10, 2022 4:55 pm

    … beautiful!

  34. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - September 15, 2022 9:41 pm


  35. Renee Welton - December 10, 2022 1:47 pm

    I’m crying like a baby…💝


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