Virginia. Late afternoon. A nice hotel near an airport.
The soldier carried his heavy bag over a shoulder. He wore his usual ACU jacket, patrol cap, and a reverse flag patch on his shoulder. He stepped off the hotel elevator onto the second floor, removed his cap to reveal a high and tight cut.
He wandered down the long hotel corridor, his tactical boots making dull thuds on the carpet.
Then he double checked the slip of paper in his hand which read: “Room 233.”
He repeated the room number to himself, noting the numbers on the passing doors.
It had been a long six months. He’d been on temporary duty assignment, away from his wife and daughters; away from everything. It gets lonely overseas.
He just arrived on U.S. soil this morning. Then he took two flights to get here. His family was supposed to be meeting him at the airport, but his plane came in a few hours early. So he thought he’d come here and surprise them.
He found the room. The number on the door was 233.
He double- and triple-checked to make sure it was the right room. The last thing you want after being absent from your family for the better part of a year is to surprise the wrong family.
The military man took a deep breath. He was feeling his age today. He’s not old, but he’s got high mileage.
He knocked on the door.
His heart was pounding in his throat. But nothing happened. So he knocked again. But he got the same results. Bupkis.
He leaned against the wall and scratched his buzzed head. Where could they be?
That is when he heard the elevator ding behind him. Then he heard voices down the hall.
He knew those voices.
They were decidedly female voices, the same ones he often hears in his sleep. He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose tightly.
Then he heard the sound of quick footsteps, pounding on the floor. Feet were sprinting toward him.
He never got a chance to brace himself before the grown woman tackled him to the floor. It felt like getting hit by a zamboni. He fell backward like a poleaxed steer. He began laughing and coughing.
She was already kissing him. Her salty tears were wetting his face. Then he was re-tackled. Twice. By two small females who were miniature versions of the first. They leapt on him as though he was a backyard trampoline and shouted, “Daddy’s home! Daddy’s home!”
Meanwhile that same afternoon, over in Wyoming, there was a young woman who was busy creating pictures at her kitchen table. The girl is 14 years old.
For several months, she’s been making art and sending it to random elderly people in nursing homes. Attached to each piece of artwork is a note. Here are a few excerpts from past notes:
“Call me if you ever feel lonely.”
“You are loved. Please write back.”
“Dear So-and-So, whenever you feel bad, please call me.”
Recipients of her artwork actually call on the telephone. She averages a call per week. The girl sometimes spends two or three hours on the phone with these elderly strangers, chatting.
“Most of these people just really need to talk,” the girl’s mother tells me. “And believe me, my daughter gives them an earful.”
Since the pandemic began, the girl has created and sent approximately 1,500 pieces of art. Maybe more.
Take a moment and think about that number.
Lastly, that brings us to Caroline. She is your all-American baseball-team mom. Sometimes, baseball is the central feature to Caroline’s life. Her boys are obsessed.
But last year the local Little League season was cancelled. Suddenly, Caroline’s kids were ships without sails; boats without ports; vessels without rudders. Pick your own nautical analogy.
The pandemic roiled on and her kids’ active lives slowed to an imperceptible crawl. Soon, her sons were spending hours on video-game consoles, and they were becoming less social.
This is when Caroline came up with her grand idea. Her masterstroke.
A community treasure hunt.
But hers was no ordinary scavenger quest. Caroline spent an entire two weeks hiding clues throughout the local area. Clues which led to more clues. Which led to buried treasure.
The whole baseball team got involved, and the scavenger hunt mushroomed into a much bigger operation. Approximately 100 local kids and parents were involved, searching for buried treasure around town.
“It’s sorta what kept us excited,” says Caroline. “It gave us something cool to wake up and do.”
This year, however, baseball is back. Little League season has started. But people still remember last year.
And at every baseball practice, young folks still approach Caroline and thank her for making last year memorable.
“You made summer vacation really fun,” the children usually say. Then, hugs are exchanged. Real embraces. Because kids don’t do fake hugs.
So anyway, I know it’s been a long year. You don’t need anyone to replay the last few hundred days for you. You’ve lived through them. Which is why I’m not going to try to convince you this world is peaches and cream. That wouldn’t be realistic. And it wouldn’t be true.
Even so, I firmly believe that we are rounding the corner toward better times ahead, no matter what naysayers claim. Wonderful things are waiting for you and me. Beautiful, happy, joyous, meaningful, sacred, marvelous things.
And if you don’t believe me, just ask the guests in room 233.
John Steinbach - April 25, 2021 9:14 am
Thank you, Sean. Just thank you.
joan moore - April 25, 2021 11:03 am
More stories please for 2021! Thank you for sharing ❤️
Karen Holderman - April 25, 2021 11:06 am
Thank you. There is always good despite the challenges in life.
Jo Ann - April 25, 2021 11:34 am
Thank you, Sean, for more great stories. Some folks are so creative & inventive, aren’t they?
Peggy (Optional) Jones - April 25, 2021 11:55 am
I needed to hear this today. It absolutely touched my heart and made me misty-eyed. I believe we have rounded that corner and it is so nice to be able to gather with family, exchange real hugs and be able to actually see a person’s face and the Expressions about it. Thank you so much Sean, you have just made my whole month. Be safe and take care.
Susan Paulo - September 10, 2021 2:27 am
Made me misty eyed too when soldier got tackled.
Debbie Taylor - April 25, 2021 12:02 pm
I believe you!
Suzi - April 25, 2021 12:02 pm
Snippets that love, caring and serendipity are always, always happening, even when they are not front page news….
Debbie g - April 25, 2021 12:18 pm
Thanks for encouraging stories they lift us up to where the eagles fly love to you and family on this beautiful day 🌈🌈🌈
Molly - April 25, 2021 12:29 pm
There is good out there. You put good to beautiful words!! Thank you! See you around the corner!!
Jo - April 25, 2021 12:42 pm
Thank you. I hope we take those lessons and make a new, much kinder, more appreciative normal.
Peggy Thompson - April 25, 2021 1:15 pm
Thank you 😀♥️
Shirley - April 25, 2021 1:44 pm
This is the way my mornings go:
1. Devotions from scripture.
2. Sean Dietrich’s gold nuggets
3. Soft classical music
The recipe that works for keeping me grounded and sane.
mystri1 - April 25, 2021 1:52 pm
I forwarded this article to several of our friends because the first story (and all three were great as they always are) hit home. This was how I captioned it:
I’m forwarding this because the first of the three stories below was me.several times over the course of our 25 year career in the military. The first couple of times it was me and just my bride, then plus 1 child, and then 2, and finally 3. And I will confirm that there is no greater joy than coming home from places far away that most people never heard of, to the touches of unconditional love.
Your writing alway strikes a nerve,and every once in awhile it gets personal. Thanks for your effort at keeping us grounded in the realities of life.
Anne - April 25, 2021 2:02 pm
Richard Owen - April 25, 2021 2:19 pm
And, for God’s sake, don’t listen to the so-called “scientists” like Fauci or the idiot that wants to keep We the People running in fear from a virus that has a NINETY-EIGHT PERCENT survival rate. Even today America has only had 10% of the population CONFIRMED with the virus and that doesn’t include those that had such mild or NON-EXISTENT symptoms! Get on with the art of living! Now I am hearing the idiot in the White House is threatening to CANCEL Independence Day. This week in a zoom call to world leaders over climate change he was the only idiot wearing a mask and WITHOUT the nation’s flag behind him. And he still thinks he actually WON the November election!
Ann - April 25, 2021 2:38 pm
“Everything is gonna be all right “❤️
Helen De Prima - April 25, 2021 2:55 pm
From your mouth to God’s ear, Sean!
Robin - April 25, 2021 2:57 pm
I just discovered your writing. I love that you choose to see the good.
Sandra Nelsen - April 25, 2021 3:17 pm
My husband of nearly 45 years is a Navy vet. I remember those reunions.
Tammy S. - April 25, 2021 4:01 pm
Why the New York Times or Washington Post or some other big newspaper is not knocking your door down and offering you a position as lead writer, with full benefits, is beyond me…and I imagine so many others!
We need an “On the Road with Sean Dietrich!” 🥰
We’ll keep Steve Hartman too. Lord knows we need a double dose of really good stories of great Americans everywhere!!
Thanks for these three amazing stories!! 👏🏼
Dawnie B - April 25, 2021 4:18 pm
Thank you, Lord, for Sean!
MAM - April 25, 2021 5:12 pm
Well, this one brought leaky eyes, but it was well worth it. Thanks, Sean, for continually reminding us of the GOOD in this world!
Linda Moon - April 25, 2021 6:10 pm
Actual telephone calls….talking and then hearing the voices of others, treasure hunts, and a Daddy who came home….wonders, all. I believe every word from these stories and the good things that await us, too. A few of them are waiting for me today, including a slap-in-the-face from an alleged Lab in a family “room” called The Pit. I hope you, Writer, and all your readers have a day filled with wonderful things!
Vi - April 25, 2021 8:23 pm
Fabulous to remember that it only takes one or a few to remind us that it’s still good & just around the corner. Thanks Sean for the reminders & inspiration 😘
Gail Bohlman - April 25, 2021 9:52 pm
Sean, I so needed this. Thank you for the smile on my Dave & tear in my eye.
chrisswain3 - April 26, 2021 12:56 am
I hope that you are right. Really, it would be a blessing.
Sarah’s mom Chasity Davis Ritter - April 26, 2021 2:07 am
Yesterday was the first day of Spring season for the 2021 Dream League. The baseball teams for special needs kiddos in our town. They missed both the spring and fall seasons last year because of covid and let me tell you those kiddos were so ready to play!!! It was a beautiful day and it went so fast and was over before we were even ready. But those SMILES lasted all day. I wish I could share my daughters with you but maybe I’ll get to post it on one of your fbook stories. I texted the lady who puts everything together a truly heartfelt thankyou when we got home. She makes such a difference in these kids lives ❤️⚾️ So glad our baseball is back!!
Kate - April 27, 2021 1:24 pm
I will always remember my husband coming home from the Persian gulf and seeing him walk toward us at the Atlanta airport. Our daughter, age 23 started crying and ran to him, our son 16 stood quietly and cried ( it was a surprise – I had told him we were going to the airport to meet a friend of our daughter’s). My husband had the biggest smile on his face and I, so much joy and relief in my heart. We all take so much for granted and life is so fragile, we need to laugh more, express our love more and enjoy the life we have. So many good people doing good things, thank you for always reminding us. We never turn on the TV anymore, too many people using labels to divide us and to try to make us think people are not good. But people are good, and wonderful, and kind, and loving and thank goodness we have you to constantly remind us.