Twenty Bucks

He was broke. We’re talking flat busted. He had forty-three bucks to his name. Single dad. Two kids. Life was a mess.

He found twenty bucks at a gas station. The bill was sitting on the pump, weighted with a rock. A Post-It note was stuck to the bill.

“God bless,” the note read. “Pass it on.”

About him:

He was broke. We’re talking flat busted. He had forty-three bucks to his name. Single dad. Two kids. Life was a mess.

He’d been looking for work for months. He’d taken small jobs, whatever he could find.

His family ate dried beans and rice. They’d been living in a friend’s camper. He worked every task he could drum up. Power-washing driveways, delivering papers, scrubbing toilets.

His friend’s sympathy ran out. They were evicted. He searched classifieds, filled out applications, begged employers.

They left for the city to find work. His car was on “E” before he even hit Clanton. He stopped to use the only forty-three dollars to his name. He prepaid for gas and almost vomited.

Then, it happened.

He was filling his tank. He saw twenty bucks. He tucked it into his shirt pocket. He coasted into Birmingham on fumes.

The first day in town, he walked into a restaurant with his children. He talked to the owner. He offered to wash dishes in exchange for feeding his kids. The owner agreed.

The things a parent will do.

They slept in their car, eating from Styrofoam boxes.

The next day, he visited construction sites, hat in hand. He was met with “I’m sorry, sir.”

That night, he washed dishes until midnight. His hands were pruny, his energy was spent.

He met a young Hispanic waitress. She was worse off than he was. Tips were bad, she had no husband, and four kids.

Before she left, he handed her the twenty dollars with the sticky note.

She read the note aloud. “God bless. Pass it on.” And she cried.

His two children huddled beside him in the backseat that night. He cried himself to sleep.

Homelessness is a downward staircase. You stumble a few times, then break every bone on the way down.

Morningtime. Tapping on his car window. A young Mexican man, and several workers dressed in white.

“Was it YOU who give my sister money?” the young man said in a thick accent.

“It was me.”

They were a painting crew. None of the workers spoke much English.

“We could use someone who speak Inglés,” said the young man. “Joo want a job?”

It was almost too good to be true. They painted houses the size of golf-courses. Several years he worked with them.

He was an asset. He confronted crooked contractors. He spoke English to customers. He wrote receipts and filled out bank deposits.

Some days, he spent ten hours with a roller in his hand. Some days longer. They worked like animals. They made decent money.

And that’s the story.

Though you ought to know that last year, he closed on the purchase of a new house. And you should know that his children are in high school. His new wife is a jewel. And he just bought a new truck.

He’s older. The lines on his face are from a lifetime of trouble.

He keeps a roll of twenties in his pocket. It’s not for spending. It’s because it only takes one small thing to alter the events of someone’s life.

And if you should ever find a twenty on a gas pump near Birmingham, Alabama…

Now you’ll know why.

God bless. Pass it on.


  1. Sandi in FL - January 25, 2018 8:00 am

    Sean, so many readers comment that your stories bring tears to their eyes. Well, after reading this one, I’m crying as I type. Your remark that ‘it only takes one small thing to alter the events of someone’s life’ is so very true. This heartwarming, poignant story is proof of that. Sincere thanks for sharing it.

  2. Susan Hammett Poole - January 25, 2018 8:47 am

    Oh, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this story….such a tale of hope and goodness. Must head to the bank for a roll of twenties on Thursday so I can “Pass it on.”

  3. Susan - January 25, 2018 10:10 am

    Sean, you are a wonderful storyteller. Your daily story sets the tone for my day. Thank you.

  4. CaroG87 - January 25, 2018 11:06 am

    Dude, how do you manage to do it each day? By that, I mean write the words that seep their way into my tired, cynically-leaning soul and make me realize there’s still good in the world?

    • jackmokan - January 25, 2018 4:03 pm

      I’m with you CaroG87!

    • Kathy Young - January 25, 2018 6:08 pm


    • Afi Scruggs - January 26, 2018 4:54 pm

      I have the same question. I wake up at 2 a.m. so I can read Sean’s posts. No lie.

  5. Sherrie Kulwicki - January 25, 2018 11:30 am

    I love you. That’s all.

  6. Frank - January 25, 2018 11:52 am

    Yes! What CaroG said above!
    I know the road that life gave you was painful and rough for many years, but oh my, what you have gleaned from those times enriches us all beyond what you can ever imagine.

    • Miss Jennie - January 25, 2018 4:52 pm

      Yes and yes… Sean you truly have a gift. All I can add is just WOW!

  7. Nancy Vining - January 25, 2018 12:01 pm

    You. You make me cry at 7AM. I wish I had some $20 bills to give out. I have sticky notes so when the time comes, I’ll be ready!

  8. Dell - January 25, 2018 12:14 pm

    Smiling, with tears…

  9. janiesjottings - January 25, 2018 12:33 pm

    Once again my heart has been touched. Thank you Sean for writing about the good in this world. My husband and I look forward to reading your blog every morning.

  10. Nancy Eldridge - January 25, 2018 12:49 pm

    Dear Sean,
    Thank you for “passing it on” every day through your writing. You make all who read see the day with different eyes.

  11. dkbfox - January 25, 2018 12:53 pm

    Our son has been with out a job for over a year. Without our help, he would have been in this man’s shoes. He recently was hired and his life will be okay. My heart aches for those who don’t have someone to help them. I will begin the $20 dollar program in our area. Thank you for your words.

  12. Dianne - January 25, 2018 1:32 pm

    Thank you, Sean, for showing the goodness of people in your blogs. Seeing this goodness always helps start my day off right…………..along with my quiet time with God. Thank you!!!

  13. Nonna Gordon Woods - January 25, 2018 1:34 pm

    Tears are falling as I read this! Such a great story! It is true …it only takes one small event to change a life! Thank you for sharing!

  14. Steven P Bailey - January 25, 2018 1:37 pm


  15. Harriet - January 25, 2018 1:47 pm

    I’m smiling through tears. I hope the person who left the original twenty on the gas pump sees this and knows he began a string of life-changing events.

  16. Sue Cronkite - January 25, 2018 1:51 pm

    Truth, full of heart.

  17. Debbie Taylor - January 25, 2018 1:55 pm

    I loved this story, Sean … it so true.

  18. Kathy Grey - January 25, 2018 2:23 pm

    Sean, I saw a comment about you on Facebook and immediately signed up for your blog. I am so glad I did! Thank you for your wonderful stories!

  19. Penn Wells - January 25, 2018 2:54 pm

    Sean, you do a great job of remaining astutely apolitical in your stories. I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say your readers appreciate going to a place each morning that isn’t full of rancor. But I also want to thank you for being a voice of compassion and reason in a time of great madness in our country.

    I would not start the day without your therapy.

  20. Pat - January 25, 2018 3:24 pm

    Another God at work story…last night in bible study the pastor asked how we have seen God working in the last week and I just had to share yesterday’s “Old Friends” story!
    Thanks Sean!

  21. heather h braziel - January 25, 2018 3:35 pm

    yesterday I gave a young woman twenty bucks for delivering my lost package when she didn’t have too. She could have kept it and sold contents. She was an honest person. I hope my twenty bucks did more for here than it did for me.

  22. Sandra Marrar - January 25, 2018 3:38 pm

    God bless you for sharing this story. It gives a person hope in mankind .

  23. Jack Quanstrum - January 25, 2018 4:31 pm

    Wonderfully Beautiful story !

  24. martydlaska - January 25, 2018 5:06 pm

    I been that broke guy, not quite that bad, but a couple of days away. The generosity of one person changed my path. I am a counselor now for many years and I still remember working for tips, side jobs, cleaning hotel rooms and looking out for each other. Thanks for a great reminder.

  25. jnearen - January 25, 2018 5:22 pm

    “Homelessness is a downward staircase. You stumble a few times, then break every bone on the way down.” Poetry, Sean.

  26. Barbara Schweck - January 25, 2018 5:43 pm

    I agree with jnearen that those words are true poetry. You are a wonderful writer and so wonderful to share all of your words with us who need to hear them. Since reading your work, I look at people so differently- Thank you.

  27. Jack Darnell - January 25, 2018 6:19 pm

    As always, I enjoyed the entry of life. I believe in good folk, and I think there are a lot of ’em! Of course U B 1.

  28. Arlene - January 25, 2018 9:51 pm

    This one made me cry. And I am going to the bank to get $20s….

  29. Jody - January 26, 2018 1:33 am

    Thanks for sharing such wonderful stories of compassion and understanding

  30. Shelby Wright - January 26, 2018 2:48 am

    I heard you tonight in Mobile. Thank you for telling your story. It’s when we do that lives are changed and the good is passed on. Shelby

  31. Michael Hawke - January 26, 2018 3:30 am

    Thank you. That was wonderful. May God bless.

  32. Lucretia - January 27, 2018 8:22 am

    Beautiful, thank you, Sean, for passing it on and I shall.


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