He was tall, white-haired. He wore a tattered cap. He was older, mid-seventies, with shoulders broader than an intercostal barge.

She is a waitress here. She has white hair, and a habit of winking when she smiles. Her name is Mary. I know this because it’s on her nametag.

I don’t know Mary—today’s the first time we’ve met—but I want to be her forever-grandson.

I just watched Mary get dog-cussed.

It happened when she swiped a young man’s credit card at the register. It was denied. She was quiet and discreet with him.

He shouted at her, “Run it again, lady!”

This made everyone’s ears perk up. It’s not every day you see some punk yelling at Barbara Bush.

She swiped the card. Denied.

“Do you have another card?” she asked in a soft voice.

The man shouted, “Another card? Don’t treat me like I’m @#$ing stupid, lady!”

Her mouth fell open. So did everyone’s.

The young man didn’t stop. He went on to say things which I can’t repeat—my mother reads these things.

The air in the restaurant went stale, like in old Westerns, just before John Wayne pumps some desperate bandito into the everlasting abyss.

The customers in the restaurant looked around at each other. The man in the booth beside me stood. So did I. We walked toward the register.

But another man beat us to it.

He was tall, white-haired. He wore a tattered cap. He was older, mid-seventies, with shoulders broader than an intercostal barge.

The old man said, “What seems to be the problem over here?”

The angry kid spat, “My card won’t work.”

The old man let his eyes do his talking. Hard eyes. The same eyes I’ve seen in a hundred Westerns, just before the hero draws a greased Colt Single Action Peacemaker and opens the gates of Armageddon.

The old man was calm. He reached for his wallet. He said to Mary, in a syrupy voice, “I’d like to pay for this gentleman’s meal, ma’am.”

Then, he placed a large hand on the gentleman’s shoulder. He massaged it.

I remember my father giving me the same kinds of shoulder grips long ago, just before he’d explain why I’d be going off to bed without supper.

The old man stared at the kid. He said more with a smile than I can say in five hundred words.

“Be sweet,” he told the young man. “Okay son?”

The kid left the restaurant, climbed into an oversized truck, and rolled out of the parking lot.

Those of us inside smiled at Mary. And if I were a betting man, I’d bet she earned a pocketful of good tips that day.

Mary gathered my dirty plates. I made a light remark, and hoped for one of her smiles—maybe a wink. But she wasn’t in the winking mood.

I’ve thought about her all day. And I’ve also thought about the angry people in this world—and how many they hurt.

And I’ve thought about men in tattered ball caps, with big hands, who refuse to tolerate ugliness, no matter how rampant. Men who have a holster full of gentle words, and aren’t afraid to use them.

I hope I can be one of those men.

Be sweet.


  1. Pamela McEachern - October 20, 2018 6:02 am

    You will be…but in so many ways you already are.

    Peace and Love from Birmingham

  2. Karen - October 20, 2018 6:49 am

    Love wins. Love always wins.

  3. Susie - October 20, 2018 10:21 am

    There are so many angry young people.
    But, there are also many young gentlemen too. I told my grandson yesterday, at least 3 times, that I love his manners. His parents are teaching him the right way.
    Thank you to all the people who use their manners every day.

    • Pat - October 20, 2018 10:57 pm

      Susie please say thanks from me to your son and daughter in law or daughter and son in law for raising your grandson the right way. I always compliment parents who have mannerly children, these children stand out!

  4. Karen Erwin-Brown - October 20, 2018 10:49 am

    Good admonition for all.

  5. Sandra Smith - October 20, 2018 10:51 am

    I LOVE IT !!!

  6. Janie's Jottings - October 20, 2018 11:08 am

    And once again Sean you remind us that we are all human beings with feelings. Thank God for old men who stand up for what’s right, may we ever have them. There are lot’s of people like Mary in the world and sometimes they need for us to take their side and stand up for what’s right.

  7. Kristy Swanson - October 20, 2018 11:31 am

    Such a great moment. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Chuck Gerlach - October 20, 2018 11:39 am

    While I love what the older gentlemen did for the poor waitress, my bet is the kid with the baseball cap probably will continue to be a complete and total jerk. until someone sets him straight.

  9. Mary Lou Casey - October 20, 2018 11:43 am

    One of my favorites. I grew up being reminded to be sweet and to “play pretty, now – you hear!”. The anger I see all around breaks my heart.

  10. Rhonda the Time Keeper - October 20, 2018 11:50 am

    They need role models. This is the first generation of full fledged day care center raised children. And the anger is a reflection of what they hear and see everyday from the people who raised them!!! Anger, impatience, complacency and total lack of manners are signs of the raising they used to get at home. Day care centers focus on education and preparation for moving them down the line. They are not parents. The raising of the person inside is being neglected by parents who are dog tired and stressed at the end of the day. What we are seeing are children with severe Mama deficiency.

    And I doubt those tips made that sweet waitress feel much better. not really.

    We must each one, teach one.

  11. Another pilgrim - October 20, 2018 12:17 pm

    Wow! What a story, and so appropriate for our times. When the time comes, I hope I can be like that senior gentleman.

  12. Alice - October 20, 2018 12:57 pm

    Dear Sean what a heartwarming story❤️I love all your stories I don’t know you but I know you are a very sweet man God Bless you❤️

  13. Leia Lona - October 20, 2018 1:05 pm

    The world could use some more of those men now..

  14. MermaidGrammy - October 20, 2018 1:12 pm

    You may not have this gentleman’s shoulders, but you already have his heart

  15. Mike Guilday - October 20, 2018 1:17 pm

    Me too! (Be the John Wayne type)!

  16. paula jones - October 20, 2018 1:23 pm

    Thank you. If only the world understood the power of gentle words. If only.

  17. Erin - October 20, 2018 1:24 pm

    Kindness leads us to repentance. All that hate spewing comes from deep, deep wounds. What that young man needs is not another enemy, but a friend. Love your writing, and excited to practice kindness today.

  18. Terri C Boykin - October 20, 2018 1:30 pm

    Love you much Sean.

  19. Heidi - October 20, 2018 1:32 pm

    This brought back a wonderful memory of my dad. He had a grip like that. And the look. He was a gentleman through and through. With guidance like that, you grow up respectful. I think my grown kids know that look too…..from me.
    Thank you again for a great lesson.

  20. Bev deJarnette - October 20, 2018 1:57 pm

    Sean, again you have brought a sweet, sweet spirit in the midst of an angry world. Thank you for continuing to turn your eyes to share the goodness you see!!
    Be sweet ?
    I’d be honored to be your grandmother!!!

  21. Joy Johnson - October 20, 2018 2:29 pm

    You always bring a smile to my face. My friend was forwarding your messages until I asked “who is this man” and I subscribed. I wish your message could be read daily on the national news to bring a bit of kindness to this troubled world

  22. Gwen Monroe - October 20, 2018 2:33 pm

    There’s a lot of this hateful,disrespectful attitude now. Wish it wasn’t so, but it is. Then there’s the white haired man. God bless him.

  23. Jenny Young - October 20, 2018 3:10 pm

    Love this story…it seems I’ve heard it before? Not that I mind hearing great stories like this over & over. We need reminders.

  24. Edna B. - October 20, 2018 3:44 pm

    God Bless that white haired gentleman. This world could use lots more men like him. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

  25. Grant Minton - October 20, 2018 3:45 pm

    Sean. I don’ t usually respond to anything. I am a Cumberland Presbyterian Minster, retired substance abuse counselor and a part time Community living associate. I have read your columb daily for about 3 months. You inspire me (most of the time).waittress was one of the best, it brought tears.Solider was also amazing. I identify with the old man with the kind words. Keep up the good work. You are A writer.

  26. BJean - October 20, 2018 4:06 pm

    Sean, you do seem to dig the priceless nuggets from everyday life. “A holster full of gentle words,” Now that’s priceless and profound. ?

  27. Cheryl Ratcliff - October 20, 2018 5:17 pm

    Sean, for some reason as I read this story, when I was picturing the gentleman you described coming to Mary’s rescue, there he was, Sam Elliott, the movie star. I could hear his voice telling the young man, “Be Sweet, okay son?”

    • Pamela McEachern - October 20, 2018 11:31 pm

      I see that too. Nice to see Sam Elliott anytime. LOL

  28. Susan Swiderski - October 20, 2018 5:58 pm

    “A holster full of gentle word.” That’s just perfect, and the world could use a whole lot more of them.

  29. Gay Beck - October 20, 2018 6:24 pm

    Absolutely wonderful story that teaches so much! Thank you for this great life lesson Sean.

  30. Hilda Thomas - October 20, 2018 7:24 pm

    From the inner disposition of the heart, hidden in the imperishable of quite and gentle spirit, which is of great worth before God. Blessings to this Gentle Man!

    Thanks Shan, for showing the beauty of God in your daily writing. You remind us of our blessings in a trouble world. You have a gift you share to brighten our day!!

  31. Kathy Grey - October 20, 2018 8:35 pm

    Sean, you are one of those people — caring and kind. ❤️

  32. Vasca Beall - October 20, 2018 8:50 pm

    Love never fails and you help us dwell on the love, goodness and all those wonders that surround us and push the darkness away. You’re wonderful and you’ve got tons of fans who know so. We so need the sweet stuff in this world. God is always in charge no matter what. Love you for your wonderfulness. Yes!!!

  33. Susan Kennedy - October 20, 2018 10:14 pm

    That was awesome!?

  34. Pat - October 20, 2018 11:00 pm

    I wish we would stop trying to emasculate men……………….

  35. Judy - October 20, 2018 11:19 pm

    Your Mama is proud, I am sure.

    I am too.

  36. Pam Pfister - October 20, 2018 11:57 pm

    I love this particular article by you so much – renews my belief that there continue to exist MEN who truly exist to be the defender of others

  37. Betty Green - October 21, 2018 12:35 am

    “Be sweet”, such is the way of genteel Southerness. Those are the words I always spoke to my children as they walked out the door on the way to the busyness of their lives. That is, until one day I was questioned by an impertinent house guest from “down under” as to whatever did I mean, as she was a grown woman who didn’t need to be told what to do with syrupy sappy words! (She was my son’s guest in our home for a few days, all of 20 few years old!)

    Well, she stopped me cold with her words, sort of crushed my spirit, you might say! I stumbled over my tongue trying to explain that it was just a southernism that all mamas said to their children as they stepped across the threshold of safety into the world.

    There was no appeasing her and her feathers remained ruffled for the remainder of her visit! She returned to her life “down under”; my son did not join into wedded bliss with her and I wonder to this day if she ever was able to “be sweet”!

  38. Debbie - October 21, 2018 12:47 am

    My bet is that the young man was embarrassed, but won’t forget the lesson he was taught by that gentleman. My hope is that one day, when his luck has turned, he will pass the lesson on to some deserving person.

    Love your stories.

  39. Robert Chiles - October 23, 2018 12:04 am

    Over the years, I counseled many a couple prior to marriage, and I always told them, “Just be nice.” “Just be nice.”

  40. Patricia - December 11, 2018 7:36 am

    We need to hear about the good endings. Thanks again for not letting us down.?❤

  41. Bonida Phillips Kimbrough - December 11, 2018 8:23 am

    You, already are that kind of man. I’ve been right there. It isn’t possible to describe how much it hurts when someone talks to you that way. It is so deep it may be pushed to the back of your memory but, it creeps back in once in a while and tears a deeper bloody gash in the pit of your soul. I don’t know if that is only a female thing but suspect it’s not. Love you Sean <3 deep and wide son.

  42. Gwen Yarbrough - December 11, 2018 11:53 am

    Sad that children are not taught to be nice now days. My mother would sit us on the sofa and say just sit there until you can be nice. Worked like a charm to have to sit all by yourself with nothing but your thoughts.

  43. Tamera - December 12, 2018 12:36 am

    I see similar outburst where I work, anger, frustration and it seems to be so easy to blame someone else for your short comings. I just try to remember that my grandparents taught me to take the high road and to kill them with kindness and I try my best to be that person every day.


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