I didn’t expect anyone to know me in Newnan, Georgia. I don’t expect people to know me anywhere. I’m just a guy with an overbite. I’m nobody. I’m a faceless individual who grew up in a home whose most impressive architectural feature was its dual axles.
I won’t say I’m Florida white trash. But I won’t say I ain’t.
We rolled into town early for the literature festival where I was making a speech at the historic courthouse. I drove past the brick storefronts, the stately church spires, the old Alamo Theater, and the charming antique stores selling acres of vintage Dale Earnhardt commemorative plates.
I love it here. Every time I visit Newnan I have vague recollections of youthful days spent here. When we lived with my aunt in Atlanta as a kid, my cousin and I would visit Newnan and go look for creative ways to either blow our money or make the front page of the Newnan Times-Herald. Either by feats of heroism or heathenism.
I’m older and uglier now, whereas Newnan’s downtown hasn’t changed a bit. It looks the same as it always has, only more so.
When I was walking through the parking lot before my speech, a Black woman approached me. She was middle-aged. Her hair was in Sisterlocks and she was wearing a red sleeveless jumper. She had a ribbon in her hair and lots of bracelets.
“Sean,” she said.
I looked around to make sure she was actually calling my name because you never know. Lots of people are named Sean these days.
When I was a kid, the name Sean was an uncommon name. But as I got older more parents started naming their kids Sean, Shawn, Shaun, Shawnda, or Shawnathan.
Truthfully, I wasn’t crazy about my name growing up. Although, at this age I realize it could have been worse, my mother could have named me Engelbert.
The woman asked if it was okay to hug me. I said sure, and we embraced.
“I’ve always wanted to meet you,” she said.
“You have?” I said.
She wore an insulin pump. And there were mottled scars all over her arms. One large scar on her neck. I learned how she got those scars when she told me a long story.
Her childhood was traumatic. Her father killed both himself and her mother when she was a young woman. He tried to kill her, too, but she got away. Again, it’s a long story. But she tells it well.
The point she was making was that her life was hard. Bone hard. She failed high school. By age 27 she was a single woman with three kids, diabetic, and she didn’t want to be alive anymore. She had a job at a fast-food chain restaurant, she was behind on rent, and her crummy car only ran on days of the week starting with P.
“I wasn’t suicidal,” she said. “But I was done, I was ready to quit trying.”
The woman’s salvation came when her teenage daughter began sending emails to friends and family asking people to pray for her mother, and to call her mother’s cell phone just to say they were thinking of her. To pull her back from the edge.
“One day, I got almost 100 phone calls from people my daughter emailed. My friends told me they weren’t gonna let me fail. After that, people were always at our house, checking on me, making sure I wasn’t alone. People cooked for me, brought me food, slept in my guest bedroom, prayed with me and watched my kids. Whatever I needed.”
Then something shifted inside her. It happened when she met a woman at work who had just earned her Georgia high-school equivalency diploma. The very next morning, our heroine enrolled. She earned her GED, and went on to complete community college, too.
But she didn’t stop there, either. Not even close.
“I just finished my PhD last year,” she said.
When her story ended, she threw her strong arms around me and there were big tears in her eyes. I asked why she was telling me all this.
“Because, this is exactly the kinda [expletive] you write about, I just wanted to tell you my story. It doesn’t matter how [bleeped] up your life is. Prayer works. Love works. Kindness works. Goodness works.”
We embraced once more and she almost ruptured my ribcage. Before we parted ways I asked what she did for a living.
She smiled. “I’m a family therapist now.”
Kathleen Jun Magyar - June 7, 2022 6:16 am
🇿🇦🇿🇦Norma Den - June 7, 2022 7:07 am
As usual a heart wrenching story with positive ending. You’re a star & a big hug from South Africa 🇿🇦 for helping me see positive signs. I love the name Sean & my first child was to be called Sean, however he ended up as Geoff . In all the forms of Sean you forgot LeShawn 🤣🤣🤣
MH - June 7, 2022 8:14 am
Thanks for the pep talk! Its 2am..I cant sleep because Im at the overwhelmed-ready-to-quit-trying-phase-raising-teens-as-a-widow. The only thing in my inbox is a notification of a bank deposit, a calendar reminder, and this article. I’ll keep on trying..thank you for sharing!
Susan - June 7, 2022 9:30 am
Praying for you MH! Keep hoping and trusting In God!
Susie - June 7, 2022 11:08 pm
MH, please hang in there. Try taking one day at a time, put one foot in front of the other. When you are feeling, try calming breaths. Slowly, in thru the nose, out thru the mouth. If you practice it, you WILL notice it helps. But it does take practice. Don’t give up on it. Keep practicing it and it WILL benefit you!! I’m hugging you HARD and LONG right now.
Joann - June 8, 2022 5:50 pm
I have no advice, but I’m saying a prayer for you right now.
Barbara - June 7, 2022 8:36 am
As always, just what the Dr. Ordered
Allen - June 7, 2022 9:06 am
Mary - June 7, 2022 9:43 am
That’s some wonderful inspiration. ❤️🙏🏽❤️
Virginia Russell - June 7, 2022 9:49 am
This woman reminds me of so many students I got to know while teaching in a community college. Thank you for this.
Lander - June 7, 2022 10:23 am
Wow, those things do work. It’s easy forget sometimes. Thanks
Cathie Fowler - June 7, 2022 10:42 am
I’m so glad I read your emails first thing in the morning. This one was a wonderful start to my day! Thanks. My husband and I just got home from celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary and I’m still feeling warm and fuzzy. Glad you reinforced it his morning. Have a wonderful day!
Ron Mahn - June 7, 2022 11:27 am
Hope … I think it may be God’s chief byproduct of His Love … almost always offered through one of us to another one of us in need of it. I’d say Sean, you’ve become pretty good at that…
janet - June 7, 2022 11:47 am
From our struggles, come our glories. If only we will let them. Thank you, Sean, for sharing her story.
Christine - June 7, 2022 11:53 am
Dear MH, keep going. Praying for you and your family. So sorry your husband passed away. He’s watching over you and things will get better.
Keep looking up and praying.
Jan - June 7, 2022 12:07 pm
Oh so beautiful!
Paul McCutchen - June 7, 2022 12:07 pm
turned 70 today Sean and your stories have been giving me a start to my day for some time now.
Leigh Amiot - June 7, 2022 12:08 pm
As it so often happens, our ministry in life springboards from the worst thing that happened to us. I’m in awe this woman is a family therapist after what her father did, but then again, who better?
Kay - June 7, 2022 5:00 pm
Leigh, your first sentence is so true. It’s true for me, true for some of my friends, and you’re right: who better to be a family therapist than someone who truly understands what others have been through. .
Susie - June 7, 2022 11:11 pm
So true, Leigh and Kay!!
Leigh Amiot - June 7, 2022 12:09 pm
P.S. Happy Birthday, Mr. McCutchen! 🎂 🥳
Linda Lewis - June 7, 2022 12:11 pm
What a lovely, refreshing story. You write some great stories. I’m glad that you meet all these interesting people. I look forward to your column every day. Have a great day.
Denise Walker - June 7, 2022 12:15 pm
Another heartwarming story from another person you have touched with your words. I’m amazed by your ability to reach out and touch hearts. Thank you for sharing your words/stories/life. They DO make a difference.
Helen - June 7, 2022 12:19 pm
God is good!
Melanie - June 7, 2022 12:22 pm
And I would love to be able to give that amazing woman a big ole (((❤️hug ❤️))). She is a miracle.
Kay - June 7, 2022 12:26 pm
THIS IS FABULOUS!!!!!!
Sean of the South: Welcome to Newnan | The Trussville Tribune - June 7, 2022 12:33 pm
[…] By Sean Dietrich, Sean of the South […]
B.D. Thrasher - June 7, 2022 12:51 pm
Please don’t ever forget that you have a ministry. Don’t allow anybody to tell you any different. It is needed more than ever these days. Hell, I’m a 67 year old former (3) small business owner, beach bum, hippie, Methodist, Baptist, episcopal, granddaddy hellion; and I need it Sean.
J - June 7, 2022 12:52 pm
That must’ve been 1 special email her daughter sent out!
Dale Parsons - June 7, 2022 12:52 pm
You really never know. Wow.
Candice - June 7, 2022 1:05 pm
Misha Benson - June 7, 2022 1:13 pm
I just signed up for your “column” yesterday due to the influence of my editor/publisher at the Newnan Times-Herald. I have been reading some of your past columns and I must say, I am so pleased. Keep up the great work…we need you!
JonDragonfly - June 7, 2022 1:21 pm
Hey, MH. I care. And so do all of Sean’s followers. Much love to you. And strength. And peace. And love to those rowdy teens in your life. They’ll turn out all right.
Again, love to you.
Sandie Donner - June 7, 2022 1:27 pm
And, Sean – whether you realize it or not – you are very much a ‘family therapist’, as well. Whether for one or more than one member of a family, your shared work makes a real difference in people’s lives. Thank you for giving me and members of my extended family that experience. We are grateful.
Ruth Mitchell - June 7, 2022 1:31 pm
Such a heart-warming, hopeful story!
Priscilla Rodgers - June 7, 2022 1:46 pm
Praying for tofu MH. Hang in there, God is good!
Tommy McNeil - June 7, 2022 1:32 pm
I have been meaning to write you for a while, it’s not something I usually do. We have so much in common and I find more with each of your columns. As I sit here this morning looking out over the Gulf of Mexico from a condo balcony on Navarre Beach, feel’s like a good time to write.
I am a little older than you, grew up on the west side of Atlanta, spent lot’s of time in Newnan where my grandparents and a good bit of my family lived. I loved Lewis Grizzard’s column and books. I am an avid Braves fan, I became a fan in 1965 when the announcement was made that they would move to Atlanta. I had gone to several “Crackers” games with my dad but never got to see a Brave’s game with him. He put a shotgun in his mouth April 15, 1966 before we had the chance. He was a WWII vet who had started his service at the age of 17, I believe he saw more than he could process or out grow and it haunted him until he fixed it himself. I grew up with a strong mother who raised three of us by herself, me being the oldest, I was seven when he died.
I now live in Cullman, AL and my office is in Birmingham, I sell flat glass for architectural purposes. Avondale is a place I visit often. I have a customer there, NelBran Glass on 2nd Ave S. It’s also one of my favorite places to eat, Saw’s, Post Office Pizza, Rodney Scotts, Avondale Common House, and of course the brewery. I have an affection for a cold brew and country music also.
I would welcome the chance to sit down with you over a beer and a sandwich and just discuss life.
Judy - June 7, 2022 1:58 pm
God is indeed so good!!
Annie - June 7, 2022 2:05 pm
When you see her again tell her I think she’s amazing! And hug her for me
Susie Flick - June 7, 2022 2:40 pm
Very inspiring tale, happy for her turning her life around and becoming a family therapist. From your conversation with her it sounds like she is a great influence on many. Always enjoy hearing of someone turning their life around and then helping others. Kudos!
Suellen - June 7, 2022 2:54 pm
Amen and Amen. Good for her!
beachdreamer - June 7, 2022 3:16 pm
Dear MH…You forgot to mention you got this awesome email from Sean of the South in your Inbox! It was there for a reason…for encouragement…to tell you don’t quit! The woman he wrote about had several strikes against her, but God wasn’t thru with her. Neither is He through with you! You probably just got put on several peoples prayer list…definitely on mine. I hope Sean’s story will inspire you.
Thanks Sean for sharing this story. We never know how far our words will reach! God bless you.
Sandi. - June 7, 2022 3:30 pm
Sean, sincere thanks for sharing this woman’s wonderful success story. Best wishes to her and blessings in abundance.
Deborah Blount - June 7, 2022 4:42 pm
This has got to be one of your most beautiful stories. Thank you for sharing it.
AlaRedClayGirl - June 7, 2022 4:42 pm
Awesome story! MH, I am praying that God will give you courage and strength to meet the challenges of each day.
BW Bus - June 7, 2022 4:44 pm
This was a good one…. I hope everyone that reads it, spreads a little kindness today…..!your words are really motivational, Sean.. thanks you 🤟🏻🥲
Beverly - June 7, 2022 4:45 pm
BEX - June 7, 2022 5:21 pm
HOPE! It’s in every one of your columns and it is what we need! God bless!
JOANNNE LAY - June 7, 2022 5:27 pm
WONDERFUL!! THANK YOU FOR SHARING HER STORY!
Linda J - June 7, 2022 6:18 pm
wow–just wow! Better days were ahead for her, thanks to the encouragement and help she received.
Carol Pilmer - June 7, 2022 6:55 pm
ANOTHER INCREDIBLE STORY….AMAZING HOW YOU ARE ABLE TO TOUCH THE LIVES OF SO MANY, IN SO MANY WAYS….Never stop writing, Sean…Til Next Time
Becky Souders - June 7, 2022 7:39 pm
My sister is a retired family therapist. They are a blessed bunch. Love your words, Sean. Thanks.
Linda Moon - June 7, 2022 8:13 pm
When I was a kid one of my Aunts moved in with my single mom to help pay the mortgage. That didn’t make us trash. The house we shared is now demolished and was thrown out like trash a long time ago. If I had known the woman you just j told me about, I would’ve called her and taught her, too. Thank you for writing her story!
MAM - June 7, 2022 8:28 pm
And as I have told others, your life’s path leads you always forward toward your life’s purpose. I know mine did! Hers obviously did, too! Good for her!
Patricia Gibson - June 7, 2022 8:41 pm
What a blessing ❤️❤️
Karen - June 7, 2022 9:05 pm
Every human has so much potential. I was blessed to teach kids who didn’t have advantages and hard home lives. They were amazing kids. I am proud of them all. I really dislike words like white trash or red necks.
Barbara J Schweck - June 7, 2022 9:29 pm
Amazing, beautiful story. Thanks for sharing!! And thank her for sharing it with you
Sandy Laster - June 7, 2022 11:18 pm
That is wonderful. God bless you and her.
Chasity Davis Ritter - June 8, 2022 1:48 am
That’s so wonderful. Thank you for sharing her story and if she read this and these comments God Bless you honey and may He always keep you in the palm of His hand!! I’m so proud of you!!
Pam - June 8, 2022 1:44 pm
This is an echo from God…I am reading the book, Win the Day, by Mark Batterson. What you and this dear lady said, and your life, really, is spoken of in the first 60 pages or so….wow God!
Susan Wolf - June 8, 2022 2:36 pm
Years ago when I shared with my therapist the trauma and poverty of my childhood, I said, “Somehow I survived” and she said, “You did more than that – you thrived.” I choose joy. My personal mission statement (a Stephen Covey prompt) is “Seek peace. Celebrate life. Share joy.” God bless you, Sean, to keep sharing hope and joy.
Page Leftwich - June 8, 2022 3:56 pm
Wonderful life story! GOD IS GOOD!
Dan Wise - June 8, 2022 11:11 pm
Newnan Georgia is the home of Allan Jackson, Country Music legend…!!!
Sally - June 11, 2022 2:50 am
Newnan is a town of overcomers…..just look at the bounce back made from the tornado last year. I live in Moreland, but went to high school in Newnan (graduated with Alan Jackson in fact). People in our county go “to town” almost everyday. I appreciate you writing about this special lady….but I bet she doesn’t think she is special though…just extremely loved and blessed. And she, in turn, blessed you with her story and we are blessed by you both.
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - June 11, 2022 10:28 pm
Sean Mulvaney - June 12, 2022 12:01 pm
Sean (without an ‘h”. The O.G. no vowels version) is the only real way to spell it.
Alice Grimes - June 13, 2022 3:34 pm
Thank God there are still people like those who came to her rescue. You are one of those