Young Minds

At club meetings, members store cellphones in a locked safe. Their mothers serve pimento cheese sandwiches and juice boxes. And the kids talk about, say, Leo Tolstoy.

The sun rose over the Alabamian highway, and it was pure majesty. The sound of birds was music. I was on my way to speak to a book club.

I don’t usually speak to book clubs, namely because I’m no good at it. I’ve found that avid readers are smarter than I am. Most often, it goes like this:

A man in steel-rimmed glasses stands and asks a question like: “What was your subjective motivation within the pretext of the outlined apparatus of your—dare I suggest?—almost quasi-static prose?”

I usually just mumble something about current tax laws, take a sip of water, and say my closing remarks:

“It’s been a bona fide treat, folks. A bona fide treat.”

Then it’s off to KFC for some bona fide supper.

This book club, however, is different. These are thirteen-year-olds.

A girl named Claire emailed me several weeks ago. She told me their group of friends formed a club that reads books instead of playing with phones.

At club meetings, members store cellphones in a locked safe. Their mothers serve pimento cheese sandwiches and juice boxes. And the kids talk about, say, Leo Tolstoy.

They are smart kids. They read authors like Robert Frost, Carson McCullers, Walt Whitman, and one redheaded writer whose truck has needed new brake rotors since 2002.

I arrived in a residential neighborhood of manicured lawns. I wasn’t sure whether I should wear my tweed jacket with the elbow patches. I decided against it.

Their mother invited me inside. I shook hands with kids and parents. A kid named Brad held his hand out and said, “Cellphone, please, sir.”

He locked my cellphone in a fireproof safe with the other phones, then showed me to the den. The living room was full of kids sitting on the floor.

The round table started by discussing the Mark Twain book they’d been reading, “A Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.” I sipped a juicebox and listened to them talk to each other like regular kids did before cellphones ruled the world.

It was beautiful. Today, many children use cellphones to communicate more than they use eye-contact. My cousin’s kids, for instance, don’t know how to say “What’s for dinner, Mama?” without thumb-typing it.

Subsequently, after a brief discussion on Mark Twain, it was my turn to speak. I made sure I used the word “subsequently” a few times.

And, I tried my best. But, to be honest, I didn’t know WHAT to say to these young faces. There is nothing more honest than the face of a young person looking at you.

They know when you’re being authentic and when you’re not.

These kids had read four of my books. For crying out loud, I haven’t even read four of my OWN books. In fact, I’m not even reading what I’m writing at this exact moment. Which is why you’ll find lotz of missspppellings all ovfer tha placee.

After my speech, a kid named Beau started with some author questions and remarks. He raised his hand. He said, “I like your story about the man who leaves twenty dollars at gas pumps.”

So we talked about it.

Another girl raised her hand. “My favorite story is when you pooped your pants while you were fishing.”

Ah, yes.

All in all, I’m afraid I might’ve disappointed these bright children. They probably expected someone who was smarter than a scoop of room-temperature coleslaw. Instead they got me.

Still, I did my best. What I didn’t tell them was about my failed childhood. It was not the kind of childhood that involved book clubs. I didn’t tell them I was an academic failure in grade school. And if you’ve read anything I’ve written, you know I didn’t attend high school, either.

The fact is, kids, I’m not the kind of man who should be instructing the young minds of tomorrow. I’m just being honest. But I do, however, appreciate a good juice box.

Anyway, before I left, I got twenty hugs in total, and one pimento cheese sandwich for the road.

Young Claire hugged me and said, “I SO didn’t think you’d actually come. I kinda thought you’d be way too busy for us. You made my day.”

I didn’t mean to get misty eyed. But you can’t always control these things. If you’re reading this, Claire, there’s something I want to tell you:

It was a treat. A bona fide treat.

And now you know the story of how I lost my cellphone.


  1. GaryD GaryD ?? - August 22, 2018 8:20 am

    Great story. I felt like I had read this somewhere else before. Deja vu, perhaps?

    Great story. I felt like I had read this somewhere else before. Deja vu, perhaps?

    • Janet Mary Lee - August 28, 2018 7:04 pm

      LOL, Gary!

  2. Pamela McEachern - August 22, 2018 8:21 am

    Sean D. You are just the kind of man they need to listen to, you have lived through so many challenges. I agree it all wasn’t book club news but they sought you out because of your insights into life, the good and the hard. You validated those kids and let them know they mattered, that was a great life lesson and I doubt any of them will ever forget you!

    Peace and Love from Birmingham

  3. Camille Atkins - August 22, 2018 9:56 am

    HAHA! Keith, I have been trying to figure out if it was done intentionally!

  4. Penn Wells - August 22, 2018 10:25 am

    You really didn’t lose it, you just left it.
    You really didn’t lose it, you just left it. (!) ?

  5. Moody Jim - August 22, 2018 11:05 am

    “Scoop of room temperature coleslaw”—you changed it up, I vote for intentional. Lucky kids. Love your stuff.

  6. LeAnne Martin - August 22, 2018 11:24 am

    Sean, I’m not surprised that she said, “You made my day.” I’m sure you’ve done that for a lot of people through the years just by listening to them, valuing their stories, and writing about them. Reading your posts every day is truly a bona fide treat. Thanks!

  7. Amy - August 22, 2018 12:04 pm

    What a great story to read first thing this morning. Thank you for taking the time to visit with these kids. It made my day knowing you did that for them.

  8. Lydia Mason - August 22, 2018 12:34 pm

    You are the best, educated or uneducated! I hope you comprehend the impact you had on these young minds. Folks all over the South will be contacting you to speak to their book clubs now. In fact, do you think you could come to Georgia and speak to mind? Thanks for making my day and honestly, my life has been enriched with your entertaining stories!

  9. Carolyn Allen - August 22, 2018 12:43 pm

    One of my favorites, Sean. In fact I read it twice! ?

  10. Joy - August 22, 2018 12:48 pm

    Sean I am so happy that you spoke to this Book Club…just knowing that you took the time to make them feel special and worth your time made my Day! Thank you so much for sharing with us how you lost your cellphone but mostly to remind us that God works through us IF we will let Him…you are an inspiration to me and all who read ‘Sean from the South’. Please keep the stories coming!

  11. Rhonda Howell - August 22, 2018 12:56 pm

    I love ya dude. And your Dog and that angel named Jamie in your life. Just be out there. They need you.

  12. perry5360 - August 22, 2018 1:52 pm

    It’s a good feeling when you see hope in the generations to come, when you meet kids that value honesty and Rhodes scholars and learning in a here and now kind of way. I think think that was a good trade off for the phone. God gives us what we need. T

  13. Jack Quanstrum - August 22, 2018 2:29 pm


    • Barbara Parker - August 22, 2018 2:50 pm

      Did you intend to put this in twice?

  14. Anne - August 22, 2018 2:51 pm

    You are the best. You are the best. (sometimes things are so good, you have to say it twice!) ;))

  15. Haskel JP - August 22, 2018 2:53 pm

    For those interested, Sean is in Tallassee this Saturday 8/25. Look forward to it.

  16. Jakki - August 22, 2018 3:24 pm

    So grateful to know there are still kids like Clare and her book club around. There’s hope for the future!
    Sorry about your phone.
    Sorry about your phone.

  17. Maureen - August 22, 2018 3:38 pm

    You are definitely the kind of man that should be talking to these kids – what a gift you gave them to have a author come to their book club. It made me teary eyed too.

  18. Susan Swiderski - August 22, 2018 4:42 pm

    Au contraire! You’re exactly the kind of man who should be speaking to those kids. I’m thrilled to hear there’s a smart group of kids out there who love to read, and I’m sure they’re thrilled you cared enough to visit with them.

  19. Michele Sandstead - August 22, 2018 5:15 pm

    Hi Sean! I thoroughly enjoy reading your stories every day! I forward them on to several dear friends and two sons also. I must say this has opened up more lines of communication with them, even though they are grown and live very busy lives! My son in Tallahassee went to a writers event a few months ago and heard you speak at Cascade Park during those monsoon rains!! By the way, I live in Destin and my husband and I have an amazing antiques shop on Main Street near the Destin post office! You mentioned in one of your writings that you and your bride enjoy junkin’! We would love to meet you two sometime! Thank you for blessing my life, Sean. Blessings to you and yours!

  20. Edna B. - August 22, 2018 6:17 pm

    You are exactly the type of person these kids need to listen to. You give them thope, self confidence, and a way to see the beauty that is everywhere. I’m so glad you went to their meeting. I’m sure you made their day the same way you make mine every day. Thanks for this awesome story. You have a super day, hugs, Edna B.

  21. Ava McCurley - August 22, 2018 9:14 pm

    Please stop putting yourself down for not going to high school. it’s better to have skipped high school and managed to finish college than to have finished high school and then made a mess of your life. You, sir, are a survivor. Don’t look back, look ahead.

  22. David Doom - August 23, 2018 1:57 am

    Have you noticed that when someone says, “you made my day”, it usually makes your day.

  23. Dru - August 23, 2018 3:25 am

    Sean, you are, once and for all, a success. And that Yankee was from Connecticut.

  24. Sue Cronkite - August 23, 2018 1:03 pm

    It doubled up the story on my phone. But that story was worth reading twice.

  25. Dianne Correll - August 28, 2018 1:06 am

    Loved it x 2!!


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