Times are tough. There’s no denying it. Suffering isn’t hard to find, and if you dwell on it for more than a minute or two it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But I have come to lean on these words more and more lately: 

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.” – Helen Keller

Ms. Keller was right, as she most often was. If Ms. Keller were here with us today, right here in my hometown, there are a couple of things I would love to share with her. 

The first thing is right here. Whether you’re reading this article online or holding an actual newspaper in your hands, on this very same page you will find my absolute hero. Sean Dietrich, lovingly known as Sean of the South, is a philanthropist of words. Every article he writes, every short story he pens, every novel he publishes, is chock full of heartfelt good cheer and plain old happiness… sometimes through tears. 

Mr. Dietrich writes a syndicated column and has published several books. I’ve read every word. On two separate occasions, I have had the opportunity to see him in person on his book tour only to have fate intervene both times. When he comes to Opelika in January of 2023, I will be there if I have to paddle a canoe in a monsoon on the backside of a tornado wearing a Tyvek suit and carrying a barrel of monkeys.

I am a dedicated fan. 

Recently Sean of the South adopted a dog named Marigold. Marigold is blind — the result of abuse and neglect. Sean rescued her, and she has flourished. That man loves that dog, and it shows. They take road trips and go on hikes. They nap and they play. And he writes about it. It’s delicious reading, truly. And that’s what I would love for Helen Keller to know. If she were here, and I could introduce them, I imagine Ms. Keller and Marigold would instinctively be drawn together like two soul sisters in a silent world, hearts wide open and wise beyond their time. 

The second thing I would want Helen to know is the gift we here in this neck of woods have just been given. Straight out of the blue, after the most discouraging Auburn University football season in more decades than I’ve been around, the sports gods have delivered an angel named Carnell “Cadillac” Williams. In just two weeks, Cadillac has been a living, breathing intravenous megadose of pride and enthusiasm that we so desperately needed. Stepping in mid-season, we all wondered how on earth we would muster the Auburn spirit required to just get through another brutal game. 

But here came Cadillac, running down the sidelines, jumping up and down, praising his team and loving his town, and we all fell in love. The first game he coached had a losing score on the board, but you would never have known it, because for the first time in ages we were a team again. A living, breathing, unified team. 

And then last week, in a stadium that was bursting at the seams, Cadillac led us to victory. Had Helen Keller been in that stadium, she would not have seen the eagle soar over the field or Cadillac and the team members run onto the field arm in arm, or Tank Bigsby fly like the wind and Robby Ashford pass for a touchdown. She would not have heard the fight song infused with more spirit than in many, many moons, or the crowd screaming as the ball sailed through the uprights, or the tens of thousands of voices chanting “Cadillac! Cadillac!” and “War Eagle!” 

But she would certainly have felt the noise and the joy and the pure, raw energy. I imagine she would have felt it as surely as you’d feel a lightning bolt if you touched it. Unity, in its purest form, and when dedicated to good, is a force to be reckoned with. Ms. Keller herself was such a force. And so is Cadillac. And Marigold. 

I am so grateful for them all. Thank you, Marigold, for having a heart so pure it shines right through the darkest parts of life and warms us all. Thank you, Cadillac, for being you — true and pure and full of love for Auburn and its players and all its proud folks. Thank you, Sean of the South, for showing us what love looks like when you put it on paper. 

And thank you, Ms. Keller, for seeing more than the rest of us ever have. 

War Eagle!