By SEAN DIETRICH
I’m writing this in the early morning. The birds are asleep, the crickets, too. The sun is about to rise, and it’s going to rise just for you. There is a faint glow behind the trees. I can see it. Just wait. It’s coming.
I received a letter this morning from a girl I’ll call Caroline. Caroline is 18. She told me about herself.
“I feel ugly and I know that’s why I’ve never had a boyfriend… I probably never will have one. People don’t like me, and I’m worried that nobody will ever love me.”
Here’s another letter from a man we’ll refer to as “Elvis” — because that’s what he wanted to be called if I wrote about him. Elvis is 44.
“My ex-wife broke my heart … Why is it I end up trusting somebody and they break my heart, and instead of hating THEM, I dislike MYSELF somehow? I don’t like myself …”
And then this beautiful young woman:
“I have an arteriovenous malformation … Which is why my arm doesn’t work, and now it’s moving to my leg. The malformation started small, but has grown to the size of a tennis ball, giving me daily seizures and other obstacles …
“The hardest part about all this is being forgotten. I used to have a lot of friends before my diagnosis, but now …
“I get that people are busy, but is life really about being busy?”
Well, I hate to disappoint these good people who’ve written me, but they’re talking to the wrong guy. I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout nothin’.
The only thing I can possibly think to tell these good folks, something that might possibly comfort them, is about what happened to me during my seventh-grade year.
First, a little background: my seventh-grade year was shaping up to be a good one. Often, in the school cafeteria I’d have my pals laughing until milk spilled from their noses and they lost control of their lower intestines.
Then, Sept. 14 happened.
The newspaper reported that my father swallowed the barrel of his hunting rifle. And my adolescent life went to hell. I dropped out of school. I became a faceless nobody — at least that’s how I felt.
I’ll never forget asking my friend’s sister on a date, years later, when I was 17. She turned me down. So I tried again. Strike two. Finally I asked her, point-blank, what was wrong with me.
“Well,” she said. “All that stuff with your family, I don’t wanna be with anybody who’s, I don’t know, screwed up.”
Screwed up. How about them tomatoes?
Still, that girl was actually doing me a favor because later that same year, I met another girl. She was a kind soul. She was quirky, outgoing and she wore mismatched shoes. We never dated, we were only friends.
She was missing her right hand — she lost it in a horrific accident as a child. But this didn’t hold her back. She was a lifeguard, a guitarist, an artist and a comedian.
Late one night — I’ll never forget this — she and her younger brother knocked on my bedroom window. The girl said: “You wanna watch the sun come up?”
“But, it’s midnight,” I reminded them.
“So?” she said. “That means we have six hours. C’mon.”
I joined them on the beach. They brought jugs of coffee, a pocket radio, a deck of cards, potato chips and blankets. Her brother brought his girlfriend.
For six hours we all sat on the sand. There was no necking, it wasn’t like that. We were friends. Buddies who talked, laughed, sipped Folgers and stayed awake until the sun soared above the mighty Gulf of Mexico.
When the first sliver of light showed, the girl shot to her feet and ran along the beach, waving arms in the air. So did the others.
I thought they’d lost their minds.
She sprinted toward me, grabbed me and pulled me to my feet.
“C’mon!” she yelled. “This sunrise is special. This one is JUST for you!”
I felt myself whoop and holler with them. I had no idea what we were so excited about, or why. We ran on the sand and cheered the arrival of the sun.
I’m older now. My whooping and hollering days are over — unless it’s the Iron Bowl. But right now, you should see what I’m seeing. It’s worth hollering about.
The sun. It’s large. Bright. Yellow. It’s here to wake up the whole world. The skies are unfolding. The crickets are singing about its arrival. The birds are applauding its entrance. I feel warmth on my face.
You’re on my mind. I know it’s hard, but just hold on for a few more minutes, whoever you are. You’re not alone. Look into the sky. Your redemption draweth nigh. Get out your phone. Take a picture of the sky. Share it with someone.
Because this sunrise is for you.