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HeroicStories -- Making the World A Better Place

HeroicStories #269, "Mirror Image", was about the author's ongoing trauma caused by an act of violence which left scars on his neck. The story showed how he was able to overcome the trauma by substituting positive memories from his past, thanks to the advice of a wise doctor.

An anonymous reader responded to this story saying, "I, too, was the victim of a senseless act of violence over six years ago. I was raped. I've spent six years substituting ugly memories in the place of happy moments, and this story has inspired me to try to change that."

Then another HeroicStories reader wrote in, offering to email the anonymous reader. "That is what it took to help me and heal me -- talking to someone that had been in the same situation and could completely understand my feelings. Please contact the person and if they are interested, send them my email. If I can help even one person at all, it makes what I went through worth it."

When we sent our anonymous reader this note, she replied: "I am unbelieveably touched that a complete stranger was motivated to write to me to see if she could make a difference in my life. I am just amazed.

"The attitudes of people who write and respond to HeroicStories (and undoubtedly, also those of you who work with HS) have really changed my perspective. It's not just that there are good people out there who do nice things for others -- although that is important. The more amazing thing is how many people value these stories, and desire to foster the same goodness in themselves. I think it's these people -- who make the time in their day (five minutes twice a week) to read the stories, to think about them, and sometimes to respond -- who are slowly but surely making the world better."

I was struck that this was a truly deep insight, and asked readers, "What do you think about this analysis of HeroicStories? Do people look to HeroicStories for examples to 'foster the same good deeds in themselves'?

Your response was incredible! In fact, there was so many responses, and such interesting letters, that we decided to publish them here for you to enjoy and ponder.

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  • Thanks for a thought-provoking question! I read HeroicStories because it reminds me that not only are there good people out there who deserve to be celebrated, but also to help me expand my vision of the ways in which people can be good to each other. And hopefully, from that expansion of my vision, I too can learn to be good to other people in ways that I might never have otherwise thought of. So while I may not be fostering the identical good deeds in myself, I'm trying constantly foster the concept of being open to doing anything good that may present itself that is within my ability. --Laura, Maryland

  • Yes, I believe that reading HS challenges us as human beings to be the best that we can be. It's all about feeding our mind and hearts. If we feed our minds with positive things/stories, we will emulate them. If instead we bombard our minds with negative stories (as is typical in today's media), we tend to become desensitized/blind to the good in people. Keep up the good work, HS. --Stacie, Texas

  • The way I see it, most of the readers of HS are probably people who want to make a difference in the world, and the stories help us to focus on that. Another wonderful thing about HS is that it demonstrates how much appreciation there is for what are often very small deeds. The heroes told about usually do not feel heroic, just helpful. It is usually the result, rather than the deed, that defines the heroism. In fact, I consider that to be the best part of HS -- that what a person does "just because it's the right thing to do" can have a very large impact on another person's life. It helps us all to realize that we don't have to look for situations that need our help. Just helping wherever we see that we can will produce plenty of HeroicStories. --Bruce, Ohio

  • I understand it is hard to remember that we are all in this together, but we are. If your reminders of kindness, caring and being a human being can help more of us become more connected, then you have done a heck of a job. I believe that if we all recall the only thing we have going for us is one another, it is much easier to smile, connect, and care. And just a smile can make a difference. One thing I try to do is tell strangers they look nice. "Nice shirt, dress, sweater, shoes" etc. It makes people smile. I believe in connecting. I try to live that. I know how hard it can be. But surely after 9/11 we realize life is short, and not to connect to one another is a waste. --Annette, Texas

  • Most definitely. "Nurture your mind with great thoughts; to believe in the heroic makes heroes." --Benjamin Disraeli. You're doing a great job. --Meredith, Florida

  • I don't know about looking for examples so much as recognizing them as they become evident. When the latest edition appears in my inbox, I don't open it seeking lessons for myself. Rather, I anticipate the little emotional rush I feel as I am touched so often by the kindness, courage, insight, and appreciation portrayed in the story. That said, changes inevitably appear in my attitude and behavior that can be traced directly back to some such story. For instance I always walk back from the parking lot to return my empty grocery buggy instead of leaving it at a random location amongst the parked cars. Last week the service manager at the local car dealership loaned me one of his cars for a week while mine was in his shop. I enjoyed the look I got when, even though I picked it up with a nearly empty tank, he discovered I had dropped it off full. It's the little things that make a difference. If you only could get a glimpse of the thousands of reactions each one must evoke around the world. --Darcy, Canada

  • I have no doubt that they are. They are some of the best news I get all day. I like to keep abreast of the current events around the world, as time allows, but when reading about what's going on in places on the other side of the ocean I can't help but feel a little overwhelmed at how insignificant my little life is in the grand scheme of things. That is, until I read the stories that come from you. I've often thought that the first reason we have all the technology and resources we have is to make the world a better place. A lot of people use these things for naught, but you have found a way to use them to make a difference. Where else or how else would we be able to hear about these acts of kindness and generosity? I am generally the kind of person that tries to help out. I've done things that I'm sure others would think were crazy just because I've thought it was the right thing to do. It really gives me a good feeling when the recipient is truly grateful, not because I need the gratitude but because I was able to really help. I just want to say that it is incredible and very reassuring to know that there are many others out there trying to do the same thing. It encourages me to keep going, to be better, and not throw my hands up in a fit of exhaustion and helplessness. Thank you, and keep 'em coming! --Barry, Arkansas

  • My answer is, you betcha! Thanks to my weekly dose of "the milk of human kindness," generosity and a caring attitude are more present for me in my daily life. Although I haven't really had the opportunity yet to do so, I am more prepared now to give of myself to a stranger in need. I've certainly been more mindful of the things I do for friends and family, and try to be more generous when I can -- not just with material things but also with my thoughts and behaviors toward them (which may be more important in the long run). As an added benefit, I am more aware of the little things others do for me (like today, when the parking attendant waived my fee) and am more grateful for them. The best thing about having a generous and grateful mindset is that you start seeing mostly good things. The world seems like a much more pleasant place to be, even in the midst of hard times, and I'm generally in a happier mood. It's like that saying, "sunshine is like jam -- you can't help getting a little on yourself when you spread it around." --Jenny, Washington

  • Yes. HS reminds me it is OK to care. --Moe, California

  • Since I've been a subscriber to HeroicStories, I have definitely changed my outlook. I'm not sure if I would have been as quick to help cover the difference for a family's groceries around Halloween. They were buying food along with a costume for one of the kids. It was clearly a stretch for them as the mother was paying with coins and small bills. She was about to put away the costume (and the disappointment was clear on her daughter's face.) I asked the clerk how much they needed and handed her a bill to cover it. Not only do I try to do good for others, I try to believe in the good in others. HeroicStories keeps reminding me to do that. Thanks. --Mary, Illinois

  • I have always tried to help people out, but one of the things HS has done for me is to point out all of the various and different ways we can help out. It seems in many of the HS issues that the help or heroic action that occurred is fairly mild. We generally aren't talking about thousands of dollars or someone putting their life on the line. We are talking about, in some cases, the smallest of gestures that mean so incredibly much. As a result, I think HS has made me more aware of the many ways I can impact others that just simply are not really a big deal for me to do.

    Just this past weekend, I was in Knoxville for a conference and was in line with other friends to rent cars. There were four of us in line, and another lady behind us waiting as well. You could see she was anxious and we asked if she was in a hurry, because we really weren't. Turns out, her grandmother was on the verge of death and she was frantic to reach her before she died. Needless to say, we passed her to the front of the line and got her out of there as fast as possible. We didn't know her name and she didn't know ours and we will likely never see her again. It made virtually no difference to us to wait another minute to get our rental cars, but it made a huge difference to her. That is the kind of thing I am referring to. We can all do things that, to us, are so small -- but to the other person are so significant. To me, in many ways, this is the impact of HS. --Brad, Arizona

  • I absolutely believe that the positive stories you publish have made me a better person. Reading about people in want and the generous people who have helped them, and the many stories written by people who have had their entire lives turned around by a kind work or gesture, has made me much more aware as to how I treat the people around me. A recent story written by a woman about the foster mother who changed her life really affected me -- I've considered taking in foster children and have wondered if it would be worth the heart ache. This story convinced me, that yes, it is. Thank you! --Katherine, Georgia

  • HeroicStories has definitely helped me, personally, to become more aware of the chances that are given to me to help other people. While I unfortunately don't act on each chance, your publication has reopened my eyes to the small but great things that everyday people are doing for other everyday people. My kids are also benefitting from the stories, since their mom's attitude toward others has subtly changed for the better. --Christie, Missouri

  • Truly, HeroicStories convinces me that not only are there heroic folks out there, but that I myself can act just as heroically -- very easily, in very small ways. Small to me, that is, but gigantic to the person I am helping. That's the crux of the issue right there: it is very easy for every single one of us to be heroic. A tiny goodness we do for someone else is phenomenally huge to the person on the receiving end! Before Sept. 11th, 2001, being that helpful seemed impossible for a little person like me. Thanks entirely to HeroicStories, after hearing about Flight 93 I knew that if necessary, I could very easily fight back. If not for HeroicStories, I fully believe that I would never have thought that fighting back is even possible. --Scott, Georgia

  • I look to HeroicStories for: 1) Examples of doing good -- not just for how to do good things, but also how to recognize signs that someone could use a hand in some way. 2) A reminder that there are good people out there doing good. I've always tried to be optimistic and sometimes consider myself "naive by choice". But I prefer to believe that I'm not being naive to expect the best in others. --Michele, Ontario, Canada

  • I think that I agree with Anonymous: I read HeroicStories not only for the uplifting and heartwarming stories themselves, but also for validation. Validation that there are lots of others like myself who are not simply "good people," but good people who live and practice a moral creed of trust, neighborliness and good will. For most of my adult life I was a law enforcement officer. My plane was not one of platitudes and promises but the put-up or shut-up realm where the rubber really met the road of life. Daily I was forced to endure the worst of humanity, yet privileged to witness the best. I pride myself in never losing trust and faith in the majority of folks; never succumbing to the cynical and closeted "Us vs. Them" mentality. It's nice to know I'm not living in 'Never-Never Land.' --Ed, Alabama

  • I think if the stories are helping people by example, terrific! I don't see them that way for myself. HS helps me remember there are good people in a world where bad people make the news and good people get forgotten. --Lisa, California

  • I discovered HeroicStories about six months ago, and it has come to play a small but significant role in my years-long battle with depression. Depression makes it hard to see anything positive, [but] HS puts the positive in my face, shifting my perspective and challenging me in a gentle way to keep it there. I agree with Anonymous, that as we change and grow we influence those around us. --Marty, Washington

  • I have been a reader of HeroicStories since its inception. I get approximately 50 emails per day, but I savor it when I get HeroicStories. Yes, they impact on my daily life. I find that the stories linger in my mind for a long time and I review situations differently now. I really owe that to HeroicStories. I have sent HeroicStories to all my email friends, I even tried to get our local paper to print, but no luck so far. I will keep trying. --Sherri, Wisconsin

  • What HeroicStories does for a reader depends on where in their life's journey they are. A cynic might give someone the benefit of the doubt after reading HS or a well-meaning person might be moved to act. The stories certainly have enough in them to give readers the thought "Hey, I could do that too!" But they remind us of the good in this world: If you regularly do good things for others, you are reminded that you are not alone, which is a positive knowledge, especially for the days when it does seem you are alone out there. In the subconscious of everyone, a global picture is created based on the input of what goes on in our world. If that input is only negative -- crime, terrorism, wars -- then our mental picture will also be negative and our response to the world will be negative. But HS colours this picture with positive acts and ideas. And if the picture we each carry around about our world and our surroundings has some positives in it, then we will act more positively. HS fosters good deeds in others, just by showing them they are possible and worth doing. --Sylvia, England

  • I didn't start reading HeroicStories for examples of how to help people, but the idea sunk in eventually. My favorite HS's tend to be the ones that feature simple acts of helping (spare change in the supermarket line, the business man who handed a pair of gloves to a homeless man as they crossed a street), and I finally realized that they were my favorites because I could do these things too. Giving help in any particular situation may border on trivial for the helper, but for many unknown reasons the value of the help may be enormous to the receiver. HeroicStories has demonstrated this so often that I now find myself offering help far more often than I used to, especially in situations that look minor to me. --Thom, Massachusetts

  • I think most of your readers will agree that at least some of the stories, if not most, have a profound effect on them -- often bringing tears to their eyes. Most of that feeling fades as the readers returns to their normal daily routines, but they have been changed just a little. Each new story adds to that lasting effect, increasing their awareness of how their actions can make positive differences in the lives of others. --please leave me Anonymous

  • I was once informed by a wise man that we all get our ration of negativity in life, no one is immune. He further said that it stays with you for life, and that there is nothing you can do to make it go away. But you can dilute it, you can dilute it by associating with positive people, and by filling your life with the positive. HS is fuel for diluting the bad with the good. I'm always thankful for the positive message of HS, and especially the responses of the readers, and editorial comments. HS and it's message of hope and caring is a positive beacon of light in the cave that is all too often uncaring, and in some cases, simply cruel. --Bruce, Wyoming

  • I have been with HS from the beginning, and am always amazed at the beauty people are interested in sharing. I stopped watching the evening news years ago because it was too depressing. All I heard about was the horrible things people did to each other, for little to no reason, and justice was often not done afterwards. HS brings to life the beauty of humanity, in my very heart. I could not see that others cared. It just didn't make the evening news or the papers. But HS brings it to me, at home. It is about, and by, people just like me. People that care. It creates a reason to be optimistic. One that just doesn't exist without HS. And it grows and grows. Because I have to realize that there really are so many of us! Thank you. You, the editors, the readers, and all the authors. For caring about me, and everyone else, one at a time. --Mary, Texas
For more reader letters about HeroicStories in general, see this page. If you're not already a subscriber, get your free subscription here.
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May not be copied, stored or redistributed without prior, written permission.
"HeroicStories" is a trademark of HeroicStories. Site maintained by Sheila Crosby.

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