Friday, May 26, 2017

No one asked, he just stepped up

I was on my way to lunch with an editor yesterday. It was raining the way it does in spring: torrents followed by buckets, followed by mist. Rain, rinse, repeat.  Sogginess all around.

In other words it was a wretched day to be out.

But it was a worse day to be in an ambulance.

Traffic was snarled. Tempers were flaring. The ambulance siren was LOUD. And it wasn't moving.

The ambulance was coming west on Fulton, about 200 feet before the intersection with Broadway which runs north/south.  The cars ahead of the ambulance on Fulton couldn't pull to the side due to the construction. They couldn't pull ahead onto Broadway because traffic was moving at a good clip with the light in their favor.

A man just ahead of me on the sidewalk stepped out onto Broadway. He raised his arms in the universal message of STOP.  He stopped all three lanes of traffic on Broadway, then turned his back and waved to the cars on Fulton. This time it was the universally recognized sign for "get your ass moving!"

And the Fulton street cars did, pulling aside in the space created at the intersection of Broadway and Fulton. The ambulance roared past. Without turning to anyone else on the street for any kind of acknowledgement,  the man continued on his way across the street.

At that moment it was clear I'd seen an everyday hero. He stepped up and did what needed to be done. No one asked. No one thanked him. The ambulance patient will never know about this moment.

But it's this kind of small but epic moment of which lives of uncommon valour are made.

I thought of this today because a friend lost her father this week. He had lived a long, well-loved life. He'd been married for 59 years, raised four daughters, one of whom I know to be the kind of person you want with you in the life boat.

Her dad was not famous. He did not have an epic resume. But it was clear to me in the space between the lines of his obituary that he was an everyday hero.

Now more than ever I need to remember there are truly good people in this world.

Tell me about an everyday hero you've seen.


Sharyn Ekbergh said...

My husband takes patient daily care of both his 89 year old parents.
Enough said.

Amy Johnson said...

First, I wanna write like Janet does! (Oh dear, are we not supposed to comment on Janet's wonderful writing abilities?)

Second, you asked for everyday heroes, Janet. Well, every day I read your blog.

Kitty said...

I live on a busy road in a rural neighborhood which is on the outskirts of a village which is thisclose to a tiny city. Contrary to conventional wisdom, everyone around here doesn’t know everyone else. Even so, when an accident happens, everyone pitches in if needed.

A while back on a Sunday, there was a two-car accident on our road in which a neighborhood dog was severely injured. A neighbor called 911 and comforted the injured people while a couple of us located the dog’s owner and helped him find a vet who was available. Another neighbor directed traffic around the accident while yet another neighbor got a broom and began sweeping up the broken glass and debris in the open lane of the road.

This is common in rural areas.

MA Hudson said...

That is INCREDIBLE! Would that I had the guts to stop traffic like that.
I was at SkyZone during the last school holidays (a trampoline wonderland) and when the session was over all the kids were clustered together, putting their on shoes, when, bizarrely, a fight broke out. I couldn't believe it. These were kids mostly under the age of 11. I don't know how it started but these two boys were seriously punching each other and me (mother of three girls) was standing there thinking; where the hell are the parents and why are they allowing this? Eventually a woman ran up, got between them, yelled at them, and separated them with a stern warning. I was relieved, but then astounded to see she was in no way related to either of those boys. She was awesome (and probably had a son or two herself!).

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

I think about stuff like this... all the time. And I believe there is more good in the world than bad. My dad made the world a better place, but he wouldn't have called himself a hero. Rex E. Foster passed in '95. I grew up watching him do subtle things on a daily basis that most people didn't even notice. He picked up litter he didn't drop. He tightened loose screws on things that didn't belong to him. He oiled squeaks, fixed sagging doors, untangled knots, straightened doormats, balanced wobbly tables, and never, ever drove by anyone broken down on the side of the road.

I recall stopping to eat at a small town cafe when I was a kid. The neon "open" sign was hanging askew from a single chain. After placing our order, Rex walked down to a hardware store, bought a small length of chain, an eye-hook and whatever else he needed, came back to the cafe and fixed the sign so it hung straight.

He never let anything get him down. When bad things happened, he'd say, "It's all part of the rich fabric of life." He was quirky and funny, and he made people laugh. There were also a lot of people who thought he was weird.

He knew I loved to write, and always encouraged me, but never saw my stories get published. That makes me sad. He doesn't know he's featured in my first book. I wonder if he'd get a kick out of that. I think he would. And now I'm crying... in a good way.

Anonymous said...

I was languidly lugging luggage.
The endless stairs of NYC subway. Me. And two suitcases, a huge travel backpack, a relatively small (but enormously heavy) backpack and a big bag!
The way from the street to subway station was very long. And slow. But instead of asking for help, I carried all these bags to the platform. Step by step. All by myself.
Two men looked at me and offered help. I thanked them and almost wept for joy.

E train reached the Sutphin Boulevard.

I stumbled out and slumped against one of suitcases, mentally preparing myself to the long way from the subway station to the AirTrain station. A young woman of color helped to drag my luggage to the platform. I didn’t dare to hope for more, but she offered to carry one of the bags all the way to the Jamaica station. She even waited aside while I purchased a ticket. Then, carried it all the way to the platform and into the train. We started talking. This amazing woman worked for Delta in Terminal 2. I was going to Terminal 4. When AirTrain reached T2, she didn’t leave. I assured her that she did more than enough and I could drag it to the check-in desk on my own. She smiled. Shook her head. And stayed. And went to the T4 with me, carrying that heavy bag all the way to the check-in desk. Before leaving, she made sure I was in the right place.

I don't remember her name. But I'll never forget what this incredibly kind woman did for me that day.

Susan said...

A number of months ago, I became friendly with someone whom I met on a very special blog and began following their Facebook page for a cause that's dear to my own heart--an animal sanctuary that rescues horses and other animals in need of a forever home. It was clear to me the love this person had for these innocent animals, and how devoted they were to their care...

But then came the story of a beautiful horse named Pearl, emaciated from abuse and neglect. This person took Pearl into their sanctuary and provided food and shelter, patience and love. Over the past few months, followers watched with bated breath as Pearl's journey was documented on Facebook until one day there was a picture and a story of beautiful Pearl--growing strong and healthy again--among a herd of friends.

So, in honor of Janet's beautiful hero tribute, I want to dedicate my comment to Melanie Sue Bowles. Yours is often a thankless job, but you're truly a hero because you're not only saving these animals' lives, you're providing them a loving place to live as they're meant to: wild and free and home. Thank you.

And thank you to Janet for creating this blog home. It's a special place full of wonderful people. You have no idea the light you cast.

Susan Bonifant said...

I saw two teenagers drop their bikes and race to help an elderly woman in a wheelchair make it across an intersection. When she was safely up and over the curb, they got back on their bikes and rode away.

Thank you for posting what you witnessed, but mostly for the reminder: the lovely, common stuff doesn't always make the news because it's too "everyday."

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

My Brownie Troop Leader was tasked to write, assign and direct a Christmas pageant for our troop, to be presented at a regional event.
Her idea: nine, (almost as big as each little girl), poster boards, spelling out the word “C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S”. Each held her letter, while she and the rest of us recited what each letter meant as related to the holiday. We recited, the audience politely applauded.

As the clapping died down, we remained on the stage just long enough for the audience to wonder, why we were still there. And then, in a flourish, the second part of our performance we had kept secret.

Each card holder turned her poster board around so the letters spelled out “C-H-A-N-U-K-A-H”. The last poster was a drawing of a menorah. The audience gasped.

After a moment of silence we recited out letter assignments. A few claps after the first letter grew to the audience applauding and cheering as we ended our program. I had goosebumps. Something had changed for all of us that day. I felt it and I believe everyone else did too.

None of our troop members were Jewish but our leader didn’t care.
Barely ten years removed from WWII, newsreels of war atrocities, aimed at Jews, were being shown at local theaters.

Even though it was a time before inclusion became politically correct, as I stood on stage with my fellow brownies, our leader became my hero.
My leader.
My mom.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Today's posts should become a book.
Just saying.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Well, for so many wretched souls of writers, this blog provides a sanctuary run by one of those everyday heroes. There is that. This virtual space has been my salvation. And yes, Janet is a brilliant writer. She should write a book.

These everyday heroes are not so rare as some might think in the noisy chaos of these days. They are everywhere. It is how angels work, invisible to the call of fame or fortune or any news cameras, changing despair to hope with no acknowledgement at all. We don’t’ see them, and therefore, most don’t believe in them.

Loud vexations and cries of indignation by mean and wanting people overshadow those angels, and most people only see ever growing shouts of hate fueling the darkness. Nobody sees the person whose voice changes from angry shouts into loving whispers because some angel humbly suggested to them that there is another way, a better way, a kinder way.

Such angels have greeted me in the darkest pits of my troubled mind, and now I see them easily, a flickering candle against a terrible well of darkness. No matter how big the darkness, the candle still radiates its light and draws my eye. I suspect such an angel silently sits with our sharkly queen and is in awe of her.

On my wall, above my writing desk, I have framed a poem that my grandmother once kept in her kitchen. This post recalls some of the lines of that poem, The Desiredata by Max Erhmann.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Dena Pawling said...

In late January 2005, just after 6am on a Wednesday, a suicidal man parked his SUV on the tracks in Los Angeles. A Metrolink commuter train full of morning commuters approached. The man apparently changed his mind and fled his vehicle just before the train hit it.

Eleven people died and 180 were injured.

Employees of a Costco warehouse were beginning their day when they heard the crash, which happened right behind the store. These employees dropped what they were doing and were the first responders. They grabbed fire extinguishers off the shelves and hurried to help, pulling people from the wreckage.

I can't write it any better than the LA Times staff writers who wrote:

​”More than 120 other Costco employees pitched in throughout the day. They brought muffins, coffee and water to rescue crews. They built canopies with tarps. They wheeled the injured on flat carts. They cooked 350 pizzas and 350 hot dogs for workers. They guided victims and rescuers to restrooms. They found shoes, pants and shirts for victims with ripped and bloody clothes.”

I encourage everyone to read the entire article. Have a box of tissues close by.

The Costco manager closed the store for the day so his employees could help. The article indicates Costco donated about $10,000 in food and supplies that day. Plus the employee's wages. But the manager did it without hesitation.

This story makes me cry every time I think about it or read it. It is also one of the reasons I love shopping at Costco.

Brenda Buchanan said...

This is such good story to hear this morning, Janet. I'm also friends with your friend who lost her father this week, and you are exactly right. From all I have ever heard about him he was an everyday hero who made so many valuable contributions to his family, his community and his country.

Despite all the stress we may feel after reading the headlines each day, it is good to remind ourselves that the vast majority of people are good and decent, and some (walking into the middle of Broadway when traffic is roaring along?) are brave to boot.

Claire Bobrow said...

A little dog got hit by a car at the end of my block. Its screams pierced the heart. A number of people came running from the sidewalk and out of their homes, but it was too late. We were all crowded around as the light in the dog's eyes dimmed and went out. It was crushing. But one person called Animal Care & Control. Another took photos, in case the owner came looking for the dog and needed identification. And a third took the shirt off his own back, placed the dog gently inside, and carried it to the curb to wait for the authorities.

Another hero is the guy who ran up and down the stairs of my apartment building in June of 1990 at midnight, yelling "Fire! It's a real fire - get out!" And we all got out. He saved our lives.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

This post reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers. takes a village to make a hero/ine. Someone somewhere taught them.

My brother died in '79 after living and struggling with leukemia for 13 years. He was almost 17 years old. My parents survived that tragedy and both of them come from large families that remain close knit.

Since '79, three more cousins (1 child and 2 young adults) have died from vehicle accidents and one cousin's daughter was stillborn. My parents have been by each set of parents' side during their time of tragedy, providing comfort and counsel as needed. They are/were, in Henri Nouwen's words and title of the book, Wounded Healers.

And now, as Mom enters her third month of widowhood two of Dad's widowed sisters and two sisters-in-law from her own side of the family are there for her, to guide her through these times.

Meg Leader said...

I have a dear friend of more than a quarter century. She irritates me wildly because she's a hoarder. She's a spendthrift who has no money to spend. She takes on projects and never finishes ANY of them.

And...she is the kindest, most warm-hearted person I have ever met. I have seen her literally give the shirt off her back to someone she thought was in need. If you admire anything she has, she offers it to you. She's ready to step in and solve all your problems--though her solutions are sometimes more Rube Goldberg than actual fixes. She is the first to volunteer for whatever nasty job has to be done. She will do anything for anybody, trust anyone with anything she has. She adopts stray animals she can't afford and finds a way to see to at least their basic needs--though I wish she had the money for better veterinary care for them. She looks after everyone she meets and finds something nice to say about everyone, even when she gets bad service, food incorrectly cooked at a restaurant, or just encounters rudeness.

I am humbled by her in so many ways. Can't quite figure out why she keeps me as a friend...except I suspect I'm one of her works-in-progress!

And yeah, that makes her an everyday hero.

Megan V said...

A friend was recognized for his work in Baltimore schools just the other day and this article says far more than I could about the amazing things he does day in day out to make the world a better place.

My parents are everyday heroes, though they would never admit it. I never met anybody else who checked in on their elderly neighbors regularly and actually spent time listening to them, who plowed out their entire neighborhood in winter, who spent a long hot day hauling in some hay just so that a customer in dire need could have it at the last minute, who looked at their kids friends as added family every time a new one showed up at the door, who invited people to holidays because friends are family rather than a pitying afterthought, who worked themselves to exhaustion day in day out in a hospital and then came home to sew their daughter's perfect prom dress as a surprise. They are so invested in their community and the lives of the people they meet, and they barely realize what an impact they make.

And then there are the individuals, officers, agents, prosecutors, and public defenders I've met during my time in the legal system. People whose ultimate goal is the same. Justice. Goodness. Helping to do what's right.
Whether its the kids who hid a kidnap/assault victim from her attacker, the officer who bought shoes for a homeless man, the treatment court team helping a person with their addiction, the prosecutor who received death threats for working on a case, or the defender working to preserve the rights of a person who's been pre-judged.

Elissa M said...

"Learned helplessness" is what I believe keeps many folks from stepping up when something needs doing. Surely someone with authority will take over, right? The kids' parents, the traffic cop, the mechanic, the person with actual medical training. Who am I to butt in?

That's what I think goes through people's heads. No one wants to do the wrong thing.

But some people live in areas where there is no one else to depend on, or they were raised to always lend a hand, or they received training that instilled a sense of duty to act rather than wait. These are the people who keep society running, who do the every day things that need doing, who step up and get 'er done.

These people aren't special. They are ourselves. Each and every one of us is a potential hero. All we have to do is act like one.

kathy joyce said...

Thinking about everyday heroes in my life made me cry. I finally got myself settled enough to write. Then I read the posts. Now I'm crying again. Maybe later.

RosannaM said...

Many years ago, while living in Germany I needed to take my new baby back to the states for medical care, leaving my other two young children behind. My husband would be there at night, but I didn't know what to do with the children during the day. We hadn't been in the country long, or made close friends.

Another military wife called me up and volunteered to watch them. This freed me from worrying about them, so I could concentrate on the baby. She watched them for nearly three weeks for no charge (we would not have been able to pay). This woman was my hero.

Several years after that, now back in the states, she contacted me and said she would be in the area. She had to get home to her desperately ill father. I dropped what I was doing and drove the hour to the airport to pick her up, and took her the three hours to her home town. Then drove home.

We can always choose to pay kindnesses forward. Rarely do we have the opportunity to return the kindness to same person who extended it to us. That day I did joyfully.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

After reading some of these comments I realize that mine, about my mom, is'nt about how she walked out of the crowd, did her good deed, and disappeared back in. She was the crowd and she was the hero. These stories...OMG.

Steve Stubbs said...

Great story. And humbling. I know a lot of Zeroes, but can't say that I know any Heroes.

Your story makes me wonder if the stranger was an off duty police officer. His behavior is consistent with knowing exactly what to do. That implies training and experience.

We don't stop to think about it, but New York's Finest are heroes every day. Not just when it is raining. They are required to go out armed all the time and ready to intervene whenever and wherever needed, whether they are on duty or not.

That man may have been on duty, in plain clothes, headed to thwart a terrorist attack.

What you saw may have just been one heroic act in a series that day.

Colin Smith said...

Great stories. As I sit here thinking of all the really nice people I know, I have to say the one I would call a "hero" is my wife. Not only does it take courage and fortitude to be married to me, but she has raised and homeschooled our six kids, and often gives of time and resources she doesn't always have to people who don't always notice. She's especially caring to the kids at our church youth group, some of whom have challenging home lives. She will go out of her way to give them rides to places they need to be, take them food to be sure they have had at least one decent meal that day, and lend a shoulder when life gets too much. She's not perfect, but she's more than I deserve, that's for sure. :)

Anonymous said...

Colin, it may be a stupid question, but why did you homeschool your children? I was always curious about this topic... if this question is too personal, feel free to ignore it!

Theresa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beth Carpenter said...

The people who ran to help the man whose wheelchair overturned in the intersection ... the woman who reunited a desperate mother with a child lost in a department store ... the guy who grabbed the back of my jacket and pulled me back onto the ski lift ... the guy who started feeding hungry kids in his neighborhood ... flat tire changes for strangers ... pushing the dead car off the road ... driving elderly patients to doctors appointments ...

Heros are everywhere, including among us. I thank God for all of you.

BJ Muntain said...


I started thinking about who my heroes were, and came up with my father, my grandfather, both my grandmothers... and realized that I was naming people who were now gone. Although I still try to live up to their perseverence and strength, they are no longer 'everyday' heroes, though they are my heroes.

Like all the beforenamed, my mother is strong and stubborn. And she has this inherent need to feed people - which is wonderful at this time of my life when I'm unable to afford much. Every time I go to her place, she has things for me to take home. "Oh, I was clearing out the deep freeze, and found these meatballs. Will you eat them?" Or, "Look what I found on sale!" If we know someone who needs a good meal - especially a festive holiday meal - we can invite them and know that my mother will happily accommodate. And when I was diagnosed celiac, she changed recipes to make them edible for me (she says that rice flour actually makes smoother gravy than wheat flour), or she makes me separate meals.

My mother knew poverty. Her father was much older than her mother, and she was the youngest of his six kids. When he passed away when she was 14 and the only child left at home, her mother went back to teaching, and my mum learned how to be self-sufficient. That learning has helped her with the loss of my dad, her husband of 51 years, last year.

I have many friends, know many people, who have struggled through hardships. A friend whose first wife died too young. A friend who got pregnant at 15, worked four jobs while going to university... whose daughter is now a wonderful, independent mother herself. A friend who had a messy divorce and still did his best by his kids. Another friend who raised five daughters pretty much on her own after she divorced her abusive husband. Another whose mother has a mental illness, but has become the most amazing mother herself to six children. Another friend whose husband passed away a few years ago and she just kept on, who is probably one of the strongest women I know, a writer herself, and often lurks here on the reef.

Strong people like these, who have lived through adversity and are still loving, kind, strong people - these are my heroes. I hope to be like them. They are the people who keep me strong, keep me going when times are rough for me. I come from a long line of stubborn, strong people. That strength and stubbornness is why I'm still here. And why I'm still trying to get published after a very long time trying.

I knew a young writer through a Facebook group. Despite having sickle cell disease, he was an optimistic, enthusiastic person who was always trying to improve his skills. He would always ask questions that created long discussions in this group, and was so full of energy and strength. He passed away a few months ago. The group is putting together an anthology to raise money for his young family. He was a hero to many of us there.

Then there was my great-great Aunt Pearl, who was born in 1899. She grew up a poor immigrant child, had several children, lost a son in WW2, lost her husband thirty years before she died at the age of 113, and lived through some of the hardest times in Canada's history. I want to be like her. Luckily, I still have over 60 years to match her strength.

Janet, you, too, are one of my heroes. Your strength. Your stubbornness (a virtue in my family.) Your need to help writers navigate the perils of what would otherwise be a mystifying business. And I have to say that your openness about your Catholicism has helped me to be more open in my own. Thank you.

Lennon Faris said...

I've only read through about half of these... Can't wait to finish later tonight. Amy Johnson, I second everything you said.

Melanie - I can definitely see your dad in you.

When I was a young teen, I took our 20 lb, 3-legged mutt for a jog. We lived in a rural suburb on the side of a mountain, so I had the roads pretty much to myself. We were headed back home when I heard a sudden 'pitter-pat' of clicking nails on the pavement.

I looked around to see two huge dogs with basketball heads racing towards us. They went straight for my dog, who started spinning, trying to ward them off. I was screaming, kicking at them, but they totally ignored me. From the noises, it sounded like they were killing my dog. Then a booming voice roared, "GET OFF! GO! GET OUTTA HERE!"

The dogs took off! A car had pulled up and the guy had stuck his head out the window. "You okay?" he asked me, and I nodded and he drove off. My dog was OK, too --just freaked out and minor bruises and slobbered up quite a bit. I always wondered who the guy was.

Casual -T said...

I have to admit, I find myself in a weird spot on this topic. I don't much like people in general. There is such an overwhelming amount of unkind, unpleasant, and outright unpalatable human beings out there. And we hear and see them all the time. I live in New York City, and, although those kinds of people can be found anywhere in the world, NYC seems to attract them like the proverbial pile of dung does the flies. Yet, I genuinely WANT to like people. I know there are plenty of good folks around, and I want to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, before chucking them onto the pile of "just another knucklehead."

Keeping in mind that the defining characteristic of an "everyday hero" is the fact that he/she simply does what needs to be done, and then moves on with their life (no need for applause or standing ovations), I see heroes all day, every day. They are you, saving a life by listening to someone in need, me, helping the guy push his stalled car out of traffic, my wife, going back to school while working full-time, my kids, working out life one day at a time, my parents, having made it this far, and so on. The trick, I think, is to realize that EVERYONE has (and IS) a you, me, partner, friend, kid, parent... Everyday heroes are everywhere. We just don't see them all the time.

PS: I'm new here, so a hearty "Hello!" to one and all.
PPS: This is three posts for the price of one!

BJ Muntain said...

Welcome, Casual-T! A wonderful comment! And marvelously succinct, compared to some (looking at the tome two comments above it, and hoping Lennon doesn't remove hers)... :)

Karen McCoy said...

My fifth grade teacher, now retired, is an everyday hero who insists on shying away from the spotlight. I am sure I am only one of many that she put on a better path.

She would put a quote on the board every Monday--Wordsworth, Dickens, Rumi, etc. And she had a plaque over her door that said, "Be ye kind," proof that she believed that compassion and respect were just as important as long division and essay writing.

She found a child that felt invisible, and gave me hope. I was an awkward kid who understood books more than social norms, and when she found out how often I was made fun of by my fellow students, she sat them all down, and pointed to the sign: "Be ye kind."

No teacher had defended me that way from bullying, before or after that. She showed a rare empathy, as she does even now, with all the lives she touches.

Joseph Snoe said...

A friend last night told me her elderly aunt fell at a senior’s center and cut a nasty gash in her knee and broke her nose. Even though blood was flowing everywhere, she refused to go to the emergency room. A man there, a stranger, talked her into going to see her doctor. (She refused to go to the emergency room.)

He drove her to her doctor’s.

As soon as she arrived, the doctor said she must go to the emergency room. The stranger loaded her back to his car and drove her to the emergency room. The stranger stayed with the lady until my friend, the lady’s niece, arrived.

Then the man left, and no one even knows his name.

Joseph Snoe said...

Melanie Sue Bowles

Your dad sounds exactly like my dad.

Colin Smith said...

Hey there, Alina! I don't mind answering, though just briefly since it's way off-topic, and to be respectful of Janet's blog. The decision to homeschool is personal, in that we did it for our reasons, and we don't judge those who send their kids to public school (i.e., state-sponsored school). They have their reasons too. We wanted control over our kids' education. We believe that as Christians it's our responsibility to give our kids an education based on our values and worldview, something that public school couldn't, wouldn't, and some would say shouldn't do.

That's the simplest, most basic reason. There are other reasons, but I'd rather not take up the space on Janet's blog. Feel free to email me if you want to discuss further (see my Blogger profile for my address). :)

roadkills-r-us said...

Great. Y'all have me crying in a restaurant at lunch. The ones I know, such as my parents and my wife, are easy.
There are too many to count, but one that leaps to mind is the homeless guy in Manchester that was helping the wounded and scared kids after the bomb.
One of the two times visited Windsor Castle was shortly after a fire. In a desperate ploy to save the history within, they let anyone and everyone nearby come help carry stuff out. That means locals, tourists from all over, everyone. According to the tour guide, they found nothing missing afterward, despite a plethora of strangers having access to extravagant wealth and irreplaceable history. That's beautiful.
A FB friend of a friend in Malaysia- who can sometimes not make rent and is having a hard time finding a job- has started an after-school program for kids whose parents work- which means nearly everyone. She's seeking funding to provide food, mentors, homework help, etc. She takes great pains to keep her personal finances separate from money for the work. She puts a lot of time and energy into this.
I could go on for hours. There are many more than we realize. We just need to look.

Kate Larkindale said...

Just yesterday one of my work colleagues stepped in and helped an old lady after a fender bender. The old lady had slammed on her brakes to avoid hitting a school kid who ran across the road. The man behind her rear-ended her.

Instead of getting out of the car to ensure the lady was okay, this guy stormed over, tore her door open and started abusing the old lady who was in a state of shock already.

My friend went over and tried to get between the angry man and the terrified woman and talked to them both until some other people showed up and managed to get the guy back into his car and out of there.

She didn't have to do that. She could have just continued to her car and driven away. But she put her own safety at risk to help the terrified old lady.

Julie Weathers said...

I needed this today. Thank you, Janet. It was beautifully written.

In the rodeo world, you run into heroes all the time. Someone is injured and it's faster to grab a pickup than wait for an ambulance so they throw you in the back with your kid who's just had his head stepped on by a bull and is bleeding so badly blood is running out the back of the bed.

"Hi, Julie, this is Josh ___, mom. Brandon got stepped on. I think his leg is broke, but he won't go to the hospital. We're going to take him to the ranch tonight and he said he'd drive back to Odessa tomorrow. Just wanted to let you know so you won't worry."

Josh was the junior bullrider Brandon had stood in line for hours to get an autographed picture of LeAnn Rimes for. He taunted him with it for weeks before giving it to him for his birthday. Brandon is not an autograph person, so this was a big deal for him to do that.

Even if he hadn't done that for his little buddy, they would have helped Brandon, it's just the way people are.

The year before they invited several of the cowboys to stay at their ranch in the basement they had fixed up. They did warn them they would shoot the first one they caught sneaking up the stairs to visit the daughter in the middle of the night.

Brandon: "Ok, that would be James. What will you do to the second guy?"

"Shoot you, too, smart ass."

Yes, Brandon's ankle was broken, btw, and he drove home 250 miles the next day.

I miss rodeo people for this reason. They are always there for you.

Julie Weathers said...


Thank heavens for your friend.

I cannot tolerate people who abuse elders. My son Cody pulled over in his semi and was updating his log books. He noticed a little old lady get out of her car and trying to step up on the curb to go into a cafe. Three kids came by and shoved her, almost knocking her down. Cody said you could see she was so rattled she just stood there holding on to her car fender.

So, he got out of his truck and crossed the highway to get to her and helped her in the cafe. He asked if the other lady needed help coming in. No, that was her sister. She just came to get some dinner to go.

So he bought them dinner and waited until it was ready to go and helped her back out. He also had a discussion with the kids about their rude behavior.

Man picks wrong old ladies to have accident with.

I think these little old ladies are my heroes and the guy who made this call because whenever I'm really depressed I can listen to this and feel better. I know, that doesn't bode well for my imoortal soul.

Claire Bobrow said...

Julie Weathers: I tried not laugh at the link you posted, I really did. But I couldn't help myself. I think my immortal soul may be in trouble, too.

Claire Bobrow said...

to laugh. Argh. Guess I was laughing too hard to type properly. Or it's karma.

Craig F said...

If you live in hurricane country or along tornado alley, you have met plenty of heroes. Those are the people those are the people who are prepared to step into harm's way for the benefit of others.

Most of them are the same people who face random circumstance by doing the right thing.There is something about waiting for it to hit the fan and then jumping up with a shovel that takes more than just compassion and right thinking.

Julie Weathers said...


Well, yes, I really do know how to spell immortal also. Ah well.

Anonymous said...

Wow, all of you have posted here so many amazing stories! It's wonderful that each of us could recall a moment of kindness. And a person worthy of being called a "hero".

By the way, I've another story to share. It happened in Canada:
"Excuse me," some student yelled, running after me. "Did you just grab money out of machine?"
"Yeah," I confessed after a pause, wondering why she was asking.
She gave me $20 and said, "It was beeping and the money was stuck."
I was speechless. An ATM was about 20 metres away. I didn't notice that one of the bills was stuck there and she ran after me to give me $20!! Instead of taking it. Wow.

Some of you mentioned Janet and I agree. Her blogs helped me out a lot, encouraged me when I felt like quitting writing, and made me smile when I was sad. Janet, you're an everyday hero, too!

And Colin, thanks for replying! :)

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Susan P., I don't know what to say. Your comment went straight to my heart. It's difficult to express how deeply moved I am by your thoughtful words. Geez! Thank you.

Lennon, Thank you to you, too.

Casual T Welcome!

Wonderful reading through all these. Meg, I love your friend. My dad was very Rube Goldberg-esque. E.M., I grew up with a 16x20 framed poster of Desiderata hanging in our kitchen. Joseph, Thanks for sharing about your father.

And Janet, Thanks for the best blog on the planet.

John Davis Frain said...

I've tried twice to write about a housekeeper at a hotel in Siberia, but I can't do it yet. In time.

So, meanwhile, I'll choose another. Gosh, there are so many to pick from, right?

Friend of mine couple months ago just finishes a long bike ride. He's walking his bike back to his car, and as he gets to his car, he collapses.

Two guys, other side of the street, second story of a building, see this happen. They're in a conversation, and they see him fall. Instead of thinking that was weird or wondering what might be going on, they instantly rush downstairs, run across the street and drive him a block to a hospital.

He'd just had a heart attack. And he did it in the perfect place -- right down the street from a hospital and directly across the street from two guys who didn't hesitate when life threw them a curve ball.

My friend was told the story at the hospital. I'm not sure if he's been able to meet those two guys and thank them. I need to find that out.

Janet, this was a fantastic post. I've been thinking about it for hours. (So, not so fantastic in the area of productivity, but fantastic elsewhere!)

Barbara Etlin said...

At the 2010 Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop, which I attended with my husband, there was a brief break between lectures. Most of us beelined for the washrooms. Although the men's line moved quickly, a long line stretched outside the women's washroom. One woman noticed a grey-haired gentleman leaving the Men's and asked him to commandeer it for women. He told the women when the washroom was empty, then guarded the door to make sure that only women came in. He was a hero for a bunch of desperate women that day.

That kind, grey-haired gentleman was my husband. :-)

Joseph Snoe said...

Amen, Craig F. Amen.

It's truly awe-inspiring to see the people in the Birmingham area jump into action after a deadly tornado or even after an infrequent ice storm downs trees and closes roads.

charlogo said...

A young woman sat in my office. We were looking over her schedule and talking about tutoring that would be available during the semester. Child card was a challenge, she said, because her child was severely disabled. She had returned to college to try to make a better life for them. I asked her if she had time for all the homework. She said yes, but she’d almost dropped the algebra course. The book was expensive and she would have to wait another semester before she could afford it. I started explaining that we had various resources we could look into. It’s ok, she told me. I have the book now. How? Her math instructor, Mrs. Brewer, walked over to the bookstore and bought it for her.

One person + one act of kindness = everything.

John Davis Frain said...

Melanie Sue, I have already told two different people the story of your dad placing his order at that small-town café and then walking down the street to the hardware store to get a couple items to fix the Diner sign.

I love telling it because what a great story, and so easy for anyone to picture the entire event. What a guy!

RachelErin said...

I have many stories, but my funniest is when I was living in Rome expecting my third child.

Something I didn't know about Rome: bus strikes are really common. They are kind of like the snow days I loved growing up in New England

Taxi drivers strike a lot, too, because citizens complain to the mayor about how hard it is to find a taxi, and when the mayor tries to increase the number of permits, the taxi drivers get angry (fire and iron! signs around the circus maximus).

Sometimes bus drivers and taxi drivers strike at the same time. Businesses and government shut down. Schools close. Vegetable and fish stalls run low on food.

And sometimes, during that three day stretch, an expat goes into labor on a the coldest night in 25 years, when they don't have a car, and the few people they know are on Christmas vacation.

Yes, the person I'd met a week before who drove me to the clinic at 2 am is my hero.

Beth Carpenter said...

Rachel. Bravo.

Anonymous said...

These stories are all such a breath of positivity and hope. Thanks, all of you, and to Janet for prompting it.

The heroes I'm thinking of tonight are more the quiet type. Not as dramatic or life-saving as the ones in many of these stories, but important in their own way. The people who show up when they don't have to. Who offer a kind word or brighten a day with a joke or a smile. Or a phone call. People who form a community based on kindness and respect. People who tell stories and try to make the world just a bit better than they found it. All of you here do that, every day. And you may never know that your words touched someone and brightened their day when it was most needed. So I'm telling you that, today, you did. Thank you.

Welcome, Casual-T!

John (MS) Frain, I hope you come back over here and tell us about that housekeeper at a hotel in Siberia.

MA Hudson said...

Julie - the four old ladies story had me in tears of laughter. And what excellent commentary from the witness! I'm sure I got a better picture of the scene from his descriptions than I would have got from actual video footage. Hilarious.

AJ Blythe said...

A few years ago my son came home from school and told me about a comment another child, a female classmate, had told him. Even though my boy was only 6 years old he knew there was something not right about what she'd said... enough to want to tell me. The story had my stomach churning. I reported it. After a couple of horrendous months her stepfather went to jail for paedophilia. My son has no idea of the significance of his actions. One day we'll tell him.

Melanie, my Dad and yours were cut from the same cloth. He is forever fixing things for people (no matter how messy the job or how good his clothes).

Janet, this has been a beautiful post, as the sodden tissues in my hand will attest. Thank you. With all the horror we seem to be surrounded by these days it's nice to remember and hold on to the good that exists as well.

CynthiaMc said...

I am home (Fairhope, Alabama) for the first time in many years. I am from a whole town of people such as this. My favorite of them is my big brother.

Al was an Air Rescue medic in Vietnam. One of the flight surgeons he worked with thought he had a real gift for medicine. He recommended him for medical school. He was all set to go when our father died suddenly. Instead of going to med school and having a lucrative career he moved his family back here to be here for Mom and me (I was twelve). Now if we had known, Mom would have insisted he go. So he never told us. We found out years later. Truth was, we did need him, and the worst time in our lives was made bearable because he was there. He also helped our cousins who had lost both parents by the time they were in high school. He and his wife are coming up on their 50th wedding anniversary. He is the best brother ever. And he never complained. Not once. I wish I could wave a wand and give him the career he should have had, but knowing him he would just say "Thanks, Sis, but I have all I need."

Peter Taylor said...

‘Mary’ lives in Australia and relies on welfare payments. She’s about 35 and married with four kids, but for years has suffered domestic violence from her parents. They still come round to her house and attempt to break in and abuse her and her kids. Her husband and three of the kids have mental health problems, and for safety their strong medication needs to be stored in a fridge with a lockable compartment, but she can’t afford to buy one and is applying for a no-interest loan through St.Vincent de Paul charity organisation.

Fewer and fewer people stop on the increasingly busy intersection to buy a cheap car from the local dealer’s yard. Most people with a business that's going downhill cut their staff …but he’s known the lady for a while and recently increased her hours from one day a week to help her. What a hero!

It’s easy to be an everyday hero. Just give a book to a homeless person as you pass by, or put one in a bag and prop it up against the door of a Catholic Church or their office if you don’t want to go in, and write: For your St Vincent de Paul group – give this to a family you visit. The kind thought will make a huge difference to someone's life ...particularly that of a child. The volunteers are not all Catholics and they try to help absolutely anyone who needs it. When people have less than $50 a week for food after paying rent and utilities, there’s nothing left to buy books (or chocolates, beauty products, a lawn mower or...).

Sherry Howard said...

Late to read this, but I read and appreciated every special story! It made me remember some of my own. Which I'll now make sure I've written down somewhere, even if no one ever reads them.

Panda in Chief said...

I'm a little late to the party (as usual) but I read through all of these stories last night. I am one of those fortunate people who lives in an entire community of everyday heroes. The instances are too many to list them all, so I'll share a few of my favorites:
The woman who started an annual day of giving back, inspired by Habitat for Humanity, where volunteers show up to work doing repair, painting, or garden clean up for neighbors in need of help. Usually 300-400 people register to help. The organization(Hearts and Hammers) spawned two more sister organizations on the central and north parts of Whidbey.

The 20+ people who showed up to help move all my belongings out of my burned house 22 years ago, got things dried out in the sun and stored in my landlord's garage, and the neighbor who brought pizza for all those helping from their Langley restaurant.

All the people who shared their talents and resources for a young woman on the island who was adopted from China, and last night gave a musical recital at our local performing arts center. The professional caliber of people backing her up on stage would not have been out of place at Carnegie Hall, and all gave of their time and talents out of love and admiration for this remarkable young woman.

Okay, I'll stop here.
Thanks to all of you as well, for providing a welcoming, generous community, not least of all, Madame Shark.

Julie Weathers said...


I know. His description of the event is priceless. "This little old bitty Mother Goose woman." "She's about four foot nothing." "She's tomahawking him--"

That's pretty vivid description. Don't you know this guy is a great storyteller? I'd like to be holed up in a bar with him drinking beer or maybe out on my porch drinking tea. I'm thinking Shiner, though. Get a few Shiners in him.

Bobbie Falin said...

The company I worked for was located on the edge of the local housing project. Across a busy four-lane street in front of us sat the local grocery. Sadly, in recent years a child was hit by a car at that corner and killed, so now there is a stoplight to control traffic, but back then you just waited and darted across when you could get a chance. It was around 4:30 in the afternoon when we noticed a little boy about 7-years old crying on the sidewalk in front of the store. His mama had given him money to buy bread for dinner and he had dropped it in his rush to get safely across the street. Cars were running over the package and it was ruined. He did not have money for another loaf. My boss burst out the door, got the story from the child, then ran across the street and bought him a new loaf of bread and sent him on his way.

That man could lie to your face, make up terrible stories about people and steal from our company without batting an eye, but he loved kids. I saw him help little ones several times while I worked at that location. He never looked for praise over those acts of kindness.

Some heroes are not sparkly clean, but that little boy and his family saw the good side in him, and for them, that's all that mattered.

Kimberly VanderHorst said...

While on our second honeymoon in Paris recently, we saw an old man drowning in the Seine. My husband raced across the bridge outside Notre Dame as the man floated under it, and climbed into the river just in time to pull the man out. Police arrived on the scene shortly after, and rushed the man off to a waiting ambulance (he couldn't speak--we suspect a stroke). We slogged back to the hotel so my husband could change. He had to throw away his shoes, which he hadn't had time to kick off. He's never told anyone about it, but I bring it up every chance I get. He saved that man's life. And hearing about it reminds people that there are amazing men like him in this world. ❤️

Irene Troy said...

For over thirty years, I was a clinical social worker specializing in work with children and families affected by abuse and trauma. While this work often exposed me to the worst of humanity, it also showed me the best and I have known many everyday heroes. Many of them are children, some are parents and others are members of the community who did what needed doing without asking for thanks or even acknowledgement. None are famous in any way, but all are exceptional people.

These days when I think of the term everyday hero I immediately think of my best friend. We live in a small town north of Boston, where my BF works as our local animal control officer. This is just one incident, but it is typical of my BF:

A single mother and her family broke down on a highway near our farm. My BF was called to the scene because the family was traveling with three dogs and a cat. Her only job was to take the animals until the family could make other arrangements. But she discovered the family had exhausted their meager means through a series of disasters, the breakdown merely the last one. She called me for help and said we had to do something. With the help of the state police officer who found the family, we arranged for a motel room and then delivered some groceries. We learned their story, how the mother was fleeing from an abusive ex, the “son” (a family friend age around 20) was trying to reach Virginia and a waiting job, the daughter was trying to locate her child’s biologic father, a solider stationed somewhere in the mid-west. Her three-year-old son was bright and lively, the only one seemingly unconcerned about their situation.

It turned out the cost of car repairs was more than the car itself was worth. The family was stranded far from anything and anyone they knew. My BF talked our local paper (not noted for being open to such things) to do an article about the family’s situation. Numerous people in the community came forward to help, with groceries, clothing and other necessities. We learned there was extended family in Virginia who could provide safe housing if we could find a way to help the family reach their home. My BF – who took custody of the pets – raised money to pay for a motel room while arrangements were made. With help from others in the community money was raised for train tickets to Virginia, but the pets couldn’t travel with the family. We kept the pets at the farm for two months while my BF worked her contacts until she found someone willing to drive the pets to Virginia. The last we heard the family was happily settled in Virginia nearby their relatives. The mother found a decent job, the “son” and daughter are also working and the little one is doing well in school. All this because one person cared enough to act.

Anonymous said...

What a fabulous post!


Ashes said...

Late to the party, but I want to tell this story anyway, mostly because I've never told it before.

I was nineteen, a rural kid living in the city and attending university. I had this weird six-week "intersession" in addition to my regular semesters. I realized, too late, that I was suppose to have applied for some kind of add-on to my student loan. I had enough money to prepay rent, but after that I was almost completely broke. During this time in my life I vividly recall searching for change in the couch to buy bread and peanut butter.

I was homesick and desperate for the money to get a bus ticket home for the weekend. My boyfriend, who I was living with, mysteriously came up with it. But in what turned out to be a twisted Gift of the Magi attempt at gift giving, I found out he had pawned my laptop to pay for the ticket.

I was hungry. I couldn't afford a city bus pass so I was walking an hour back and forth to school each day. I was tired. I was betrayed. It was raining and I really didn't want to walk home to him.

So I got online in the school computer lab. I was a part of an online community and had been for several years. I posted about how miserable my situation was, how my laptop was my most expensive and valued possession. How the one person I had to lean on had sold it and how just then everything in my life seemed to suck.

I received a private message from a forum moderator. Someone I only had an online relationship with. Someone I had joked with, but who I honestly didn't know that well. He offered to send me money. Enough money to get the laptop back, buy a bus ticket home, and a bus pass for school. And I wept. Not because of the money, though at that point in my life the $1,000 he was offering to loan me might as well have been $100,000. But because just the offer restored my faith in humanity. He proved to me there were good selfless people in the world in a time when I really needed to know it.

I didn't accept the money. I thanked him and told him how much it meant and I logged off and walked home in the rain. That boyfriend met me halfway and we fought and made up, got through that crappy time, and later broke up anyway. But I'll never forget that internet friend. His screenname was Solar. He was a successful professional, in the tech industry I think. I can't remember his real name, but I'll never forget him. He was my everyday hero.

Wry Girl said...

A small thing, but my husband and I were caught at a light in heavy traffic, and we heard an ambulance come up in the back of the group of cars. There was no where to go, but we all kept shifting over a foot at a time to try to make space until the ambulance was almost to the front, stuck behind an UPS truck and two cars, and there simply wasn't any more room to get through.

The UPS truck deliberately jumped the curb to its left and slowly ran into a light pole on the center medium in order to clear space. Both cars rolled out into the live intersection, traffic clearing space for them all the while - and the ambulance pulled through and took off down the road.

I hope the UPS truck driver didn't get in trouble. There was a fair amount of damage, and it was clear the driver had decided that that ambulance was more important than his/her job. And I'm very, very glad that the two drivers who had the nerve to pull out into active traffic were safe!