Followups and Counter Examples

Happy Spring!

Thanks to all who responded to my question about podcasts last time. While it was heartening to see that so many of you value reading HeroicStories, my question was actually specifically about the audio podcast version. While I did get a few responses it’s unclear whether the podcast will continue to make sense in the long run. So if you listen to the podcast please let me know.

One of the things I struggle with as I moderate the comments left on HeroicStories stories is what to do when a comment goes negative. My hope and my goal is that HeroicStories really can help make the world a better place by highlighting the often overlooked heroic acts of everyday people. To that end negativity in almost any form tends to rub me the wrong way. It hurts, for example, to see some readers almost go out of their way to identify and call out any negative aspect of the stories we publish. Normally I try not to react, and instead try to leave my own follow-up comment trying to deflect the negativity.

There are plenty of places to point out what you think is wrong with the world; I don’t want HeroicStories to be one of them.

So as you can imagine I was quite disappointed with one of the comments on Why Not These Two – the story of two men who go well out of their way to help two hitchhiker in London. Two Muslim men. While there were many positive and encouraging comments, one went down the exact opposite path. I had to sit on it a bit – and indeed even asked for some advice from a friend – before publishing and responding to it myself.

I was reluctant to post the comment originally, but I also don’t want to be a censor. As long as comments are reasonably respectful I don’t want my simply disagreeing with someone to ever be a reason a comment might not be published. I have mixed feelings about spending this much time on it, and including it below, but I think it’s the discussion that follows comments like this that are a key element to making the world a better place.

And to that end, I’ve reconciled my concerns, and have decided that Joyce’s tag line for HeroicStories remains the most appropriate of all. You’ll see it’s return with my signature at the end of the mail.

On to the stories of recent weeks.


Out of the Darkness

Now I know it is all right to let others help until I can help myself again.

Ann Tamer asks: “So — how is he/she doing? It’s a story! Tell us the ending! Did the surgery go well? Was the calcium deposit removed OK? Is he/she healthier now? The “moral” of the story is fine to point out, but we want the REST OF THE STORY!!! Thank you.”

LEH (the author) replies: “Ann- yes, the surgery was highly successful. I was out of surgery and awake so much faster than they expected, my surgeon actually sent me home the same day. In August, I was pass the ten year mark. I still remember my first walk after being released from my surgeons care a year and a half after surgery. It took me twenty minutes to walk to the corner and back. Today, I can walk a mile in 18 minutes. I now enjoy daily walks, singing and Pilates. Life is very good!”

I Knew You’d Find Me

After a panicked search for a child a step-mom learns she was trusted all along.

Kelly Boyd comments: “It would be so easy to criticize the people in this story, but I know that military marriages are very difficult, and this mother made the best decision she could at the time I’m sure. How wonderful that Eric knew he could count on her, I am sure she is and was the kind of mother that an army brat needs, an anchor in the storm. And a stepmother, at that!”

Lynn Houston says: “Military marriage might be tough, but what she did is kidnapping. Custodial interference at the least.”

Cat S. responds: “Lynn, there’s no reason to assume this was kidnapping: with 3 preschool aged kids, and an overseas deployed husband, the change of pace a trip provides can mean sanity instead of sinking into despair over the same frustrating, boring routine at home.”

Why Not These Two?

If anyone is inclined to judge Muslims by the actions of a few people – why not these two?

David Jackson comments: “So now you’re doing “soft propaganda” on behalf of Muslims! Get a clue and open your eyes. The second most important commandment in Islam is to conquer, enslave, kill, or convert non-Muslims. And England especially, is facing an epidemic of Muslim on non-Muslim violence, intimidation, and especially rape of minor girls.”

Leo responds: “I struggled with this comment, because I hate bringing negativity to what I believe so strongly should be a place of positivity and hope. And I’m deeply disappointed with your reaction. It seems like you’re making exactly the snap judgement that the story is all about re-considering. You choose to treat an entire religion by the acts of its most violent and extreme members, completely ignoring the vast majority that simply act more like our story’s protagonists. I believe your assertion about Islam “commandment” to be both wrong, and completely immaterial. The vast majority of members of that faith are good and caring people. Would you have all Christians (or any faith of your choosing) be demonized by the acts of their most extreme? Or by some of the horrific atrocities called for in their holy books? I think not. And yet that’s exactly what you call for here. I know you are not alone, and not likely to change. And this makes me sad.”

John P. adds: “I spent a year in Saudi Arabia teaching electronics between 1979 and 1980. I got to know a lot of Muslim people (the Saudis I worked with) and by following the true teachings, they are friendly and helpful. You are going to find bad people and extremists no matter where you go or what their religion. Just remember that the Media likes to highlight the troublemakers and not those who are kind and helpful. They concentrate on the exception – Not the Rule!”

The Heart of a Father

It’s true love when a father steps beyond expected roles to help a young woman learn her craft.

Vicki H says: “What a wonderful man your Father must have been. I lost my Dad not quite 2 yrs ago and was a Daddy’s girl so I can imagine how you feel. There is a definite connection between Fathers and daughters.”

MKHarris adds: “Now this was a REAL dad! I know they are out there but ALL dad’s should be like this gentleman and make sure that their daughters have a well rounded education and growing up. He provided his daughters life skills that have lasted their whole lives!”

Eve comments: “The father in this story was a REAL MAN and I would challenge anyone to attempt to prove otherwise. A father is someone who takes care of his children in whatever way is called for and if that is learning to knit (or sew or cook, etc) then so be it. My son took of the job of being a father to the most wonderful child when he was only eighteen! She is now (11 years later) his daughter in every sense of the word and we wouldn’t have it any other way! More men need to learn from this man what it means to be a father. I had a dad like this and I miss him every day! She and her sister were very blessed!”

A Fist Full of Dollars

Paying forward a small gift still brings joy.

Joette says: “He may not have thanked the gentleman now, but he will when he gets older and realizes what happened. In this time and place, our kids are so indoctrinated to think anything from a stranger is for nefarious purposes, that it never entered his mind that it could simply be a kind gesture. However, I think as he gets older, he’ll realize it was simply someone passing on a good deed. I’m glad he was able to pass it on, and I hope some day the young man will do the same.”

LEH adds: “What a wonderful story! It is wonderful that you continue to pay it forward. It inspires me to do the same in my life.”

Anne comments: “I like reading this because it reminds me as an adult once again to set aside any moralistic judgment (the goodness or badness of any person in a situation) and focus on how our actions can contribute to healing. In my opinion, the actions of the two people in this story who gave of their resource, both money and empathy, contributed far into the future as well as in the present. These sutble things can be powerful change agents in human affairs.”

The Listener

How big a gift it is to sit and listen to someone – even if it is the same stories over and over!

Cathy Gill says: “Wonderful story! How terrific that Gayle has found the ears that listen along with that terrific bus driver. The stories we all could tell, if only for that pair of ears that we need to hear each one of needs. Life is exciting, or fast paced, or boring, or whatever we want it to be, but when we find that pair of ears that is ours to talk to, Oh what joy! Special blessings to all who take the time to listen, for many blessings will fall into their life always.”

Phyllis Bala adds: “It would be so easy to be constantly irritated by this type of voice, let alone having to listen to the same conversation everyone on the bus knows by rote. What makes me happy and smile is the bus driver who notices all the details and subtleties of the passengers. This is a bus driver who truly cares about people and has a way of appreciating what goes on with passengers who have different needs. How wonderful to know of “Mary”, the special someone who serves as the designated angel. This story warms my heart. Sounds like most everyone is accepting and cordial too! Thank you for sharing this story that feels like a warm burst of sunshine!”

S H comments: “I have an autistic family member that struggles with communication. I rejoice when I see the individuals who really take the time to engage with her rather than ignore, just nod and walk away or stick around (because they have to) and plug up to a device/start the “close-by-yet-ignore” game. This story helps to remind me that sincere and unadulterated FOCUS is demonstrating ultimate respect and consideration for all who have trouble with communication skills…whatever they are. The “Gayles” certainly deserve to be acknowledged and allowed to unashamedly be comfortable with themselves as they are accepted by those they know and meet. Thank you, Mary. I don’t know you but I’m grateful that you’ve set an example that all people should follow… without even considering becoming a hero….”


As always, keep spreading the word about HeroicStories! Share the stories – by email, by social media, by whatever works for you. It’s the only way that HeroicStories can survive.

Until next time,


Leo Notenboom
Publisher, HeroicStories
Co-Conspirator to Make the World a Better Place