by Janet Hounsell
Conway, New Hampshire, USA

I live in a small New England village. One summer’s day, I drove slowly along our main street as a horrendous and sudden summer shower threatened. The sky darkened and the wind whipped around warningly. I pulled to the side of the street. A rusticating pick-up truck pulled ahead of me into the next parking place. Open to the weather in its body were what was obviously the family’s entire belongings: mattresses on end, baskets and boxes of clothing, and other household goods.

“Oh my, those poor people,” I thought, observing children in the seat of the truck cab. They were obviously moving from one home to another and their belongings, humble though they were, were going to get soaked!

Just then a little old lady whipped by me and into the variety store before which we were all parked to wait out the storm. In minutes, she was out again, tearing the wrapping from a package containing a huge sheet of plastic. She busily rapped on the window of the truck and motioned the woman driver out, and between them they whipped that covering over the entire load in the body of the truck!

Rainstorm Rain came down in torrents and the wind whipped around in a demented fashion. Fighting the gale, the two women managed to weigh down its corners and edges, thereby providing protection for the little family’s belongings.

Everyone back inside their vehicles, we sat out the brief storm. The sun broke out in all its splendor. I rolled down my window as the little old lady and the young mother emerged to meet at the rear of the pick-up. And I heard the wizened (and soaking wet) little old lady say, “Don’t thank me. Just pass it on when you have the opportunity.”

Originally published as HeroicStories #1 on May 1, 1999
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 1.

Audio Credits:

  • “Misc birdcalls distant light traffic” by user “Tiredoldwhiteman” via freesound.org
  • “Heavy Rain” by user “lebcraftlp” via freesound.org
  • “Storm wind” by user “Justkiddink” via freesound.org
  • “Truck, Ford F150 (1987) engine start up and shut off” by Blastwave FX via www.freesfx.co.uk

37 thoughts on “Rainstorm”

  1. This is a beautiful story of the love and compassion that is still alive and well in this world today. I hope everyone gets this message about paying it forward.

    • So am I. I’m absolutely open to suggestions to make them more pin-able and just generally useful to help spread the word!

  2. What is there to say? This ‘little-ol’-lady-story says it all. I practice this (paying it forward) and it has enriched my life immeasurably. There’s nothing to it but to do it.
    Try it; you’ll like it. And, you and all the others doing ‘it’ will in fact make this world a better world to live in. What a’ you got to loose? You don’t even have to tell anyone. Just do it. Remember:

    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.
    – Margaret Mead (1901-1978), American Anthropologist

  3. The “little old lady” is to be admired and commended. My reaction to the story is…WHY didn’t the writer get out and assist the two women??

    I do hope that if she ever encounters another situation where someone needs help, she will remember the lesson the little old lady taught so well.

    • that was my first reaction too! you see a “little old lady” helping out while you sit in your nice, dry car? the story is nice and kudos to the old woman! but shame on the writer!

      • Again, I’m saddened by how quick we are to jump to conclusions and judge. We don’t know the writer’s situation or the details of her response, and yet we’re ready to call “shame”???

        It’s clear that the need for HeroicStories has only increased.

    • I thought the same thing.
      Hopefully what she witnessed that day stayed with her and she later offered help to someone else.
      I could not have stayed in my car, even in a downpour, and not helped the elderly lady once I saw what she was doing.

    • I’m sad to see people focusing on the negative and immediately judging the author. Rather than assuming the worst, I simply assumed that all this happened before the author had time to act, or even think of a potential solution. I laud her for sharing the story.

  4. Such a good story to start with: simple, and an example of how someone thought about DOING something rather than just watching and feeling sorry.

    Congrats on the relaunch of HeroicStories, Leo!

  5. *them* are *MY* words to those I’ve had the pleasure of helpin since 1966 — got pulled out of a snowbank one winter’s blizzardly night in 1964 — fella who’d saved me wouldn’t accept any money from me in payment but said —
    “Assisting you has been my pleasure. I ask for no payment otther than for you to pass on the favor by helping someone in distress that you may encounter.”

    I’ve been doing just that since 1966 [ took me a coupla years to become mature enuf to realize that he’d probably saved my life 😉 ]

    got a *few* stories here —


    “Pass It On” every chance you have —

  6. My first reaction was similar to a couple of others and I wondered why the author did nothing. Then it occurred to me that perhaps she could NOT do anything for some reason. Reminding us all that it is a good thing to pass it forward is still a good deed albeit from the older lady. The author was just the conduit for it all!

  7. You chose a wonderful story to start us on the new road. I am so grateful for Heroic Stories. I have done the “pay it forward” when given the opportunity. And it does do more for the giver than for the receiver.

  8. I wondered if the author was elderly or disabled herself, so searched. Janet Hounsell Conway yielded an obituary and several articles. It looks like she was a very interesting person and contributed to her community both professionally and as a volunteer. She was born in 1926, so may well have been elderly herself at the time she first wrote the story.

    • Makes you wonder if the author was the “little old lady” in the story, but wrote in the third person due to modesty (or other such reasons).

      Wouldn’t that be ironic for all those above jumping to conclusions about the author just sitting in the car watching …

  9. A very touching story, and, like many such stories I’ve heard, it’s an act of friendship and kindness by the older generation. It’s a shame we don’t see too many such acts by those who are currently middle aged.

  10. Thank you for bringing back this experience of positive and uplifting stories. This gal who saw a need that she could fill is an example to us all…. when we can do something we should do something.

  11. Always be watching for someone in need. Oftimes it is just a kind word they need or a simple favor as illustrated by “Rainstorm”.

  12. Thank you Leo for restarting Heroic Stories. I think we need them now more than ever.
    What a wonderful thing it would be if we all could take a little time to be kind to others when we see an opportunity. I also wanted to say thanks for “Ask Leo!”, you have helped me many times on computer issues & I appreciate it very much.

  13. Thank you Leo! I’m very glad that you let your ask-leo subscribers know about the Heroic stories. In the face of news that is always negative this is uplifting. I’m sure that there are lots of kind and thoughtful acts payed forward out there; unfortunately they are not deemed newsworthy.
    Thank you for publishing Heroicstories.

  14. Many people seem to think that “Paying it forward” is something relatively new. When I was in college in the 60’s, my friends and I did that all of the time, only we called it, “Just return the favor”. I am so glad that the philosophy has become as widespread as it has.

  15. Although I am a few weeks tardy in responding to this story, I would like to say that I save every one in a special folder for later use. You see, I am a Bible teacher and leader in my church, and nothing gets across the Golden Rule like a good story. I used this one in my class of upper elementary students last week, and the boys paid close attention as I read it. The grandmother of two of them told me later that it was exactly the kind of thing they needed to hear at this point in their lives. I was so glad that I saved it, and I will keep on saving them. Thanks, Leo.

  16. I have not only read and enjoyed this story several times over the years, but have just listened to it, in that it is your first produced ‘Podcast’. I love the idea of your producing your ‘Heroic Stories’ in podcast form, and especially so in that I have multiple sclerosis, and at present a paralyzed right arm and hand. Therefore, it is much more effortless for me to listen to your stories, than it is for me to try to continually use my limbs in order to get the readable story on screen . I especially like the sound effects within your podcast as well. Your idea of your stories being produced in duel form, is a wonderful idea and feature, and especially for those of Us with impaired movement of our limbs. I can’t thank you enough for this innovative idea, and or move on your part !

  17. a wonderful action story these type of acts have been taught in that older generation and they come naturally to a person to do and not to think “what can I get out of this ” pass it forward I have been doing it for years and you are also the one who is blessed as well as helping people Lets all look to the good in people not the negative there is always an opportunity to help someone, somewhere , somehow.
    Love all the stories they make my day


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