The Unsung Heroes

There are plenty of people who risk their lives to help keep us safe.  When we think of heroes, we usually think of military soldiers, police officers, firefighters, or someone else who is in harm’s way each day.  This year we have to add doctors, nurses, and other essential workers to that list.

While these folks deserve our thanks and appreciation, I want to focus on the unsung heroes of the world.  They are the people who give the gift of themselves, not for any other reason than it’s the right thing to do.  As writer C.S. Lewis so eloquently penned, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”  These are the times in our lives that reveal our real character. 

Last week, I had a delightful moment that reminded me that sometimes the simplest acts of kindness carry the most weight.  Right after the pandemic started, my gym shut down.  Since that had become part of my routine, I missed it right away.  I’m at the age where an arthritic back and knee remind me that I’m not as young as I used to be.  Because I need to be mindful of my physical and mental health, I walk nearly every day.  As a creature of habit, I have a few places around the county where I walk regularly.

One of my favorite spots is a rectangular loop that takes me past the zoo, park, and one of our local schools.  It’s about a mile.  Since I don’t own a Fitbit or some other device that counts my steps, it’s my simple way of tracking how many miles I’ve walked.  It wasn’t long before I began to notice that many other people were doing the same thing.  After a few weeks, I began to recognize several of the same faces. 

I’m typically a pretty friendly person by nature.  Understanding that we’re in the middle of a pandemic, I try to be sensitive to others. I pull my mask up, say hello, and give a wave.  We can read a person’s eyes, but they don’t reveal as much as the entire face can.  As time passed, some of the regulars and I stopped for a quick word.  It was my way of keeping things regular in abnormal times.

One of the people I began to see a lot of was an older man who was frequently picking up trash in the area.  He wasn’t particularly steady on his feet, and yet here he was day after day.   He greeted me and others with great gusto as if we were long-lost friends.  I promised myself I would offer my thanks and ask him how he got started with what appeared to be a routine part of his week the next time we crossed paths.

This past week I fulfilled that promise, but then I got a whole lot more than I bargained for.  I introduced myself and asked him his name.  After thanking Jack for his generous act of kindness to our community, we engaged in conversation for the next ten minutes.

In the course of our talk, he mentioned that he used to be a teacher.  As a retired elementary teacher, I’m always happy to meet a fellow educator.  The logical follow-up question was to ask what and where he taught.  That’s when things got more interesting.  He said that he had taught anthropology, sociology, and history at Arcata High (my alma mater) and our local junior college, College of the Redwoods.   As a graduate of Arcata High in 1977 and someone who took a few classes at College of the Redwoods, I was now even more intrigued.

I related to him that I was an Arcata High graduate and asked him his full name.  When he said Jack Storm, I immediately recognized the surname.  I knew I hadn’t taken any classes from him, but I wondered if he might know my old English teacher, Barbara Storm.  Know her?  He married her.  Now in their eighties, they are retired and living in the same city I live in.  How great is that?

I thought my old teacher might light like to know that I became an educator and later wrote a book about my teaching career as a means of paying it forward to the next generation of teachers. I asked Jack to tell his wife that my future goals include writing children’s novels for middle grades.  (I’m going over my first novel with my writing group right now.)  I had to imagine that an English teacher would be proud to know that her efforts made a difference in my life.

What a serendipitous meeting!  It’s incredible what you get back when you reach out to others.  Jack may be unaware of how his act of kindness inspired me, but I intend to join him one day soon in his cleanup efforts.     

85 thoughts on “The Unsung Heroes

  1. Inspired! 💞Thanks so much for taking us along on your walk, Pete. Life’s journey is amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 7, 2020 — 3:16 pm

      Isn’t it, though? I’ve never paid much credence to fate, but these chance meetings are hard to rationalize. It sure made my week.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Surprise gifts come in all shapes and sizes! We are blessed, Pete!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you sharing this Pete. After an extremely stressful day you just put a smile on my face.☺️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 7, 2020 — 3:17 pm

      Thanks for commenting, Kim. I sure hope the rest of your week gets better.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 7, 2020 — 3:26 pm

      Chance encounters are the best!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. An amazing coincidence, and a very fortuitous one. Hopefully you’ll meet Jack again and get him to share more of his life and how your former English teacher is doing. Maybe a Christmas gift of your book for her? I’m sure she’d appreciate it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 7, 2020 — 4:21 pm

      That’s a great suggestion, Clive. I don’t know if she’ll remember me as I graduated back in 1977. I don’t remember what year I had her as my teacher.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Worth a try, maybe? I’m sure you will have imprinted yourself indelibly on her memory, Pete 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. petespringerauthor December 7, 2020 — 4:39 pm

        I doubt it. I tried to fly under the radar as much as possible in those days. I’m going to follow through with your suggestion.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I did the same. I met my old head teacher a few years ago. Hadn’t seen him since 1968 but he remembered me – they have longer memories than you might think! Hope it goes well 🤞

        Liked by 1 person

    2. petespringerauthor December 19, 2020 — 10:02 pm

      A follow up to your suggestion, Clive. I followed through on it today. I’ve kept my eye out for Jack and finally crossed paths with him again today. I gave him a copy of my book to pass on along with a letter that I had written his wife, my former teacher. He seemed pleased, and that made me feel good. I included my address, so maybe I’ll hear back from her.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s wonderful, Pete! I hope she enjoys your book, and it will be lovely if she contacts you after all this time 🤞

        Liked by 1 person

  4. What a beautiful encounter. I am a big believer in asking questions and trying to find connections with people. I love it when something like this happens! I was. going to suggest that you gift him and his wife your book, but someone beat me to it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 7, 2020 — 4:42 pm

      Yes, I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before. I always love hearing what my former students are up to, so I don’t imagine she would be any different.

      I’ll bet you have some of those wild connections from some of your travels.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Nicely written, and totally agree. We need to break that hero stereotyping; SO visually entrenched by a culture consumed by folks wearing underwear on top of leotards, or other socially accepted uniforms.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 7, 2020 — 6:47 pm

      Heroes are the dads and moms holding down two jobs while still managing to care for their kids.

      Like

  6. i love everything about this, two kind men connected over time and meant to meet –

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 7, 2020 — 6:50 pm

      I hope that I’m still contributing something when I get to be Jack’s age. It’s so cool to see anyone who puts value in his/her community.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have no doubt that you will be

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I saw one kind male start cleaning up the trashy heaps that have become inner cities–needles, feces, and wrose. Many joined him, all for free to the community. It amazed me.

    My congratulations to you and Jack.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 7, 2020 — 6:52 pm

      I do believe that we take inspiration from others. For all of the crappy stuff we hear about, I still believe that most people want to do the right thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. How wonderful you met Jack and started the conversation, Pete! What a surprise that doesn’t happen every day. He was an inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 7, 2020 — 8:15 pm

      I find myself turning into my parents more and more as I get older. (I mean that as a compliment.) I often engage people in conversations like these now. How nice to make a new friend.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is a good thing, Pete. A new but seemingly familiar friend!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. This is an amazing story, Pete, and I’m so pleased you wrote a blog post about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 7, 2020 — 11:30 pm

      Yes, I enjoy stories like this one. Jack told me he would try very hard to remember my name to share our encounter with his wife. One funny part I didn’t share was that he said that he got started with this when his doctor told him he needed regular exercise. When he went to see his MD a few weeks later, the doctor said, Have you been following my advice?”

      “No, I only get out six days a week,” replied Jack. 😎

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is funny, Pete. What an adorable gentleman. I’m sure he will have many more stories to share with you, just as you have to share with him.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. You’re always paying it forward. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 7, 2020 — 11:35 pm

      I think after I got older, I started thinking about the importance of contributing something to society. I think it was Whitman that wrote, “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

      Liked by 1 person

  11. This is a wonderful and uplifting post, Pete. Living in a smaller town has its advantages. I sometimes see Gregory’s primary school piano teacher and we exchange a few words.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 8, 2020 — 7:46 am

      My city has 28,000 people, so it’s not that unusual to run into former students or their families. Since I taught anywhere from 2nd to 6th grade, their appearances can have changed a lot. Some faces never seem to change.

      Like

  12. With a little conscious effort and through the gifting of a small amount of time, we can be amazed at the connection we have with others. But it is making the effort to find that connection that brings the reward. This is a heart-warming story, well written and well shared!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 8, 2020 — 7:53 am

      I’m reminded of the saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” However, I can appreciate the power of the written word. Your weekly Tuesday Tidbits is a great example of that.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. For you as a teacher, this ‘bump-into’ type of connection with one of your own former teachers (albeit the spouse of) is even more glorious! And also slightly miraculous in this year of extreme isolation. The odds are great as it is, but add into the mix of not getting to ‘get out into the world’ and the odds become crazy-higher. Very special.
    I’d also add that your encounter was more on the serendipitous side since I suspect it coincided with a ‘just what I needed’ moment in your life, too!
    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 8, 2020 — 7:56 am

      As a teacher, I’ve always understood the power of the human connection. When we care about someone, there is a power created by that bond. It was a very uplifting moment for me. Thanks for commenting, Laura.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. What a wonderful story! I love these serendipitous encounters. I hope the two of you carry on your conversation so that you can get an update on his wife. And then you need to share it with your readers…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 8, 2020 — 12:33 pm

      As a couple of other folks suggested, I think I will give him a copy of my book to pass on to her. I have to imagine it might be harder for a high school teacher to remember all their students, especially since they see so many kids in one day. I was the kind of student who never wanted to bring any attention to himself, so there’s a good chance she might not remember me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Maybe if you mention that Jerry Springer is your cousin 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  15. I especially loved the not only do I know her I am married to her! A lovely reward for taking the time to chat with him.

    Like

  16. Thank you for this heartwarming post! It brought a smile to my face.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 8, 2020 — 4:49 pm

      I’m glad, Liz. It was one of those unexpected endings that surprised me. I’m planning on writing an inscription in one of my books and ask Jack to give it to his wife. I know as a teacher yourself, it is these moments we most cherish.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, these are the moments we most cherish. I also get a little thrill every time I see learning occurring in a class I’m teaching. It never gets old.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. What a wonderful encounter, Pete initiated by the fact that you are the person who gives a smile and a nod to a stranger rather than meet eyes and look away as many do…what a reward that has come about…I think a copy of your book is a great idea 🙂 I look froward to reading the next instalment of this chance encounter as I am sure there will be 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 9, 2020 — 8:55 am

      That attitude comes right from my parents, who would seek out anyone to gain information from, talk to, or comfort. It’s one of the many ways that parents model behavior.

      Like

      1. You are correct most of our behaviours are learned in our formative years…

        Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 9, 2020 — 8:57 am

      About to head out for my daily walk right now, John. I’m looking forward to seeing Jack again.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. What a lovely, heartwarming post, Pete. I’m glad you took time to chat with Jack — and that you shared it with us. Hugs on the wing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 9, 2020 — 12:27 pm

      When I was a lot younger, I would not have reached out like that. It’s become so much easier for me to put myself out to others over time. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, Teagan. Your covers are amazing!

      Liked by 1 person

  19. I love this story. There are no strangers in the world – you prove this perfectly. I walk a lot also, and I bemoan the fact that we have to walk far away from others, wear our mask, hide our smile. I usually hold my hand out in a wave, at least, and every once in a while each of us stops and talks, albeit from six feet. Each new person I meet has a fascinating story. Yours might beat them all though, Pete. 7 degrees of separation, only much less.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 9, 2020 — 3:16 pm

      I was on the lookout for him today, but we did not cross paths. Since I wrote this piece, I followed up with a letter to my English teacher that I intend to give to Jack. I’m not sure that she will remember me, but we teachers take great pleasure when we hear something about our old students. This time I’m the pupil instead of the teacher.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, yes, it will mean so much to her. A couple of months ago, when my daughter (6th grade teacher – in the classroom as well as Zooming for her at-home students) was particularly exhausted, she received an e-mail from one of her students. He wanted her to know that he’d been shy with no self-confidence in 6th grade and loved her class and the way she approached him (dyslexic, ADD). He made it through college and now teaching his first year of 9th grade History, and he wanted her to know that she’s the reason. Oh my gosh, I’m crying as I relate this to you. Yes, the teachers/caregivers/health care workers need to know the difference they make in the life of others.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. petespringerauthor December 10, 2020 — 9:50 am

        I know of many others who have had experiences such as your daughter’s. Teachers do change lives, with the power to help someone become the person he/she was meant to be. It is moments like these that convince us that it was all worth it.

        Liked by 1 person

  20. There is so much here, Pete. Making the connection to his wife, saying thank you to an unsung hero, and following through on simple acts of kindness – that’s a hat trick. Jack’s wife would be very, very proud to know that she made a difference. Your students let you know, and you should pay it forward and let her know. Thank you for a wonderful and inspiring post, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 10, 2020 — 7:36 pm

      That’s the plan. I wrote the letter and have it in an envelope to give to Jack along with my book. Even if she doesn’t remember me, I still think she would be pleased to know I thought of her.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I definitely think she will be pleased! Did you ever have a student call or drop by who you did not remember? I did once, yet I was touched. If it happened to you, I bet you were, too.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. petespringerauthor December 11, 2020 — 8:21 am

        I haven’t had that happen, but I sheepishly admit that as I look back at class pictures over my career, there are a few kids who I don’t remember well now. I don’t like that feeling, but I suppose that has something to do with aging. Sometimes a former student will remind me of a delightful moment that happened the year he/she was in my class, and that makes me feel wonderful.

        Like

  21. What a lovely post, Pete! Our teachers stay in our minds forever probably because we were young and impressionable at the time. I still remember mine even though it’s been nearly 45 years since I left school!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 12, 2020 — 9:48 am

      Are you like me, Stevie? Some years are complete blanks. I don’t know if that speaks more about those teachers or a guy with a failing memory.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have quite a good memory. I think it’s a ‘girl’ thing. My eldest son doesn’t remember large chunks of his childhood though. I think men tend to block out what isn’t interesting.

        Liked by 1 person

  22. This is a wonderful story, Pete! Life sure can be funny. I tracked down my grade-three teacher and thanked her for inspiring me to travel and write books. She remembered me, even though it was a long time ago. Some good things have come out of this weird year. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 12, 2020 — 9:46 am

      I wish I had all of my school yearbook photos still. Not surprisingly, I remember many of my students for their antics, kindness, or something else that made an impression on me. I didn’t have much use for Facebook for many years, but it is the one way I’ve been able to answer that nagging “I wonder whatever happened to… question.” The scary part is I also have old students who I remember nothing about. I wonder, how could this person and I have spent a year together and yet I don’t remember anything about him/her. I suppose it’s part of the aging process.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. I loved this story! Thank you so much for sharing, Pete. It made my day. 🙂

    Like

    1. petespringerauthor December 12, 2020 — 9:36 am

      I’m sure we all have stories like this. The lesson for me is what’s the harm in reaching out and being friendly. At the least, you might brighten up someone else’s day. Thanks for the follow, and I look forward to reading your posts as well.

      Like

  24. What a great meeting, Pete. You never know when your outgoing nature is going to turn up a wonderful connection. And it sounds like Jack is a inspiration and hero in many ways. Your post is another reminder that everyday there are ordinary people making a positive difference in the lives of others. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 13, 2020 — 8:46 am

      I can’t help but think of my mom with your comment, Diana. She always went out of her way to be extra friendly to anyone she encountered. When your loved ones show in their actions how to treat others, some of that is bound to rub off. Even after dementia stole her mind, she remained the same sweet person.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think she rubbed off on you, Pete. And what a lovely enduring gift that is. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  25. Another great post, Pete – and what a lucky meeting. Thank you so much for taking all us with you. We always learn so much. Toni x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 14, 2020 — 6:07 am

      The old back feels pretty good today. I was just thinking about hopping into the shower and getting an early morning walk. Maybe this one will be equally fortuitous.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. What an amazing story of serendipity Pete. The universe puts things and people in our paths for reasons. How many times did you see the man til you knew you had to strike up a conversation. Beautiful story! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 14, 2020 — 7:04 pm

      Maybe a half dozen times of saying hello before I had to hear the rest of the story. Now I’ve been out three times since looking for him, but he hasn’t been there. I wrote my old teacher a letter that I intend to give to him because I figured if she’s like me, she will enjoy hearing what I’ve been up to for the past 40+ years.

      Congratulations on being released from Facebook jail. Let’s see how long you can stay out of trouble.😊

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LOL smart guy! Hopefully, I’ll be free til at least next year LOLOL. And go figure, when we look we don’t find. Keep that letter on your person, keep taking your walks. You’ll come across him again when you aren’t looking so hard. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  27. What a wonderful story. It is wonderful to find someone you thought was gone from your life. Life constantly holds surprises for us. I was an educational secretary on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona for 15 years. That was a wonderful experience I will never forget. I am a decade older than you. Congratulations on the Children’s Books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 18, 2020 — 12:03 pm

      That’s great, Peggy (don’t call me Beth). 😊 That must have been an interesting job. As a career educator, I realize that, sadly, equal opportunities do not happen for all people. That is why jobs such as educational secretaries, advocating for specific groups like Native Americans are critical. Thank you for your years of service. Have you written about that anywhere as I’m interested in learning more? I started a Facebook group called Supporters of Teachers three years ago. I will always be an advocate for teachers, children, and education.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No, I never wrote about my experiences on the Indian reservation, but it certainly was different than our regular public schools. These children often started out with a language barrier. The school spent a year with them in classes for Beginners to teach them English. This was back in the late 60s to the early 80s. We dealt with the Navajo and the Hopi tribes.

        Liked by 1 person

  28. A great reminder, Pete, highlighting our Unsung Heroes. “…it’s the right thing to do.” Interesting how your paths crossed, and how Jack used to be a teacher, too. Goosebumps about “my alma mater.” Yes, serendipitous!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 19, 2020 — 10:08 pm

      Clive, another blogger here, suggested that I give my English teacher a copy of my book to pass on to her. I liked his suggestion and also wrote her a letter, knowing that I treasure the letters I get from former students. Today we crossed paths again, and I gave him those two items to pass on to his wife. If I hear back from here (I included my address), I suspect there will be a follow-up blog post.

      Like

  29. Amazing how life works like that . . . unexpected and unlikely connections. So kind of you to introduce this thoughtful man who provides a service just for the sake of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 29, 2020 — 8:07 am

      In a world of Instagram likes and seeking followers, it’s great to see that others are doing positive things out of the goodness in their hearts instead of self-serving reasons.

      Liked by 1 person

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