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Looking for stories of our time

I am in search of stories. I lean toward authentic, well told tales that bump up against my heart and make me think about life a little differently. I look for stories that depict courage and caring.

For me, the required stories come in various forms. For example, there have been powerful newspaper articles that describe the Wall of Moms turning out for the downtown Portland protests. I see the mothers as strong and brave. The same scene holds stories about the Fathers Against Fascism, creatively using leaf blowers to redirect the tear gas being aimed at them. In my version of this scene, the fathers were protecting their mothers — and their grandmothers. Protecting all of us, actually. In my version of these stories, it worked.

There are less graphic, less vivid but still important stories. For me, this week’s sweetest small tale involved a neighbor who had observed how much trouble we were having setting up a hummingbird feeder and attracting these tiniest of birds. She left a purple-red salvia plant at out front door one morning as a gift. No note. But I knew.

Then there are the unexpected, slightly ironic stories, such as the recently declared partnership between Honey Nut Cheerios and Health magazine with the goal of helping “sustain a daily smile” to “keep the bad day at bay.” It made me want to rethink my breakfast options.

Or the story about the elderly couple in South Carolina who use Zoom dinners and online happy hours to stay in touch with family and friends during the pandemic. No designated driver necessary.

One of my favorite stories this week came from an article in the Sunday New York Times about a Boston-based physician who set up a voter registration kiosk in his clinic. His advice to his patients, “Rest up. Drink plenty of fluids, and don’t forget to register to vote!”

One of the best places to hear stories is National Public Radio. Perhaps you have found yourself in your driveway listening to the end of a “Story Corps” podcast on the car radio. There is one available right now titled “One Essential Worker to Another,” a dialogue between two public transit drivers in New York City who transport health care workers at all hours, day and night. They are committed to doing their jobs well and agree they have “a driver’s heart.” One of the drivers, Tyrone Hampton, says, “But now our heart is being tested, and it’s one hell of a test.” The other driver, Frank de Jesus, worries aloud about bringing COVID home to his family and shares an illustration involving his good friend, who carries a roll of caution tape. He runs after and briefly boards buses to place the tape around the seat behind the driver to ensure it stays empty. Tyrone responds with, “We gonna make it through this, man. We gonna make it through.”

Identifying stories of courage and caring is my mission this week. Maybe next week too. Stories full of ideas to rejuvenate and sustain. Stories that heal.

Sharon Johnson is a retired health educator. Reach her at sharjohn99@gmail.com.