Thursday, August 25, 2011

Everyday Heroes

Some folks live their lives, do spectacular things consistently, and are never known beyond their circle of family and friends. I love people like that, who do great things not for any recognition, but because those things need doing and those things make the world a better place. These are some everyday heroes I know:

Olivia: Olivia is a grandmother of many and a great grandmother to more. She works in our cafeteria, one of a handful of elderly ladies who work part time there. They arrive early enough in the morning that it could still be called nighttime to roll out homemade tortillas, doughnuts, and biscuits as big as my hand for children who come ready to eat. Olivia and her husband are far from wealthy financially. They subsist on her part time salary and what he draws from Social Security. Their home is old and small, but immaculate.

State budget woes have forced school districts to make painful cuts. When it became apparent one part time worker would have to be trimmed from the already spare cafeteria staff, Olivia could see how troubled the other ladies were who worked with her, since they were all single. She went home, prayed, and talked with her husband. The next day, she went to the supervisor with a strange request.

"You can cut me, and I want to continue to work. For free, " Olivia said to the supervisor, whose mouth had dropped open.

"Whaa, uhh, uhh, what?" she squeaked out. "Work for free? No salary?"

"No salary," replied Olivia. "If you're able to start paying me later, then that's fine, but if you can't, that's fine, too."

Every morning, Olivia is at her station with her trademark smile and warm biscuit, tortilla, or doughnut to pass out to the students. "And it's a good morning today!" she tells each of them. And it is.

Jenny: When I began losing the first of the 167 lbs I've lost., I was too embarrassed to go to a gym to exercise. All my workouts were done at home. I longed to join a group, but just couldn't force myself. One morning after church, Jenny with the gorgeous, sculpted body caught me in the foyer. "Hey, you're losing weight! Are you exercising?" I told her I was, but only at home.

"You need to come to my exercise class. The price is right because it's free, and I'll kick your butt, but you'll feel comfortable within the class."

At the prodding of one of my daughters, I finally went. Jenny was right. I felt very comfortable with her style of teaching, and she did kick my butt. Jenny's motto is, If you puke, clean it up. If you faint, roll out of the way so no one steps on you. And if you die, make sure someone comes to pick up your body.

Her no nonsense, no whining approach to working out has made a believer out of me and all the women who come. Many of the others are single moms, with pinch tight budgets and great responsibilities on their shoulders. A number of them have come out of bad relationships and their self image has taken a hit. Jenny prods and cajoles them into shape, giving them laughs and a safe place to be part of group. She always refuses to take a cent for her efforts, although she usually ends up buying or seeking out donations of equipment and even workout clothes and shoes for them.

There are also a couple of us who have come out of morbid obesity and although we have thought at times we were going to die in her workouts, she's got us all still living, breathing, and stronger than ever.

Naomi: Naomi and Lyle were literally childhood sweethearts. They met in the second grade and it was in the third grade he told her she was going to be his wife. She thought he was crazy, but sure enough, when they were 18, they married and he shipped off to fight in World War II.

Her prayers for him were fervent, and the Lord brought him home safely after two years of combat. Her hopes of building their family took a cruel turn when she suffered miscarriage after miscarriage. Lyle didn't want to adopt, so she swallowed that dream and poured herself into caring for him. People said they almost moved as one person, they were so close.

When Lyle died in their 64th year of marriage, Naomi thought it best that she should die, too. She even asked God to take her home. She was disappointed each morning when she awoke, still breathing. She finally gave herself a good talking to and decided since she was still breathing each morning, she must still have purpose.

She remembered how she had longed for children, and although she had many nieces and nephews and their families to dote on and love, she wanted to do more. She went to a large children's hospital that cares for babies born too early and those battling serious diseases. She read how these babies needed human touch to help them thrive, and sometimes their exhausted parents needed breaks. So Naomi became a rocker.

She reports every morning to a special room where she disinfects herself, dons a sterile gown, and receives babies to cuddle and rock.

While she rocks them, she sings them the songs she stored in her heart but never got to sing to her own children. She whispers in these babies' ears and tells them they will be great men and women some day, how much they are loved, and how very special they are. When the nurses come to pick them up from Naomi, the babies are calm and peaceful, their vitals are strong.

And Naomi, who once asked God to end her life, now prays for more days so she can continue to love these little ones.


  1. You're making it hard for me to see the computer screen through my tears, Shelly. The heroes that you profiled here are living proof that one person can make a difference and indeed change the world. I have to believe that great abundance will come to Olivia in the wake of her tremendous sacrifice, her dedication to duty and her love of the children she serves. Jenny is using the approach that you and I discussed for your girls fitness class. If people feel like they belong, that they are part of something great and if they have confidence in their leader, breakthroughs happen. Naomi turned disappointment and adversity into something positive. Instead of taking her love of children with her to an early grave she got creative about the possibilities. She identified need and stepped in to meet that need. She is working miracles in the lives of babies. Who can measure the ripple effects of her actions? The human touch that she is offering at this critical juncture will surely make a difference. It is exciting to think that at least some of those children might go on to lives of greatness as a direct result of her nurturing.

  2. Shelly, these stories are beautiful. These people are beautiful! And you could add your name to the list here for immortalizing them so beautifully. It brought tears to my eyes. What wonderful examples to all of us. True angels!

  3. Shady: You hit the nail on the head with each of these. Each individual person can make such a difference in their own orbit if they just choose to see the possibilities. Each of these ladies is an inspiration to me, and they are each building a magnificent legacy in their own quiet way. They truly amaze me.

    Thank you for your kind and thought provoking comments!

  4. Felt Family: Thank you so much, but I am nowhere in their league. They are all so selfless. I think if we each could take a little of their attitudes, the world would get a whole lot better, a whole lot quicker!

  5. Beautiful stories of beautiful people. I often think of people like this when I see all the attention given to the rich and famous. I know many, many people live wonderful lives of goodness and sacrifice. It was lovely to read of these people today.

  6. Belle: You're right- so much attention is paid to "celebrities" who live vain, self centered lives. These folks and those like them are the true celebrities.

  7. have such a wonderful way of delivering a story. I was drawn into the lives of each of your heroines with each tender and kind word you wrote. Thank you for sharing and I'm looking forward to each and every one of your posts!


  8. Sush: Thank you so much- their stories are so easy to tell. And I, my friend, so look forward to your posts!

  9. Thank you for sharing these beautiful, inspirational stories.

  10. OMG this made me cry! I wish I knew these people especially Naomi :)

  11. Missed Periods: Thank you for stopping by!

    lyndylou: They are all three terrific women. I wish we had more of them-

  12. The last one brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for writing such an uplifting post. You are so unassuming and sweet. I hope the people in your life recognize you as the angel you are.

  13. I cried outloud on that last one, wow, she did the best with God gave her and is working miracles.

    Truly, they are all remarkable women--real life heroes. Loving no matter what.

    Beautiful post as usual Shelly!

  14. As usual you have touched my heart today Shelly. These were remarkable stories and I thank you so very much for sharing them.

  15. Crystal: I am completely humbled by your very kind words. You so made my day- thank you!!!

    Jamie Jo: Honestly, when I was proofreading it, I teared up, too, at Naomi's. I just love all of those three women. They truly are remarkable. Thank you so much!

    Odie: Thank you so much!

  16. Odie sent me over and I am glad he did! Absolutely beautiful. Your writing is sweet and simple, not overly flowery or saturated. You let the emotions come without trying to force a reaction. Thank you.

  17. Thank you for sharing these incredible stories they are certainly uplifting! It is so nice to see that there are people like that in this world :)

  18. Jessica: Thank you so much for stopping by and for your very kind words. I am heading over to yours to check it out this evening-

    cestlavie22: Thank you! I like to think there are many people like these ladies all around. They certainly inspire me!

  19. I loved these stories. There are so many good and interesting people all around us every day. Thanks for bringing these to my attention - great stories!

  20. Karen: That's true- great people come in contact with us everyday and sometimes we don't even recognize that. Thank you for your kind comments!

  21. I LOVED this post. Thank you for such inspiring stories of good people.

    Strangely, I also wrote about everyday heroes today - the lineman who go out and get all of us back up and running after storms like Hurricane Irene on the East Coast.
    Blessings to you - Marsha

  22. Marsha: Thank you, and great minds think alike! I visited your post earlier today and left a comment- thoroughly enjoyed it- we need to recognize these unseen heroes WAY more often-

  23. These were beautiful!!! I am tearing up over the last story. I love the image of her telling those tiny babies they'll be great men & women someday!

  24. What a wonderful, uplifting post! Thanks for sharing some of the unsung heroes that you know about.

  25. Kelley: I loved that, too- and she firmly believes it when she tells them. Thank you!

    bettyl: Thank you so much for your kind words. :)


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