More than One Kind of Courage

Everyone admires courage. Everyone wants to be courageous. Usually the courage we talk about, the courage we think about and yearn for, is movie courage. Courage in the face of extreme danger. It is an important type of courage, but there’s more than one kind of courage.

What is Courage? 

Fear and courage are brothers.”

A Proverb

We can all agree that courage is about bravery and a certain amount of risk taking. But how do we define courage? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, courage is mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. 

By that definition, there can be many types of courage. Here we will discuss ten types of courage: physical, every day, moral, spiritual, social, emotional, empathetic, disciplined, intellectual, and creative. 

Physical Courage 

Physical courage is bravery at the risk of bodily harm or death. We romanticize this type of courage in superheroes like Superman and Wonder Woman. It’s also the courage soldiers have at war. There have been many, many people in our world who have shown extraordinary physical courage. I’ll name Witold Pilecki and Malala Yousafzai as two with physical courage. It’s likely you know some who have never made the history books or news.

photo of Malala Yousafzai one example of a person with physical courage, in fact she stands for more than one kind of courage

Everyday Courage 

Everyday courage is about the grit and determination necessary to make tough calls about one’s self, life, and loved ones.

tepsa.org

Examples include Stormé DeLaverie who dared to be herself no matter what. It also is a farmer working his field through rain and drought, the person who decides every day to get up and go through their day no matter what, and the child who, despite their fears, walks into a new classroom or situation. It also includes the tougher choices like end-of-life choices, or to walk away from a toxic relationship. 

Moral Courage 

Moral courage means acting on one’s values in the face of potential or actual opposition and negative consequences.”

psychologytoday.com

We are fortunate to live in a world of people with moral courage like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Aung San Suu Kyi and many others.

Spiritual Courage

This is the type of courage that allows us “to grapple with questions about faith, purpose, and meaning in a religious or nonreligious framework.” We have spiritual courage when we share our spirituality publicly, or when we answer a child’s question about life after death, or when we seek to understand an unfamiliar belief system. 

Social Courage

This expression of courage involves the risk of social embarrassment or exclusion, unpopularity or rejection. It also involves leadership.

Ruby Bridges and Rosa Parks had the social and physical courage to challenge segregation. The Native Americans (and others) protesting at Standing Rock expressed social courage. Every person who comes out as LGBQT has social courage. Often introverts flex their social courage muscles in order to appear in public.

Emotional Courage 

It takes a special courage, emotional courage, to be open to feeling the full spectrum of emotional experience, both positive and negative.

lionswhiskers.com

We could classify this as an everyday courage. All of us should be emotionally courageous. But some of us hide behind one emotion and don’t have the courage to face more difficult emotions. It is also an extraordinary courage for people who struggle with or overcome mental health issues.

Empathetic Courage

Acknowledging personal bias and intentionally moving away from them in order to vicariously experience the trials and triumphs of others is empathetic courage.

In my humble opinion, this should be an everyday courage, but it clearly isn’t a courage everyone shares. Facing one’s flawed way of thinking about another person isn’t for the faint of heart.

Disciplined Courage

Remaining steadfast, strategic and deliberate in the face of inevitable setbacks and failures is disciplined courage.

This is an everyday courage. Every. Single. Day. So many people choose to use this type of courage. I do. You do. Every. Single. Person.

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”

Thomas Edison

Intellectual Courage

According to tepsa.org, intellectual courage is challenging old assumptions and acting to make changes based on new learnings, understandings, and insights gleaned from experience and/or educational research.

This is often the pursuit of truth. One of the most famous types of intellectual courage was Edward R. Murrow’s report exposing Joseph McCarthy as a racist.

Creative Courage

You have creative courage when you are doing creative work despite your doubts and fears. It’s opening your mind to fresh approaches, new ideas, and acting on them. Anyone who is a creative who has grown in their talent or skills has used creative courage to get there. Creatives use creative courage every time you face a new project, every time you show someone your work. 

More than One Kind of Courage

I hope this brief review of these ten different kinds of courage has helped you see how you and everyone around you use courage. Some are grand, exciting, acts on the world stage. Most acts of courage are quiet. We often label them as “small” because they are quiet. Now that you know there’s more than one kind of courage, don’t compare acts of courage. Honor your courage and the courage of others. 

What type of courage have you used today?

Image Credits

Top image by erwin nowak from Pixabay 

Second photo by DFID – UK Department for International Development via Wikimedia Commons.

Third photo by slowking4 via Wikimedia Commons.

Self-Validation Tools For Creatives

Responses to last week’s post “Stop Labeling Yourself an Imposter” showed me I wasn’t alone. Many creatives are caught in that self-destructive loop. It revealed that many of us don’t know how to self-validate. We need a set of self-validation tools for creatives.

Image of a woman sitting cross-legged on a red couch against a red wall and above her head is a neon sign that reads feelings--a lead in to an article on self-validating tools for creatives

Why?

Creatives often look for validation from creators we respect or from the consumers of our creations. That is not healthy for our arts or for us as individuals. The list of self-validation for creatives is the same as for any human, but many creatives spend their free time developing tools for their creativity while neglecting themselves. 

Neglecting yourself either physically or emotionally will ultimately affect your ability to accomplish what you want to accomplish. You know the physical toll your art takes on you. You know how you can counteract that. Do you know the toll your emotional side takes?

You are your most important asset. Invest in knowing yourself and recognizing unhelpful thought distortions.

Thought Distortions

Silhouette of a man sitting on a chair slumped forward and holding his head. The background shows negative thoughts- he needs self-validating tools for creatives

Our brains protect us from danger. We survive because our brain is always on alert for signs of danger. It makes connections so that hearing a roaring dinosaur or saber-toothed tiger means danger and signals us to fight or run in an instant. When we live in environments where we are often in immediate physical danger, this ability is vital to our survival.

Unfortunately, our brain still works this way when we don’t live in such physical danger. It continues to make connections between thoughts, ideas, actions, and consequences, whether or not there are actual connections. You come to believe certain things are true when they are irrational or distorted or false. You act on those ideas without thinking about them any further. Psychologists call those kinds of thought, thought distortions.

Thought distortions are when your brain lies to you. What? You say that doesn’t happen to you? Consider these common thought distortions:

  • I cannot do this thing all other creatives can do, so I am not creative. (All-or-nothing thinking)
  • You miscount your stitches for a dozen rows and give up on that project you’re knitting because you just aren’t good enough. (Overgeneralization)
  • Several of your beta readers don’t get their comments back to you, which must mean that they hated your book. (Mind Reading)

There are many other types of thought distortion. Positive Psychology’s article, “Cognitive Distortions: When Your Brain Lies to You,” lists sixteen types.

10 Self-Validation Tools

1. Increase Your Self-Awareness

The more aware you are of your feelings and how other people and your environment affect your feelings, the more likely you will stop thought distortions. How do you increase your self-awareness? 

There are many online self-assessment tests to help you learn about yourself. Look for ones by psychologist or mental health specialists. Tests like Myers Briggs personality test may help. Take them, but don’t accept their analysis 100%. Use the results to explore what they mean to you. If you have a strong emotional response to a result, don’t blow it off. Stop and analyze why you respond that way.

Be present. Meditate or do yoga. Practice mindfulness.

Keep a thought journal. Remember, a journal doesn’t have to be a diary, it can be a collage of images, it can be colors—use the ways you best express yourself. Document not only how you feel but what or who affected your emotions.

Read. There are thousands and thousands of self-help books. Find one that appeals to you, one that will help you become more self-aware. Give yourself time to read and think about what it says and how that relates to you.

2. Don’t Over Identify with Your Feelings

There is a difference between saying, I am angry, and saying, I feel angry. Your feelings are not who you are. You may feel angry many times, but you are not anger. Notice how it’s much more likely you will over identify with a negative emotion like anger or fear than a more positive emotion like love. I am love can be just as harmful as I am angry.

Emotional responses are normal. But remember that you are more than one thing. You are many things. You have many feelings. Recognize all your feelings.

3. Practice Acceptance

Notice your feelings without judgment. I feel angry. Sit with your feelings. Allow yourself to be angry or sad, or even happy. Give yourself the time and space to feel that way. Accept your feelings. Comfort yourself the way a kind parent would. It is normal to feel angry in this circumstance. You won’t feel this way forever. It is a feeling. You can feel it and not act on it. It’s okay. You’re okay.

An image of a brain labeled Practice presence with all kinds of positive thoughts within the brain--this brain is practicing self-validating tools for creatives

4. Ask Yourself What Do You Need

If you are not used to knowing what you need, this will take practice. Ask yourself, do I need time alone? Often, your first answer isn’t a genuine need. Dig deeper. Do I need to speak kindly to myself? Do I need a hug? Do I need some physical exercise or sunshine and fresh air? Try to recognize your needs without using food, unless you are genuinely hungry. Many of us use food to stuff or not feel our feelings.

5. Turn Shame Into Praise

I didn’t do it perfect, I’m such a loser is hurtful. Why do that to yourself? If you can’t be kind to yourself, you can’t accept anyone else’s kindness. Turn the unkindness, the shame, into praise. Honey, no one gets it perfect the first time. Look at you, you’re learning a new skill. Pretty good for a first try. Look at what you did! You did so much better than your last attempt. You are good enough exactly as you are. With practice sessions like that, you’ll be great in no time.

6. Practice Positive Self-talk

Similar to turning shame into praise, you need to practice positive self-talk. Negative self-talk, like calling yourself names or telling yourself you shouldn’t even try or you’ll never fit in, is more hurtful than someone else saying that to you.

Practice positive self-talk at least once a day. Write three things that empower yourself. Then say those things aloud to yourself at least once a day. Every day. For at least eight weeks, give yourself a dose of positive thoughts every morning. Ideally, you’ll do it every evening, too. Even, or maybe especially, when you don’t feel it. How much better you feel at the end of that eight weeks and how much easier it is to say those things will amaze you. Rinse and repeat with a set of different positive things to say about yourself.

7. Know Your Strengths

Sometimes, it is difficult to know what our strengths are. It may take a lot of self-examination and even then, we rarely see ourselves objectively. Ask a trusted friend to name the strengths they see in you. If this friend is kind and trusted, ask them to name one weakness they see in you. 

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses can help you perform better. Can help you focus on areas of improvement. Sometimes the best improvements you can make are to your strengths. 

8. Celebrate Your Victories

Congratulate yourself for every victory, even the small ones. Find (non-food related) ways to reward yourself for the larger victories. Allow yourself time to watch a new movie or to play a game or walk in your favorite park. Make your celebrations proportional, but give it enough time to sink in.

9. Read Inspirational Things

Inspirational quotes and memes are helpful, but sometimes you need more inspiration. It isn’t always easy to find inspiration. The news rarely reports positive things. You’ll have to look for them. What inspires me and inspires you may be opposite things. That’s okay. Find articles and books (physical, electronic, or audio) that are inspirational to you.

10. Be with Inspirational People

Illustration of three women of different skin tones and different imperfections and the label reads Perfectly Imperfect, they used self-validating tools for creatives
Perfectly imperfect afro women with freckles and vitiligo characters vector illustration

Yes, even in the age of COVID, this is possible. You can practice social distancing and wear a mask at conventions or conferences. Of course, there are many online options like Zoom and Skype. Even reading the biography or the works of inspirational people can count.

NOTE

If you have clinical depression, are under mental health care treatments, please consult your mental health professional about how these things will work for you. If you are not currently under the care of a mental health professional, please get help. We need you and your unique talents in the world.

Self-Validation Tools for Creatives

There are dozens of more self-validation tools easily available on the internet. Here are links to some of my source material to get you started. 

Sharon Martin wrote a helpful article titled Validate Yourself.

Psych Central lists 4 ways to validate yourself.

Thought Catalog also has an article about validating yourself.

You are Not Alone

Everyone suffers from some negative self-talk. Certainly, many creatives need to learn ways to self-validate. Even people who think themselves non-creative suffer from thought distortion. But look at you, awareness is half the battle. 

Now that you’re aware, what will be your next step to self-validate?

Image Credits:

First Photo by Brock Wegner on Unsplash

Positive brain Images both by John Hain from Pixabay 

Stop Labeling Yourself an Imposter

Ever since the 1978 study by Psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes, creatives (and many others) have been labeling themselves as having “imposter phenomenon” or “imposter syndrome.” I even blogged about it. Caught up in the relief of “someone understands,” I embraced the label. But I now understand how damaging the label is and I urge you to stop labeling yourself an imposter. 

cartoon-style image of a wolf in sheep's clothing approaching a sheep symbolic of why you should stop labeling yourself an imposter

What is Imposter Syndrome?

According to Merriam-Webster, imposter syndrome is “a psychological condition that is characterized by persistent doubt concerning one’s abilities or accomplishments accompanied by the fear of being exposed as a fraud despite evidence of one’s ongoing success.”

Many, many celebrities have confessed to having imposter syndrome.

What is Wrong with the Label?

What image or thought comes to mind when you think about the word imposter? A wolf in sheep’s clothing? Cases where fraudulent identities were used to swindle someone?

The word imposter puts the blame on you. It says you are not genuine. You are defective, an imposter, a fraud. Even the “confession” of having imposter syndrome implies it’s something wrong, even criminal.

There is no room in that label for normal doubt or for historical, cultural, familial, or systemic context. 

At worst, the label implies you are pathological, a criminal. It says you are flawed and need to be fixed. The label says it’s wrong to be unsure, to doubt your abilities, to feel uncomfortable.

It doesn’t acknowledge that microaggressions and discrimination against gender and race, the lack of role models, and the lack of validation play a huge role in destroying your self-confidence.

What is Self-Doubt?

Photo of a woman in black sitting crosslegged on a red sofa against a red background with a neon sign above her head that reads "feelings." Self-doubt is a normal feeling so stop labeling yourself an imposter

Self-doubt is

a lack of faith in oneself a feeling of doubt or uncertainty about one’s abilities, actions, etc.

Merriam-Webster

How does the phrase, “lack of faith in oneself” make you feel? I’ll bet it doesn’t make you feel like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Doubt or uncertainty about one’s abilities, actions, etc. is an uncomfortable feeling. It can be extremely uncomfortable. No wonder we want to label it somehow.

Self-Doubt is Normal

Being anxious about a new skill or new situation is normal. Second guessing and mild discomfort are normal. Being the “new kid on the block” is stressful. And it’s okay to feel that stress.

Confidence doesn’t equal competence.

Think about it. You tell yourself you are not competent because you have little or no confidence. Let me say it again: confidence doesn’t equal competence. 

Traditionally in the business world, a novice gets a job and a mentor, a professional who is competent and confident. The novice is anxious and doubts his abilities, but he gets guidance and education from the mentor. The mentor models that anxiety is normal and is competent despite that discomfort. As the novice’s skills build, the mentor validates his abilities. Over time, the novice grows more and more competent and is further validated by the mentor and peers. The novice’s anxiety and doubts recede. They don’t disappear, but he has accepted that he is now competent has confidence in his learned skills.

 As a creative, you probably did not get that. If you are self-taught, you definitely did not get that mentoring and modeling. 

If you don’t have a mentor, be your own mentor. You’ve taught yourself a skill. Give yourself credit!! Not everyone can be self-taught. You have done it your own way. No one else can do what you can. Good job!

Why Self-Doubt is a Good Sign

If self-doubt plagues you, it could mean you’re taking risks. You’ve stepped out of your comfort zone. And that is a good thing. Congratulations. You are growing and trying something new. 

You failed once (or more than once), so you are doubting yourself and your ability to do this thing you’re attempting. Congratulate yourself. We humans learn by trying and failing. Remember Edison and keep going. Self-doubt is just one step along the way to success.

It keeps you humble. Without self-doubt, you would become arrogant, overconfident, and reckless. Those feelings would lead to failure. And a pretty unlikeable personality. Embrace your self-doubt. It helps you keep things in perspective. Acknowledge your competence, even your excellence, but stay humble. Know that excellence is fleeting. Keep striving to learn more, to step outside your comfort zone.

Stop Labeling Yourself an Imposter

Image of the saying "you can do it" on white paper, with a white framed on a white background with white flowers in a silver pot beside it. Stop labeling yourself an imposter, you can do it.

Take the word imposter out of your vocabulary. Learn to recognize self-doubt and call it what it is. Normal.

Change your self-talk. Don’t accept other people’s labels. Make a realistic assessment of yourself and your abilities. Be your own best mentor. 

Having difficulty getting past the self-doubt? There are suggestions on how to do that all over the internet, including in my post, “Are You Saying No to Success?”

More On This Topic

The Harvard Business Review article, “Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndrome”, focuses on women in business jobs but is a thorough and important discussion.

Rich Karlgaard has written a helpful article called “Self-Doubt can Help You Bloom…

Still concerned that your anxiety is bad or out-of-control? Learn about the difference between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder. If you feel anxious in every situation and overwhelmed all the time, please seek professional help. 

Stop labeling yourself an imposter today. Tell us why you are not an imposter below.

Image Credits

First Image by pangloy from Pixabay

Second Photo by Brock Wegner on Unsplash

Final Image by Tumisu from Pixabay 

Gambling on an Opportunity I Found Permission

I took a gamble and went to Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago. No, I didn’t gamble on slot machines or baccarat tables or any of the hundreds of games of chance there. The gamble I took was on myself and my writing. I attended 20Books Vegas 2021: a 20Booksto50k® educational and networking event. By gambling on an opportunity I found permission.

image of slot machines on a casino floor because I gambled on an opportunity I found permission at a conference in Las Vegas

How it Started

The 20Booksto50k® Facebook group is a social learning group created to share knowledge and best business practices for indie-publishing and selling more books.

Michael Anderle, founder of 20Booksto50k®, and Craig Martelle, group leader and organizer, host the conference in Vegas every year(except 2020 when COVID-19 closed Vegas). They keep costs as low as possible to make it affordable for all writers. 

This summer, generous donors created a scholarship fund for writers with limited means. Interested people answered essay questions. Awards ranged from covering all costs to partial scholarships to attendance fees only. Need and those essays determined who won what. They awarded more than 100 scholarships. 

I took a gamble and answered the essay questions. Figured if I didn’t win, I’d lost nothing. And if I won, it was a sign I was meant to go. 

They awarded me attendance fees.

Planning For 20Books Vegas

Even with free admission, going to Vegas was going to be a financial stretch. I needed clothes, suitcases, and more. I won which meant I had to go. Right? So I made a plan to make some extra money.

Besides more money, I looked for ways to cut costs. Especially hotel and food costs. Vegas is ridiculously expensive these days.

And money wasn’t the only thing I had to plan. It’s best to go to a convention like this with some goals. Otherwise you won’t know whether it was worth it. Of course, the goals need to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time sensitive. 

My goals were quite modest. I am an introvert’s introvert, so I wanted to meet at least 6 people in the field (Science Fiction & Dystopian fiction). 

There were two learning goals as well. My weak spots are productivity and marketing. 

I studied the program and identified several presenters I wanted to talk to. I even prepared some questions.

Working the Plan

Photo of my new, royal blue hard sided suitcases with the tags still on them, waiting to be packed.

For extra money, I reached out to two of my husband’s friends. They had offered to help me sell off my husband’s business assets (products, supplies, etc.).

Caring for my medically fragile husband at home for so many years was expensive. I needed more than money for airline tickets. 


My husband’s friends exceeded my wildest hopes. The sales they made provided me with money to buy everything I needed (and that was a lot). Plus, there was enough money to give me an ample cushion for nice dinners or entertainment.

A post in the 20BooksVegas Facebook group invited attendees to arrange sharing a hotel room. In a comment with a little about myself and what I write, I asked for a roommate. I found pretty close to the perfect roomie.

Precautions

Airlines required all passengers to wear masks in the airport and on the plane 100% of the time. Plus, Las Vegas required masks for all indoor activities. That meant I would spend a minimum of eight hours per day in a mask. I bought more reusable masks. They irritate my face less than paper ones.

I had received the original two COVID vaccinations several months ago. So four weeks before my departure, I got the booster and my flu shot. 

Vegas

If you’ve never been to Vegas—it’s party city 24/7. Everything is LOUD. People are drunk. I had the pleasure of observing two young women (on separate occasions) vomiting because they were so drunk. Walking… walking… walking. Everything is at least twice as far away as it looks. 

Everyone needs/wants a tip. 

But there are also delightful surprises. 

Photo I took of the Cake Vending Machine in my hotel. The Red machine has a red and white awning and is titled Carlo's Bake Shop.

Yes, that’s a vending machine that sells cakes from the Cake Boss. 

The Conference

Authors of dystopian fiction had three meetups. I found my tribe. I had a couple of great conversations at a meetup for science fiction authors. And I attended a meetup for Wide for the Win authors (another Facebook group). 

Unexpectedly, I met a dystopian author (who writes for young adults) from my neck of the woods. She lives less than 20 miles from me. We plan to get together soon.

Many of the presentations were inspirational. Those focused on helping new-to-writing folk. Some were full of actionable information.

During each of the presentations, I learned a few tips and techniques worth trying. The organizers and many of the presenters repeatedly said—the value of the conference isn’t in the presentations but in the contacts you make. 

I did not take part in the book signing and sale, but it did well.

Business Lessons Learned

I took a business card with me. On the back of it, I have the new covers for my books. It was reassuring to have all the dystopian authors admire the covers (one even wanted the name of my designer.)

Lots of industry professionals attended the convention. I hadn’t prepared for that. That is something I will plan for if I go again. 

Photo taken over my shoulder shows my face, the empty seats of the main presentation room with the back half of the gigantic room filled with vendors hawking their wares to independent authors.

For my first professional show in many years and my first after the death of my husband, I think things went very well. I didn’t take advantage of the big name authors whom I had the chance to meet, didn’t ask presenters the questions I had… I didn’t have the spoons for that. And this time, that was okay. However, next time I will take that opportunity.

Travel Lessons Learned

It was hot. I should have brought more short sleeved outfits, and no long sleeved ones. I used a lightweight Pashma once. But used nothing heavier.

I forgot my second pair of shoes. That was unfortunate since I walked an average of 7,150 steps per day. Because of some issues with my back, I avoided longer walks.

If I go next year, I will take part in the book signing and sale. That means I’ll either drive or ship the books there. Why do I say if? It depends upon how my books are selling, how my finances are, and what my goals are. All those things may change over the next year.

I brought more “extras” on this than I needed. Since It had been a decade since I last traveled, I give myself a pass on that one.

My Favorite Presentation

With 10-12 presentations each day, there was no way to attend them all. Of the ones I attended, my favorite was Six Productivity Myths And Why You Should Stop Believing Them Right Now by Becca Symes.

Her primary tip? Question the premise. Not all methods work for all authors or creatives. Anytime some industry leader says you SHOULD do something or that their technique ALWAYS works—don’t get sucked into thinking you failed when you try the should or the thing that works anti doesn’t. Always question the premise. 

By the way, many of the presentations were recorded and are available on YouTube. Search for 20Books Vegas 2021.

My Biggest Take Away

When I first got home, I didn’t think I’d gotten a lot out of the conference. Some tips, yes. But I never felt an ah-ha moment. Didn’t know I was expecting one, but when I got home, I felt let down because I didn’t have one.

Then, a friend asked me what my biggest take away was from attending the conference. At first, I couldn’t say. I didn’t know. But as I told her about what I had been doing after I got home, I had my ah-ha moment.

My biggest take away was permission. In different ways, every presenter stressed how important it was for a creative to take risks and how most of us are our own biggest obstacles. We tell ourselves we can’t do something and we have lots of reasons we can’t. 

Take a Gamble and Give Yourself Permission

By gambling on an opportunity I found permission. Listening to them restate the idea of giving ourselves permission to take risks, to do the thing, to scare ourselves… gave me something I didn’t know I needed. It gave me permission to take next steps. Gave me permission to move forward. To invest in myself and my writing. To be my best creative self.

Many of us have difficulty giving ourselves permission to take care of ourselves, to be who and what we are. Often, we aren’t aware that all we need to do is give ourselves permission. 

I want to pay it forward. To all of you who are creatives, I encourage you to gamble on yourselves. Give yourself permission to take the risk, gamble on an opportunity, scare yourself. Be the genuine creative you. If you need it, I give you permission to gamble, to give yourself permission. Go forth and be your best creative self. 

Image Credit: Top Photo: Image by Bishnu Sarangi from Pixabay. All other photos by Lynette M. Burrows

A Good Deed Brightens Your Day

I was having one of those Very-Bad-No-Good-Days. One of the worst I’d had in a long while. When along came a total stranger and he turned my day and my attitude around. I’m not just saying that. There is science that shows good deeds and volunteer work reduces stress. I hope the story of a good deed brightens your day will do that for you. It may even inspire you to pay-it-forward.

Image of a rainbow of heart shared from one hand to another a visual representation of a good deed brightens your day

The Day Started Cold

In August 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was still going strong here in the USA. Because of my husband’s precarious health, we had kept a strict self-quarantine. Those precautions meant we’d both been healthier than we’d been in years. Then came the bad day.

It was chilly outside but still August so I didn’t want to turn on the heat. So we layered up. As all the ladies know, 99% of women’s clothing does not have adequate pockets. Certainly not pockets that would hold even an old iPhone.

I put on one of my husband’s soft, well-worn flannel shirts. Comfy and warm! And it had a chest pocket deep enough for my phone. I wore it all day.

Image of woman in indian print flannel shirt with an iPhone peeking out of the chest pocket.

The Trouble Starts

Our well-trained dogs followed their routine and began pestering me for their evening meal. I bent to retrieve their bowls in order to fill them. One bowl up, no problem. Second bowl—my iPhone went kerplunk into the large and full-to-the-brim water dish.I shrieked and snatched it out of the water as quickly as I could.

I dried it off and let it air dry the inner parts. Then I tried to make a call. I could call out, but the person on the other end of the phone line couldn’t hear me. At all. That person saw my caller ID and called me back.

But I couldn’t pick up their call.

Only One Solution

I tried a couple of other internet tips to dry my phone out. To no avail. I fought panic. Until the pandemic, my husband’s health issues caused him to fall frequently. Rarely could I help him back up by myself. If my son wasn’t available, I had to call 911. That happened about once every two months, even during the pandemic.

I quickly decided there was only one solution. I’d buy a new phone at the store down the street from us. Lo-and-behold, they did not have a single iPhone in stock. The telephone company we used didn’t have any. Nor did any nearby stores. I finally located one iPhone for sale at a store thirty minutes away. I placed an online order for it.

The Next Problem

Then I faced another conundrum. My husband was wheelchair bound. His physical weakness made transferring him into a regular vehicle difficult and dangerous for both of us. We planned to get a wheelchair van, but hadn’t found one yet. And though I rarely left my husband’s side for more than 15 minutes, we decided that his good health and our need for a working telephone out weighed my sense of caution.

So I studied the map (remember, no cell phone) and copied the directions. With both the written directions and a map in the car with me, I took off to an unfamiliar-to-me part of the city.

And Things Got Worse

image of a silver car with a flat tire and a jack ready to be pumped in order to change the tire

I was nearly at the store when I felt the car lurch. Then the flub-flub-flub of a fat tire filled my ears. I was on a busy, uphill stretch of a four-lane divided highway with a curb and no shoulder space. There was nowhere to pull over. I couldn’t call for help. And I had no idea where a gas station was. So, I turned on my hazard lights, moved to the right-hand lane, and slowed waaaay down. Hoping that at the top of the hill, I’d find a station or some place to pull over.

About half-way up the hill, my tire started sounding like parts of it were flapping in the wind. Crap! I slowed even further.

At the top of the hill was a Quick Trip, a convenience store and gas station. It offers no service for vehicles.

Asking for Help

Hoping I could add air to the tire, I pulled in to their lot and parked at the air pump. I should have known. My wheel sat on shreds of the tire. No way it would hold air. No way I was driving anywhere else. And I couldn’t loosen the lug nuts on my own. I’d have to find a phone, call a tow truck, and have them change the tire for me.

Inside the QT, I asked for a telephone and a telephone book. All I got from the teenaged clerk was a blank stare. I explained my cell phone wasn’t working, needed to call a tow truck, and repeated my request. Again with the blank look. I asked to speak to the manager. (No, I did not have AAA.)

A Little Help Better than None?

The manager was a pleasant woman who offered me her cell phone. Thank you, I said, but I don’t know where the closest tow truck or service station is or a phone number to call. She graciously looked up a number on her phone, dialed it, and handed the phone to me. I explained my situation to the person who answered the telephone. The tow service person told me it would be an hour or more before they could “get to me.” I didn’t want to wait an hour fearing my husband would fall and no one would know. I asked the manager if there was another tow service I could call. When she heard how long a wait I’d have, she offered to help me.

As we walked out to my car, she explained she had a bad back and wouldn’t be able to help a lot. Great.

A Good Deed Brightens My Day

Image of a man's hands using a wrench on the lug nuts of a tire

There was a sedan parked next to my car. We reached my car and the man in the sedan got out of his car and asked if I needed help.

The young, red-headed gentleman was in shorts and sandals. He changed my tire quickly and efficiently. Refused my offer to pay him something, or buy something from Quick Trip. He gave me directions to where I needed to go and drove off without even telling me his name.

He acted out of the kindness of his heart. And while he wanted no reward, he earned a ton of points toward many blessings that day.

I got to the store, and after a few issues, finally got my new iPhone and could drive home safely. To my immense relief, my husband hadn’t fallen during my extended absence.

The Moral of This Story

Image of a book opened to the quote "Never underestimate the power of a kind word or deed."

I will remember that young man for the rest of my life. His good heart, his good deed, not only brightened my day but meant I got home sooner. He knew nothing about me, yet lightened my worries. And though I thanked him profusely, I will always feel like I owe him.

He not only helped me in my time of need, he restored my belief in the goodness of people.

I tell this story often because a good deed brightens your day. It reminds me that doing a good deed and being kind brightens yours and at least one other person’s day. And retelling the story brightens even more people’s day. So think about that the next time you’re out and see someone in need. A moment of kindness will last forever. Won’t you brighten the day for all of us? Share your stories of a good deed in the comments.