Nuts for a bleak winter

Anne here, in a pensive mood. Every now and then I come across a story — real life, not fiction — that moves me in some way, and I store it up, like a squirrel with nuts against a bleak winter. 

Because if you were to believe our world is like the world-as-seen-on-the-TV-screen, you'd think it's a pretty bleak place. The news, focusing on death and disaster, violence and despair, the entertainment shows focusing on murder, corruption and violence, balanced only by bubblegum sit-coms and earnest talk shows. I don't know about you, but I've almost stopped watching TV. Because that view of humanity is just so skewed. And it's depressing.

Sure, there's poverty and violence and despair — but there's also a lot of goodness, and kindness and everyday bravery around. It just doesn't show up much on TV. I suspect that's why romance is such a popular genre – it's life-affirming, positive and can give people hope.

Anyway, this is not going to turn into a rant about why romance novels make the world a happier place — it's my birthday and so I want to share with you a few of those little nuts of goodness I referred to at the beginning of this post. Three examples of ordinary people shining a little beacon into the dark.

The first is just a small one — a very sweet story I came across at the Melbourne launch of the Georgette Heyer biography by Jennifer Kloester. She told this story of a young Australian girl, Ro Marriot, who, during WW2 became terribly worried that, with food shortages in Britain, her favorite author, Georgette Heyer, might be going hungry.
RoMarriot
Ro and her mother wrote to Georgette Heyer to ask if she would like them to send her food parcels. She sent back a very kind letter saying she was perfectly all right and Ro and her mother were not to worry.

But Ro knew about the famed British Stiff Upper Lip and felt sure that Georgette Heyer was exhibiting it. So she and her mother sent Georgette regular food parcels anyway, until well after WW2 was over.

This is Ro now. She was in the audience at the book launch and I grabbed this not-very-good photo of her after the launch. 

My second story is about a man called Luis Soriano. He's a primary teacher in the isolated areas of Colombia, and he has a passionate belief in the power or reading to transform lives.
800px-Biblioburro

For the last ten years or so, Luis Soriano has been working in poor, remote communities where children were more familiar with violence, conflict and the drug trade than books and reading. Luis began visiting communities, traveling from village to village, taking books with him, teaching reading and leaving books with the children (and their families.) On his next visit, he'd collect those books and leave some more. His first portable library started with a collection of 70 books, which he carried on a burro — a small donkey.

It became known as the biblioburro or the book burro. Word has slowly spread and now the program is famous. And Luis Soriano has brought books and knowledge to hundreds of children and their families.

The third story is about a cellist called Vedran Smailović. Never heard of him? I'm not surprised. I first heard about him as a side story in a documentary on Joan Baez. Vedran Smailović was a fairly ordinary guy until he responded in an extraordinary way to an act of terrorism. And no he didn't turn vigilante like a hero in the movies. He did something much more wonderful.

It was 1992, and Yugoslavia was falling apart — bombs, shells, unspeakable acts of violence, neighbor against neighbor and the beautiful, highly cultured city of Sarajevo had become a war zone. 
At 4pm on 27 May, a mortar shell landed in the middle of a long line of people waiting to buy bread— most of the bakeries in the city had been destroyed. In a flash, twenty-two people were dead, and many more injured, lying among the rubble created in the explosion.

Vedran Smailović, who lived opposite, was as horrified as you might imagine. He was appalled by the event, and enraged by what had become of his beloved city. He ached to do something, anything, to show his profound opposition to what was happening. 

But he was just a musician, a cellist who played in a string quartet and orchestras. What hope did he have of making a difference when madness had taken over his world? 

The morning after the mortar attack, at 4pm, Vedran Smailović took his cello into the street where the attack had taken place. Dressed in a formal suit, as if for an orchestral performance, he set up a camp stool in the middle of the destruction, took out his cello and began to play. Countering violence with music.  VedranSmailović

A small beacon of hope in a sea of dark misery.

For the next twenty-two days — one day for each person killed— at 4pm he played his cello. He played Albinoni's Adagio in G minor. You can hear it here, and see some photos taken of his city before, during and after the siege. 

At first people thought he was crazy — the siege of Sarajevo went on regardless, but as each day passed, his determination, his music and his quiet courage  became a symbol of hope to a beleaguered city.
He played every day for more than a year — until December 1993. He played on, despite further shelling, bombs and mortar attacks. He played in the rubble of formerly beautiful buildings, ruined homes and churches. 

A magnificent response, isn't it? There's a superb article telling his story here — I've given you just the bare bones. 

So there you are — three very different stories, ranging from the small and sweet to the magnificent, but each telling the story of how a single individual acted, following their heart, to make something better. I hope they've given you a smile.

There are hundreds more of these inspiring stories, of individuals making a difference, sometimes on a large scale, sometimes on a very small scale. Feel free to share them. Or tell us what your antidote is to the doom and gloom so often found on the TV.

130 thoughts on “Nuts for a bleak winter”

  1. Ok, the cello story made me cry.
    I do this same thing. Today I posted the one that “got” me on twitter. It was about a single mom of three who took in her best friends five children when they lost both parents within nine months. She’s getting no help, no benefits, and had to turn her dining room into a bedroom. This woman is a hero.

    Reply
  2. Ok, the cello story made me cry.
    I do this same thing. Today I posted the one that “got” me on twitter. It was about a single mom of three who took in her best friends five children when they lost both parents within nine months. She’s getting no help, no benefits, and had to turn her dining room into a bedroom. This woman is a hero.

    Reply
  3. Ok, the cello story made me cry.
    I do this same thing. Today I posted the one that “got” me on twitter. It was about a single mom of three who took in her best friends five children when they lost both parents within nine months. She’s getting no help, no benefits, and had to turn her dining room into a bedroom. This woman is a hero.

    Reply
  4. Ok, the cello story made me cry.
    I do this same thing. Today I posted the one that “got” me on twitter. It was about a single mom of three who took in her best friends five children when they lost both parents within nine months. She’s getting no help, no benefits, and had to turn her dining room into a bedroom. This woman is a hero.

    Reply
  5. Ok, the cello story made me cry.
    I do this same thing. Today I posted the one that “got” me on twitter. It was about a single mom of three who took in her best friends five children when they lost both parents within nine months. She’s getting no help, no benefits, and had to turn her dining room into a bedroom. This woman is a hero.

    Reply
  6. The Cellist of Sarajevo is a beautiful story, isn’t it Isobel?
    And yes, your single woman is indeed a hero. I hope the public rally around and help her out. Surely there will be government assistance.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  7. The Cellist of Sarajevo is a beautiful story, isn’t it Isobel?
    And yes, your single woman is indeed a hero. I hope the public rally around and help her out. Surely there will be government assistance.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  8. The Cellist of Sarajevo is a beautiful story, isn’t it Isobel?
    And yes, your single woman is indeed a hero. I hope the public rally around and help her out. Surely there will be government assistance.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  9. The Cellist of Sarajevo is a beautiful story, isn’t it Isobel?
    And yes, your single woman is indeed a hero. I hope the public rally around and help her out. Surely there will be government assistance.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  10. The Cellist of Sarajevo is a beautiful story, isn’t it Isobel?
    And yes, your single woman is indeed a hero. I hope the public rally around and help her out. Surely there will be government assistance.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  11. A beautiful and heartwarming set of stories Anne, thank you for lifting my spirits. It is so important to remember the good things and good people in life. We all have so many gifts to give and can be surprising how much even the smallest kindness can do in the lives of both the giver and receiver. It is also worth recognising the power of words and music to change lives. Thank you Anne for a great post and have a wonderful birthday.

    Reply
  12. A beautiful and heartwarming set of stories Anne, thank you for lifting my spirits. It is so important to remember the good things and good people in life. We all have so many gifts to give and can be surprising how much even the smallest kindness can do in the lives of both the giver and receiver. It is also worth recognising the power of words and music to change lives. Thank you Anne for a great post and have a wonderful birthday.

    Reply
  13. A beautiful and heartwarming set of stories Anne, thank you for lifting my spirits. It is so important to remember the good things and good people in life. We all have so many gifts to give and can be surprising how much even the smallest kindness can do in the lives of both the giver and receiver. It is also worth recognising the power of words and music to change lives. Thank you Anne for a great post and have a wonderful birthday.

    Reply
  14. A beautiful and heartwarming set of stories Anne, thank you for lifting my spirits. It is so important to remember the good things and good people in life. We all have so many gifts to give and can be surprising how much even the smallest kindness can do in the lives of both the giver and receiver. It is also worth recognising the power of words and music to change lives. Thank you Anne for a great post and have a wonderful birthday.

    Reply
  15. A beautiful and heartwarming set of stories Anne, thank you for lifting my spirits. It is so important to remember the good things and good people in life. We all have so many gifts to give and can be surprising how much even the smallest kindness can do in the lives of both the giver and receiver. It is also worth recognising the power of words and music to change lives. Thank you Anne for a great post and have a wonderful birthday.

    Reply
  16. Thank you Jen. I so agree with you about the power of even small kindnesses to make a difference. And the power of both words and music.
    Thanks, ELF, I’m glad you liked the stories. And I’ve had a lovely day so far.

    Reply
  17. Thank you Jen. I so agree with you about the power of even small kindnesses to make a difference. And the power of both words and music.
    Thanks, ELF, I’m glad you liked the stories. And I’ve had a lovely day so far.

    Reply
  18. Thank you Jen. I so agree with you about the power of even small kindnesses to make a difference. And the power of both words and music.
    Thanks, ELF, I’m glad you liked the stories. And I’ve had a lovely day so far.

    Reply
  19. Thank you Jen. I so agree with you about the power of even small kindnesses to make a difference. And the power of both words and music.
    Thanks, ELF, I’m glad you liked the stories. And I’ve had a lovely day so far.

    Reply
  20. Thank you Jen. I so agree with you about the power of even small kindnesses to make a difference. And the power of both words and music.
    Thanks, ELF, I’m glad you liked the stories. And I’ve had a lovely day so far.

    Reply
  21. I’ve always loved these stories of people trying their best to make other people’s loads a little lighter. I’ve seen the story of the Colombian “librarian” at least twice on TV already; how he often has a miserable road to take to get to the children he is helping. I’ll probably watch it again if it happens to be on.
    I’ve heard of the Cellist of Sarajevo, too, though I knew little about him. Thanks for explaining his gift to his countrymen, Anne.
    Music does soothe the savage breast or beast.
    One little story that I remember about the father of a recently-deceased family friend. The friend had finally been able to locate his father in Russia after World War II. Since he was quite elderly, ill and frail, the Russians gladly let him leave in either the late 1950s or early ’60s. Our family and our friend’s went to greet him at the airport. When he appeared he looked very small and frail, and carried a tiny suitcase no bigger than a medium-sized tote. For the first time he was introduced to his three young grandsons. He had tears in his eyes and began to open his bag. Out came 3 small oranges which he had bought with his last Russian money and he gave these precious and rare fruits to the 3 boys. It was all he had for them. The tears started to my eyes and, looking around, I saw many more wet eyes and cheeks. At that moment, I realized that we truly lived in a land of plenty. Oranges are easily available in North America. For most Russian citizens, they were treasures. How much we take for granted here. It behooves us to share as much as possible with those who have so little.
    Happy birthday!

    Reply
  22. I’ve always loved these stories of people trying their best to make other people’s loads a little lighter. I’ve seen the story of the Colombian “librarian” at least twice on TV already; how he often has a miserable road to take to get to the children he is helping. I’ll probably watch it again if it happens to be on.
    I’ve heard of the Cellist of Sarajevo, too, though I knew little about him. Thanks for explaining his gift to his countrymen, Anne.
    Music does soothe the savage breast or beast.
    One little story that I remember about the father of a recently-deceased family friend. The friend had finally been able to locate his father in Russia after World War II. Since he was quite elderly, ill and frail, the Russians gladly let him leave in either the late 1950s or early ’60s. Our family and our friend’s went to greet him at the airport. When he appeared he looked very small and frail, and carried a tiny suitcase no bigger than a medium-sized tote. For the first time he was introduced to his three young grandsons. He had tears in his eyes and began to open his bag. Out came 3 small oranges which he had bought with his last Russian money and he gave these precious and rare fruits to the 3 boys. It was all he had for them. The tears started to my eyes and, looking around, I saw many more wet eyes and cheeks. At that moment, I realized that we truly lived in a land of plenty. Oranges are easily available in North America. For most Russian citizens, they were treasures. How much we take for granted here. It behooves us to share as much as possible with those who have so little.
    Happy birthday!

    Reply
  23. I’ve always loved these stories of people trying their best to make other people’s loads a little lighter. I’ve seen the story of the Colombian “librarian” at least twice on TV already; how he often has a miserable road to take to get to the children he is helping. I’ll probably watch it again if it happens to be on.
    I’ve heard of the Cellist of Sarajevo, too, though I knew little about him. Thanks for explaining his gift to his countrymen, Anne.
    Music does soothe the savage breast or beast.
    One little story that I remember about the father of a recently-deceased family friend. The friend had finally been able to locate his father in Russia after World War II. Since he was quite elderly, ill and frail, the Russians gladly let him leave in either the late 1950s or early ’60s. Our family and our friend’s went to greet him at the airport. When he appeared he looked very small and frail, and carried a tiny suitcase no bigger than a medium-sized tote. For the first time he was introduced to his three young grandsons. He had tears in his eyes and began to open his bag. Out came 3 small oranges which he had bought with his last Russian money and he gave these precious and rare fruits to the 3 boys. It was all he had for them. The tears started to my eyes and, looking around, I saw many more wet eyes and cheeks. At that moment, I realized that we truly lived in a land of plenty. Oranges are easily available in North America. For most Russian citizens, they were treasures. How much we take for granted here. It behooves us to share as much as possible with those who have so little.
    Happy birthday!

    Reply
  24. I’ve always loved these stories of people trying their best to make other people’s loads a little lighter. I’ve seen the story of the Colombian “librarian” at least twice on TV already; how he often has a miserable road to take to get to the children he is helping. I’ll probably watch it again if it happens to be on.
    I’ve heard of the Cellist of Sarajevo, too, though I knew little about him. Thanks for explaining his gift to his countrymen, Anne.
    Music does soothe the savage breast or beast.
    One little story that I remember about the father of a recently-deceased family friend. The friend had finally been able to locate his father in Russia after World War II. Since he was quite elderly, ill and frail, the Russians gladly let him leave in either the late 1950s or early ’60s. Our family and our friend’s went to greet him at the airport. When he appeared he looked very small and frail, and carried a tiny suitcase no bigger than a medium-sized tote. For the first time he was introduced to his three young grandsons. He had tears in his eyes and began to open his bag. Out came 3 small oranges which he had bought with his last Russian money and he gave these precious and rare fruits to the 3 boys. It was all he had for them. The tears started to my eyes and, looking around, I saw many more wet eyes and cheeks. At that moment, I realized that we truly lived in a land of plenty. Oranges are easily available in North America. For most Russian citizens, they were treasures. How much we take for granted here. It behooves us to share as much as possible with those who have so little.
    Happy birthday!

    Reply
  25. I’ve always loved these stories of people trying their best to make other people’s loads a little lighter. I’ve seen the story of the Colombian “librarian” at least twice on TV already; how he often has a miserable road to take to get to the children he is helping. I’ll probably watch it again if it happens to be on.
    I’ve heard of the Cellist of Sarajevo, too, though I knew little about him. Thanks for explaining his gift to his countrymen, Anne.
    Music does soothe the savage breast or beast.
    One little story that I remember about the father of a recently-deceased family friend. The friend had finally been able to locate his father in Russia after World War II. Since he was quite elderly, ill and frail, the Russians gladly let him leave in either the late 1950s or early ’60s. Our family and our friend’s went to greet him at the airport. When he appeared he looked very small and frail, and carried a tiny suitcase no bigger than a medium-sized tote. For the first time he was introduced to his three young grandsons. He had tears in his eyes and began to open his bag. Out came 3 small oranges which he had bought with his last Russian money and he gave these precious and rare fruits to the 3 boys. It was all he had for them. The tears started to my eyes and, looking around, I saw many more wet eyes and cheeks. At that moment, I realized that we truly lived in a land of plenty. Oranges are easily available in North America. For most Russian citizens, they were treasures. How much we take for granted here. It behooves us to share as much as possible with those who have so little.
    Happy birthday!

    Reply
  26. Oh Anne! Ro is a dear writing friend and poet in my home town- how wonderful to have her story here and can’t wait to read about Georgette Heyer- a wonderful influence on my own writing- thanks for sharing.
    I agree so much about the depressing news!!!
    Lorraine

    Reply
  27. Oh Anne! Ro is a dear writing friend and poet in my home town- how wonderful to have her story here and can’t wait to read about Georgette Heyer- a wonderful influence on my own writing- thanks for sharing.
    I agree so much about the depressing news!!!
    Lorraine

    Reply
  28. Oh Anne! Ro is a dear writing friend and poet in my home town- how wonderful to have her story here and can’t wait to read about Georgette Heyer- a wonderful influence on my own writing- thanks for sharing.
    I agree so much about the depressing news!!!
    Lorraine

    Reply
  29. Oh Anne! Ro is a dear writing friend and poet in my home town- how wonderful to have her story here and can’t wait to read about Georgette Heyer- a wonderful influence on my own writing- thanks for sharing.
    I agree so much about the depressing news!!!
    Lorraine

    Reply
  30. Oh Anne! Ro is a dear writing friend and poet in my home town- how wonderful to have her story here and can’t wait to read about Georgette Heyer- a wonderful influence on my own writing- thanks for sharing.
    I agree so much about the depressing news!!!
    Lorraine

    Reply
  31. Ranurgis, what a beautiful story. I have tears in my eyes from reading it, too. We do forget how lucky we are, and how precious something like an orange can be. I recall it used to be something special that Victorian era children found in their Christmas stockings.
    And how wonderful that your friend’s father was finally reunited with his family.
    Thank you for sharing your story and thanks, too, for the kind birthday wishes,

    Reply
  32. Ranurgis, what a beautiful story. I have tears in my eyes from reading it, too. We do forget how lucky we are, and how precious something like an orange can be. I recall it used to be something special that Victorian era children found in their Christmas stockings.
    And how wonderful that your friend’s father was finally reunited with his family.
    Thank you for sharing your story and thanks, too, for the kind birthday wishes,

    Reply
  33. Ranurgis, what a beautiful story. I have tears in my eyes from reading it, too. We do forget how lucky we are, and how precious something like an orange can be. I recall it used to be something special that Victorian era children found in their Christmas stockings.
    And how wonderful that your friend’s father was finally reunited with his family.
    Thank you for sharing your story and thanks, too, for the kind birthday wishes,

    Reply
  34. Ranurgis, what a beautiful story. I have tears in my eyes from reading it, too. We do forget how lucky we are, and how precious something like an orange can be. I recall it used to be something special that Victorian era children found in their Christmas stockings.
    And how wonderful that your friend’s father was finally reunited with his family.
    Thank you for sharing your story and thanks, too, for the kind birthday wishes,

    Reply
  35. Ranurgis, what a beautiful story. I have tears in my eyes from reading it, too. We do forget how lucky we are, and how precious something like an orange can be. I recall it used to be something special that Victorian era children found in their Christmas stockings.
    And how wonderful that your friend’s father was finally reunited with his family.
    Thank you for sharing your story and thanks, too, for the kind birthday wishes,

    Reply
  36. Judy and LilMissMolly, thanks for the birthday wishes.
    Lorraine, when I met Ro, even so briefly, I knew she was extraordinary. I’m sure she has many more stories. I’m heading up your way later in the year to give a workshop. Maybe we could all catch up.

    Reply
  37. Judy and LilMissMolly, thanks for the birthday wishes.
    Lorraine, when I met Ro, even so briefly, I knew she was extraordinary. I’m sure she has many more stories. I’m heading up your way later in the year to give a workshop. Maybe we could all catch up.

    Reply
  38. Judy and LilMissMolly, thanks for the birthday wishes.
    Lorraine, when I met Ro, even so briefly, I knew she was extraordinary. I’m sure she has many more stories. I’m heading up your way later in the year to give a workshop. Maybe we could all catch up.

    Reply
  39. Judy and LilMissMolly, thanks for the birthday wishes.
    Lorraine, when I met Ro, even so briefly, I knew she was extraordinary. I’m sure she has many more stories. I’m heading up your way later in the year to give a workshop. Maybe we could all catch up.

    Reply
  40. Judy and LilMissMolly, thanks for the birthday wishes.
    Lorraine, when I met Ro, even so briefly, I knew she was extraordinary. I’m sure she has many more stories. I’m heading up your way later in the year to give a workshop. Maybe we could all catch up.

    Reply
  41. What a wonderful post, Anne! I love all of the stories, but the Cellist of Sarajevo’s story is very dear to my heart.
    The time I spent singing and studying in Austria was sometimes lonely and often difficult. Any time I felt like giving up I went to visit Mozart’s birthplace. It’s a shabby little place, well-preserved – but it speaks to his rather humble beginnings. In one of the rooms behind a thick velvet rope with a glass cover over the keys stands one of Mozart’s very own pianos. There was always a guard there, the same guy every time I went. One rainy day after a particularly horrible rehearsal I made my little pilgrimage. I stood there and stared at that piano and wondered what kept him going when so many people tried to pull him down. And then this guard says very softly (in German) “Would you like to touch the piano?” I thought I misheard him. I looked up and he nodded. He unhooked the rope and when I walked over he lifted the glass cover. I put my fingers on those keys and closed my eyes, breathed and listened to the rain just as Mozart might have done on a rainy afternoon in Salzburg. It was only for a few minutes. I thanked the guard and walked back out onto Getreidegasse. And I never thought about quitting again. And that guard with one simple act of kindness changed my life forever.
    I wish you the happiest of birthdays, Anne, and many happy returns of they day!

    Reply
  42. What a wonderful post, Anne! I love all of the stories, but the Cellist of Sarajevo’s story is very dear to my heart.
    The time I spent singing and studying in Austria was sometimes lonely and often difficult. Any time I felt like giving up I went to visit Mozart’s birthplace. It’s a shabby little place, well-preserved – but it speaks to his rather humble beginnings. In one of the rooms behind a thick velvet rope with a glass cover over the keys stands one of Mozart’s very own pianos. There was always a guard there, the same guy every time I went. One rainy day after a particularly horrible rehearsal I made my little pilgrimage. I stood there and stared at that piano and wondered what kept him going when so many people tried to pull him down. And then this guard says very softly (in German) “Would you like to touch the piano?” I thought I misheard him. I looked up and he nodded. He unhooked the rope and when I walked over he lifted the glass cover. I put my fingers on those keys and closed my eyes, breathed and listened to the rain just as Mozart might have done on a rainy afternoon in Salzburg. It was only for a few minutes. I thanked the guard and walked back out onto Getreidegasse. And I never thought about quitting again. And that guard with one simple act of kindness changed my life forever.
    I wish you the happiest of birthdays, Anne, and many happy returns of they day!

    Reply
  43. What a wonderful post, Anne! I love all of the stories, but the Cellist of Sarajevo’s story is very dear to my heart.
    The time I spent singing and studying in Austria was sometimes lonely and often difficult. Any time I felt like giving up I went to visit Mozart’s birthplace. It’s a shabby little place, well-preserved – but it speaks to his rather humble beginnings. In one of the rooms behind a thick velvet rope with a glass cover over the keys stands one of Mozart’s very own pianos. There was always a guard there, the same guy every time I went. One rainy day after a particularly horrible rehearsal I made my little pilgrimage. I stood there and stared at that piano and wondered what kept him going when so many people tried to pull him down. And then this guard says very softly (in German) “Would you like to touch the piano?” I thought I misheard him. I looked up and he nodded. He unhooked the rope and when I walked over he lifted the glass cover. I put my fingers on those keys and closed my eyes, breathed and listened to the rain just as Mozart might have done on a rainy afternoon in Salzburg. It was only for a few minutes. I thanked the guard and walked back out onto Getreidegasse. And I never thought about quitting again. And that guard with one simple act of kindness changed my life forever.
    I wish you the happiest of birthdays, Anne, and many happy returns of they day!

    Reply
  44. What a wonderful post, Anne! I love all of the stories, but the Cellist of Sarajevo’s story is very dear to my heart.
    The time I spent singing and studying in Austria was sometimes lonely and often difficult. Any time I felt like giving up I went to visit Mozart’s birthplace. It’s a shabby little place, well-preserved – but it speaks to his rather humble beginnings. In one of the rooms behind a thick velvet rope with a glass cover over the keys stands one of Mozart’s very own pianos. There was always a guard there, the same guy every time I went. One rainy day after a particularly horrible rehearsal I made my little pilgrimage. I stood there and stared at that piano and wondered what kept him going when so many people tried to pull him down. And then this guard says very softly (in German) “Would you like to touch the piano?” I thought I misheard him. I looked up and he nodded. He unhooked the rope and when I walked over he lifted the glass cover. I put my fingers on those keys and closed my eyes, breathed and listened to the rain just as Mozart might have done on a rainy afternoon in Salzburg. It was only for a few minutes. I thanked the guard and walked back out onto Getreidegasse. And I never thought about quitting again. And that guard with one simple act of kindness changed my life forever.
    I wish you the happiest of birthdays, Anne, and many happy returns of they day!

    Reply
  45. What a wonderful post, Anne! I love all of the stories, but the Cellist of Sarajevo’s story is very dear to my heart.
    The time I spent singing and studying in Austria was sometimes lonely and often difficult. Any time I felt like giving up I went to visit Mozart’s birthplace. It’s a shabby little place, well-preserved – but it speaks to his rather humble beginnings. In one of the rooms behind a thick velvet rope with a glass cover over the keys stands one of Mozart’s very own pianos. There was always a guard there, the same guy every time I went. One rainy day after a particularly horrible rehearsal I made my little pilgrimage. I stood there and stared at that piano and wondered what kept him going when so many people tried to pull him down. And then this guard says very softly (in German) “Would you like to touch the piano?” I thought I misheard him. I looked up and he nodded. He unhooked the rope and when I walked over he lifted the glass cover. I put my fingers on those keys and closed my eyes, breathed and listened to the rain just as Mozart might have done on a rainy afternoon in Salzburg. It was only for a few minutes. I thanked the guard and walked back out onto Getreidegasse. And I never thought about quitting again. And that guard with one simple act of kindness changed my life forever.
    I wish you the happiest of birthdays, Anne, and many happy returns of they day!

    Reply
  46. Happy Belated Birthday! Your stories are beautiful. I work in an oncology clinic in Michigan and get to enjoy a beautiful act every week. The son of a patient has bought Starbucks coffee, smoothies or whatever anyone receiving a treatment would like every Thursday morning for over 3 years. He brings a smile to everyone’s day, especially we nurses. He has been featured on our local news and newspaper. He is an inspiration to many people and some are now donating money to him to offset the expense. Just another example of the good that an unselfish can create.

    Reply
  47. Happy Belated Birthday! Your stories are beautiful. I work in an oncology clinic in Michigan and get to enjoy a beautiful act every week. The son of a patient has bought Starbucks coffee, smoothies or whatever anyone receiving a treatment would like every Thursday morning for over 3 years. He brings a smile to everyone’s day, especially we nurses. He has been featured on our local news and newspaper. He is an inspiration to many people and some are now donating money to him to offset the expense. Just another example of the good that an unselfish can create.

    Reply
  48. Happy Belated Birthday! Your stories are beautiful. I work in an oncology clinic in Michigan and get to enjoy a beautiful act every week. The son of a patient has bought Starbucks coffee, smoothies or whatever anyone receiving a treatment would like every Thursday morning for over 3 years. He brings a smile to everyone’s day, especially we nurses. He has been featured on our local news and newspaper. He is an inspiration to many people and some are now donating money to him to offset the expense. Just another example of the good that an unselfish can create.

    Reply
  49. Happy Belated Birthday! Your stories are beautiful. I work in an oncology clinic in Michigan and get to enjoy a beautiful act every week. The son of a patient has bought Starbucks coffee, smoothies or whatever anyone receiving a treatment would like every Thursday morning for over 3 years. He brings a smile to everyone’s day, especially we nurses. He has been featured on our local news and newspaper. He is an inspiration to many people and some are now donating money to him to offset the expense. Just another example of the good that an unselfish can create.

    Reply
  50. Happy Belated Birthday! Your stories are beautiful. I work in an oncology clinic in Michigan and get to enjoy a beautiful act every week. The son of a patient has bought Starbucks coffee, smoothies or whatever anyone receiving a treatment would like every Thursday morning for over 3 years. He brings a smile to everyone’s day, especially we nurses. He has been featured on our local news and newspaper. He is an inspiration to many people and some are now donating money to him to offset the expense. Just another example of the good that an unselfish can create.

    Reply
  51. What marvelous stories, Anne! And the other stories posted, particularly Louisa’s, also brought tears to my eyes. All around us are wonderful people doing quiet kindness. Everyday heroes who deserved to be celebrated for the light they bring into the world.

    Reply
  52. What marvelous stories, Anne! And the other stories posted, particularly Louisa’s, also brought tears to my eyes. All around us are wonderful people doing quiet kindness. Everyday heroes who deserved to be celebrated for the light they bring into the world.

    Reply
  53. What marvelous stories, Anne! And the other stories posted, particularly Louisa’s, also brought tears to my eyes. All around us are wonderful people doing quiet kindness. Everyday heroes who deserved to be celebrated for the light they bring into the world.

    Reply
  54. What marvelous stories, Anne! And the other stories posted, particularly Louisa’s, also brought tears to my eyes. All around us are wonderful people doing quiet kindness. Everyday heroes who deserved to be celebrated for the light they bring into the world.

    Reply
  55. What marvelous stories, Anne! And the other stories posted, particularly Louisa’s, also brought tears to my eyes. All around us are wonderful people doing quiet kindness. Everyday heroes who deserved to be celebrated for the light they bring into the world.

    Reply
  56. Louisa, that story is lovely. Such a small act of kindness on the part of that guard, and so easy to do, and yet what a difference it made to you. Thank you for sharing it, and thank you for my birthday wishes.
    Hi Eli, thanks for your kind good wishes.

    Reply
  57. Louisa, that story is lovely. Such a small act of kindness on the part of that guard, and so easy to do, and yet what a difference it made to you. Thank you for sharing it, and thank you for my birthday wishes.
    Hi Eli, thanks for your kind good wishes.

    Reply
  58. Louisa, that story is lovely. Such a small act of kindness on the part of that guard, and so easy to do, and yet what a difference it made to you. Thank you for sharing it, and thank you for my birthday wishes.
    Hi Eli, thanks for your kind good wishes.

    Reply
  59. Louisa, that story is lovely. Such a small act of kindness on the part of that guard, and so easy to do, and yet what a difference it made to you. Thank you for sharing it, and thank you for my birthday wishes.
    Hi Eli, thanks for your kind good wishes.

    Reply
  60. Louisa, that story is lovely. Such a small act of kindness on the part of that guard, and so easy to do, and yet what a difference it made to you. Thank you for sharing it, and thank you for my birthday wishes.
    Hi Eli, thanks for your kind good wishes.

    Reply
  61. Thank you, Lisa, for those kind words, and thank you for sharing that wonderful story about the grateful man sharing his good feelings around. What a lovely, thoughtful act.
    I am so enjoying the sharing of these good news stories. Thank you.

    Reply
  62. Thank you, Lisa, for those kind words, and thank you for sharing that wonderful story about the grateful man sharing his good feelings around. What a lovely, thoughtful act.
    I am so enjoying the sharing of these good news stories. Thank you.

    Reply
  63. Thank you, Lisa, for those kind words, and thank you for sharing that wonderful story about the grateful man sharing his good feelings around. What a lovely, thoughtful act.
    I am so enjoying the sharing of these good news stories. Thank you.

    Reply
  64. Thank you, Lisa, for those kind words, and thank you for sharing that wonderful story about the grateful man sharing his good feelings around. What a lovely, thoughtful act.
    I am so enjoying the sharing of these good news stories. Thank you.

    Reply
  65. Thank you, Lisa, for those kind words, and thank you for sharing that wonderful story about the grateful man sharing his good feelings around. What a lovely, thoughtful act.
    I am so enjoying the sharing of these good news stories. Thank you.

    Reply
  66. Thank you, Marie, I had a lovely day, and all of these added stories are like gifts as well.
    Mary Jo, I’ll happily join you and everyone else here in celebrating everyday heroes.

    Reply
  67. Thank you, Marie, I had a lovely day, and all of these added stories are like gifts as well.
    Mary Jo, I’ll happily join you and everyone else here in celebrating everyday heroes.

    Reply
  68. Thank you, Marie, I had a lovely day, and all of these added stories are like gifts as well.
    Mary Jo, I’ll happily join you and everyone else here in celebrating everyday heroes.

    Reply
  69. Thank you, Marie, I had a lovely day, and all of these added stories are like gifts as well.
    Mary Jo, I’ll happily join you and everyone else here in celebrating everyday heroes.

    Reply
  70. Thank you, Marie, I had a lovely day, and all of these added stories are like gifts as well.
    Mary Jo, I’ll happily join you and everyone else here in celebrating everyday heroes.

    Reply

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