101 Short Stories that Will Leave You Smiling, Crying and Thinking

Makes Me Think

Since its inception eighteen months ago, our sister site Makes Me Think (MMT) has truly evolved into a remarkable online community.  Every day, users share their thought-provoking life stories and vote on stories that other users have shared.  Some are happy, some are sad, and others twist your emotions, pulling them in several directions at once.

As stated on the MMT About page, sometimes the most random everyday encounters force us to stop and rethink the truths and perceptions we have ingrained in our minds.  These encounters are educationally priceless.  They spawn moments of deep thought and self-reflection that challenge the status quo and help us evolve as sensible individuals.

I believe the 101 stories listed below perfectly fulfill that description.  Of the thousands of stories that have been submitted to MMT in the last eighteen months, these are my personal favorites.

What do you think?

  1. Today, after a 72 hour shift at the fire station, a woman ran up to me at the grocery store and gave me a hug.  When I tensed up, she realized I didn’t recognize her.  She let go with tears of joy in her eyes and the most sincere smile and said, “On 9-11-2001, you carried me out of the World Trade Center.”  MMT
  2. Today, at the age of 70, my grandfather graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in business studies.  He’s been a successful business owner most of his life, but he told me he earned his degree to fulfill a promise he made to his mother before she lost her battle with cancer 50 years ago.  MMT
  3. Today, my mom is a healthy 54 year old who successfully owns and operates a popular bakery downtown – a goal she had all her life.  15 years ago she was diagnosed with cancer.  In the face of death, she quit her store clerk job, opened the bakery, started chemo therapy, and succeeded on all fronts.  MMT
  4. Today, after I watched my dog get run over by a car, I sat on the side of the road holding him and crying.  And just before he died, he licked the tears off my face.  MMT
  5. Today, as a young ‘up and coming’ lawyer, everyone in the firm was congratulating me for winning my first big case this morning.  And all day long all I could think about is how I used a technicality in the law to help a murderer walk away a free man.  MMT
  6. Today, on our 50th wedding anniversary, she smiled at me and said, “I only wish I had met you sooner.”  MMT
  7. Today, after 2 years of separation, my ex-wife and I resolved our differences and met for dinner.  We laughed and chatted for almost 4 hours.  Then just before she left, she handed me a large envelope.  In it were 20 love letters she wrote me over the last 2 years.  There was a post-it note on the envelope that said, “Letters I was too stubborn to send.”  MMT
  8. Today, when I slipped on the wet tile floor a boy in a wheelchair caught me before I slammed my head on the ground.  He said, “Believe it or not, that’s almost exactly how I injured my back 3 years ago.”  MMT
  9. Today, someone else’s tragedy provided the miracle my family had prayed for.  Thanks to this stranger, my dad will have a heart.  It’s so odd to think that an accidental death just saved his life.  MMT
  10. Today marks the ten year anniversary of the day when I slapped him and screamed at him remorselessly for not letting me in the bathroom after we ate breakfast.  That moment also marks the positive turning point in my battle with Bulimia.  I think he saved my life that day.  MMT
  11. Today at 7AM I woke up feeling ill, but decided I needed the money, so I went in to work.  At 3PM I got laid off.  On my drive home I got a flat tire.  When I went into the trunk for the spare, it was flat too.  A man in a BMW pulled over, gave me a ride, we chatted, and then he offered me a job.  I start tomorrow.  MMT
  12. Today, I was working in a coffee shop when 2 gay men walked in holding hands.  As you might expect, heads started turning.  Then a young girl at the table next to me asked her mom why 2 men were holding hands.  Her mom replied, “Because they love each other.”  MMT
  13. Today, after the funeral, I went back to my parent’s empty house – the house I grew up in.  As I gazed around in awe of all the great memories we made in it, I noticed an old photo of my parent’s in their 20’s sitting on the coffee table.  In my father’s handwriting, across the back was written, “In this moment, we were infinite.” MMT
  14. Today, as I walked away from the airport gate alone with my head held high and eyes beet red from crying, I knew at that moment what it meant to be a military wife.  MMT
  15. Today, a lady walked up to me in the gym and asked me to give her some workout pointers.  She said, “You look incredible!  Watching you gradually tone-up and progress in here has become my primary inspiration to get in shape.”  It made me smile because I’ve struggled with my weight since I was 15.  MMT
  16. Today, my grandpa died.  As I was crying and telling my grandma how sorry I was, she said, “Let’s stop being so sad and instead celebrate the 80 wonderful years he was alive… 60 of which he spent with me.”  MMT
  17. Today, as my father, three brothers, and two sisters stood around my mother’s hospital bed, my mother uttered her last coherent words before she died.  She simply said, “I feel so loved right now.  We should have gotten together like this more often.”  MMT
  18. Today, my richest friend growing up filed for bankruptcy and one of my poorest friends growing up purchased his second vacation home.  MMT
  19. Today, I pulled into a small gas station in the middle of the desert in New Mexico and realized I had left my wallet at my girlfriends house 5 hours away.  I had no money and barely enough gas to make it another mile down the road.  The only other person that stopped for gas was a burly looking trucker.  I was a bit reluctant, but I asked him for some spare change for gas.  Instead he filled my tank and said, “Someone did this for me a few years ago.”  MMT
  20. Today, I was all dressed up and waiting on my blind date to arrive.  He never showed up.  It made me feel ugly.  I thought he may have seen me from a distance and bailed.  Then as I left the restaurant alone, I heard a little girl ask her mom if I was a princess.  It made me smile and it MMT. [Read more…]

The Only Way You Can Change
The World

You Can Change The World

An Epiphany

Imagine for a moment that the year is 2000 B.C. and you’re a fisherman living along the coast of what is now Southern Europe.  Like any other morning, you’re fishing when suddenly a powerful burst of energy enters your body.  It creates a tingling sensation in your fingertips, a flutter in your heart and warmth in your belly.  You know it’s not anxiety or a heart attack because it feels comforting and fulfilling.

You put your fishing pole down and sit at the water’s edge.  You reach down and splash a handful of cool water up onto your face.  It is here, in this quiet moment, that you have an epiphany.  And while you are unable to explain how or why this epiphany is coming to you now – you haven’t done anything out of the ordinary to receive it – its message is crystal clear:

The Earth is not flat.  The Earth is a sphere.  You can visualize it revolving around the sun in a predictable orbital pattern. These visualizations also reveal that the Earth is part of a solar system of eight planets separate from other stars in the night’s sky and that these other stars follow similar predictable patterns of movement.  There is a whole uncharted universe out there that nobody else is aware of.

Once the magnitude of your epiphany settles in your mind, you begin to sweat from nervousness.  Because while the small village you live in is peaceful, there is little tolerance for outlandish ideas and theories like the ones that just rattled your brain.  If you were to tell others about them, the nobles and town leaders might interpret it as a direct threat to the religious and cultural stability of the community, and the rest of the villagers would likely think you’re insane.  You could be exiled.

You decide that you must handle your business as usual and leave the futuristic visions and epiphanies to the witch doctors and nomads who dwell in the forests on the outskirts of civilization.  These people have already decided that the world they grew up in doesn’t hold the answers they are looking for.  They are the ones who should convey these outlandish ideas to the world.  Because they have nothing to lose.  At least not as much as you do.

So you don’t tell a soul about your epiphany.  Days roll into weeks.  Weeks roll into months.  And you imagine, each day, that you are better off for having kept it a secret.  But you are also aware that keeping this secret is eating away at you from the inside out.  You have distanced yourself from people and have been sleeping less and less.  Your mind won’t stop stirring.

Words of Wisdom

One night, after hours of stirring, you finally fall asleep and begin to dream.  You dream that you’re sitting at round table in a dimly lit room.  There is a man sitting across the table from you.  You can barely make out his face, but you can see his hair is peppered with silver and his skin is worn.  He seems old and wise.  And it feels like he can see right through to your soul.  But you also feel comforted because there is nothing to hide from him.  He already knows what you know.

“Do you know why you’re sitting here with me?” he asks in a low, soothing voice.

“I don’t know,” you reply.  “I guess I’m here because I have no one else I can talk to.”

He smiles and says, “You are here because you have something to say.  Something you know that is of immense importance – something that will change the world when you finally say it.  But you are afraid to say it because you don’t think people are ready to hear it.”

You sit in silence with him for a moment.  Just staring into his eyes.  You feel an energy emanating from his heart and gently soothing yours.  Easing it of tension.  Letting it know that it can beat loudly and proudly at any pace it wants to without concern.  Because it’s safe here – a sanctuary devoid of judgment.  And all of the fear inside you slowly subsides.

You take a deep breath and say, “I am here because I had an epiphany in which I saw, clearly, that the earth is not flat.  It is a sphere that revolves around the sun as part of an eight planet solar system.  And there are other stars out there too, perhaps in other solar systems in what is likely a vast, uncharted universe.”

You pause for a moment, take two more deep breaths and continue, “I don’t know where this epiphany came from or why it came to me when it did.  But I’m certain that it’s accurate.  And I’m certain, also, that the people of this world aren’t ready for it.  I have already been punished for having this epiphany – for simply knowing what I know.  And I don’t want to be punished once more for conveying what I know to others.”

He smiles again. And you feel, as he smiles, more comforted than you have since before you had your epiphany.  “In all walks of life, you will never know when the world is ready,” he says. “You will only know when you are ready.  And you will know when you are simply because you will take action and do something about it.  And after you do something, you will know when there is more to do, because you will do more.”

His words of wisdom are so clear, so simple.  But the real world, you recall, is far more twisted and convoluted.  In the real world, there are cultures and customs that have been around for generations that must be dealt with.

“The most important thing to remember,” he continues, “is that while it may feel like you are at the mercy of the world, you are not.  Because the world is merely a reflection of what’s inside you – your thoughts.  So what feels like an entire world that isn’t ready, isn’t really a world at all.  It’s just you.  And when you change, you will notice that the world outside has changed too.”


Your eyes slowly open.  You sit up in bed and silently meditate over your dream.  After a few moments, you stand up and walk out the front door of your cabin to get some fresh air.  And as you stand there watching the sun rise over the village, you notice something is different.  The entire village seems brighter and more alive than you remember.  Has the village changed?  Have the people changed?  Or is it just you?  You aren’t sure.

What you are sure of is that you have fish to catch today.  And that you have something important to say.  And while you don’t know yet how you will say it, you are gradually growing more and more confident that you will know soon.  And by the time you realize you know, you will have already begun to say what you need to say.

And the world around you will have already begun to change.

Because you have changed.

Recommended reading for those who liked this post:
The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World

Photo by: Jony Cunha

28 Dignified Ways to Impress Everyone Around You

Ways To Impress Everyone

Far more often than any of us like to admit, our actions are driven by an inner desire to impress other people.  This desire is often reflected in the brand name products we use, the bars and restaurants we frequent, the houses and cars we buy and the careers we choose.

But are name brand products, fancy bars, houses and cars really that impressive?  What about a person who holds an elite position in a career field they dislike?  Some of these things might capture our attention for a minute or two, but they won’t hold it for long.

Why?  Because tangible possessions are not as impressive as intangible qualities.

Consider the following questions:

  • He drives a Porsche, but can he truly afford the car payment?
  • He owns a big house, but is it a loving household?
  • He makes a lot of money, but does he enjoy what he does for a living?

You get the idea.  Whenever the answer to questions like these is ‘no,’ the subject who initially appeared to be impressive no longer does.

Now take a moment and imagine a person who loves what he does for a living, smiles frequently and bleeds passion in every breath he takes.  Would he impress you?  Would it matter that he wasn’t a millionaire?

Here are 28 dignified ways to impress everyone around you.  If you practice these tips on a regular basis, they won’t just impress others, they’ll help you become a better person too.

We make a living by what we get.  We make a life by what we give.
– Winston Churchill

  1. Be authentic.  Be true to yourself. – Judy Garland once said, “Always be a first rate version of yourself instead of a second rate version of somebody else.”  Live by this statement.  There is no such thing as living in someone else’s shoes.  The only shoes you can occupy are your own.  If you aren’t being yourself, you aren’t truly living – you’re merely existing.  And ask yourself this:  If you don’t like who you really are, why should I like you?
  2. Care about people. – If you don’t genuinely care about people, they won’t care about you.  The more you help others, the more they will want to help you.  Love and kindness begets love and kindness.  And so on and so forth.
  3. Make others feel good. – People will rarely remember what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
  4. Be honest and take ownership of your actions. – Nobody likes a liar.  In the long-run, the truth always reveals itself anyway.  Either you own up to your actions or your actions will ultimately own you.
  5. Smile often. – Everyone likes the sight of a genuine smile.  Think about how you feel when a complete stranger looks into your eyes and smiles.  Suddenly they don’t seem like a stranger anymore, do they?
  6. Respect elders.  Respect minors.  Respect everyone. – There are no boundaries or classes that define a group of people that deserve to be respected.  Treat everyone with the same level of respect you would give to your grandfather and the same level of patience you would have with your baby brother.  People will notice your kindness.
  7. Address people by their name. – People love the sight and sound of their own name.  So make sure you learn to remember names.  Use them courteously in both oral and written communication.
  8. Say “Please” and “Thank you.” – These two simple phrases make demands sound like requests, and they inject a friendly tone into serious conversations.  Using them can mean the difference between sounding rude and sounding genuinely grateful.
  9. Excel at what you do. – I am impressed by great guitarists, writers, bloggers, painters, motivational speakers, internet entrepreneurs, computer engineers, mothers, fathers, athletes, etc.  There is only one thing they all have in common: They excel at what they do.  There’s no point in doing something if you aren’t going to do it right.  Excel at your work and excel at your hobbies.  Develop a reputation for yourself, a reputation for consistent excellence.
  10. Help others when you’re able. – In life, you get what you put in.  When you make a positive impact in someone else’s life, you also make a positive impact in your own life.  Do something that’s greater than you – something that helps someone else to be happy or to suffer less.  Everyone values the gift of unexpected assistance and those who supply it.
  11. Put a small personal touch on everything you do. – Think of it as branding your work.  If you’re funny, add a little humor into it.  If you’re an artist, decorate it with illustrations.  Whatever you do, customize it with a little personal touch of ‘you.’
  12. Over-deliver on all of your promises. – Some people habitually make promises they are just barely able to fulfill.  They promise perfection and deliver mediocrity.  If you want to boost your personal value in the eyes of others, do the exact opposite.  Slightly under-sell your capabilities so that you’re always able to over-deliver.  It will seem to others like you’re habitually going above and beyond the call of duty.
  13. Get organized. – How can you get anything accomplished if you aren’t organized?  You can’t.  Make a regular habit of organizing your living space and working space.  For some practical organizational guidance, I recommend David Allen’s Getting Things Done.
  14. Do your research and ask clarifying questions. – Don’t be that clueless dude in the room who just nods like he knows what’s going on.  Prepare yourself by doing research ahead of time.  And if something still doesn’t make sense to you, ask questions.  The people involved will respect your desire to understand the material.
  15. Share knowledge and information with others. – When you can, be a resource to those around you.  If you have access to essential information, don’t hoard it.  Share it openly.
  16. Be positive and focus on what’s right. – Everything that happens in life is neither good nor bad.  It just depends on your perspective.  And no matter how it turns out, it always ends up just the way it should.  Either you succeed or you learn something.  So stay positive, appreciate the pleasant outcomes, and learn from the rest.  Your positivity will rub off on everyone around you.
  17. Listen intently to what others have to say. – Eyes focused, ears tuned, mobile phone off.  In a world that can’t move fast enough, someone who can find time to listen to others is always appreciated.
  18. Be faithful to your significant other. – Tiger Woods was everyone’s hero until recently, wasn’t he?  Sustained fidelity in a long-term intimate relationship is not only impressive, it creates a healthy foundation for everything else you do.
  19. Learn to appreciate and love Mother Nature. – Those who truly appreciate and love the natural world surrounding us typically exhibit the same high regard for all humanity.  It’s a positive way to live, and it’s something people notice.
  20. Invest time, energy and money in yourself every day. – When you invest in yourself, you can never lose, and over time you will change the trajectory of your life.  You are simply the product of what you know.  The more time, energy and money you spend acquiring pertinent knowledge, the more control you have over your life and the more valuable you will be to everyone around you.  For fresh ideas on self improvement and lifestyle design, I recommend The 4-Hour Workweek.
  21. Perform random acts of kindness on a regular basis. – Pay for a stranger’s coffee in line at Starbucks.  Buy the office receptionist flowers just to say, “Thank you.”  Help an elderly lady with her groceries.  There’s nothing more rewarding than putting smiles on the faces around you.
  22. Compliment people who deserve it. – Go out of your way to personally acknowledge and complement the people who have gone out of their way to shine.  Everybody likes to hear that their efforts are appreciated.
  23. Speak clearly and make eye contact. – Most people have a very low tolerance for dealing with people they can’t understand.  Mystery does not fuel strong relationships and impressiveness.  Also, there’s little doubt that eye contact is one of the most captivating forms of personal communication.  When executed properly, eye contact injects closeness into human interaction.
  24. Make yourself available and approachable. – If people cannot get a hold of you, or have trouble approaching you, they will forget about you.  Your general availability and accessibility to others is extremely important to them.  Always maintain a positive, tolerant attitude and keep an open line of communication to those around you.
  25. Be self-sufficient. – Freedom is the greatest gift.  Self-sufficiency is the greatest freedom.  And self-sufficiency is quite impressive too.   In the business world, it’s one of the primary dreams that inspire people to give-up their day jobs to pursue entrepreneurship.
  26. Exploit the resources you do have access to. – The average person is usually astonished when they see a physically handicap person show intense signs of emotional happiness.  How could someone in such a restricted physical state be so happy?  The answer rests in how they use the resources they do have.  Stevie Wonder couldn’t see, so he exploited his sense of hearing into a passion for music, and he now has 25 Grammy Awards to prove it.
  27. Be a part of something you believe in. – This could be anything.  Some people take an active role in their local city council, some find refuge in religious faith, some join social clubs supporting causes they believe in, and others find passion in their careers.  In each case the psychological outcome is the same.  They engage themselves in something they strongly believe in.  This engagement brings happiness and meaning into their lives.  It’s hard not to be impressed by someone who’s passionate about what they’re doing.
  28. Stand up for your beliefs without flaunting them. – Yes, it is possible to stand up for your beliefs without foisting them down someone else’s throat.  Discuss your personal beliefs when someone asks about them, but don’t spawn offensive attacks of propaganda on unsuspecting victims.  Stand firm by your values and always keep an open mind to new information.

Of course, the coolest thing about this list is that everything you need to impress everyone around you is already contained within you.  So stop trying to impress people with the possessions you own and start inspiring them with who you are and how you live your life.

Photo by: Khalid

Where We Must Go When We Feel Lost and Alone

Lost and Alone

What She Desires Most

She notices the people sitting in a small sports bar across the street.  They’re cheering and chatting.  They look so alive.  She wants to cross the street and join these people just to connect with them – to be a part of something.  But a subtle voice that comes from within – that whispers from the open wounds in her heart – holds her back from doing so.  So she keeps walking.  Alone.

She walks to the end of the city center where she sees a dirt path that leads up a grassy hill.  The hill, she knows, overlooks a spiritual sanctuary.  But it isn’t the sanctuary she wants to visit tonight – not yet anyway.  It’s a warm, breezy Saturday night and she wants to find a place outdoors with sufficient light so she can sit and read the novel she’s grasping in her right hand.

But reading isn’t what she really wants.  Not deep down.  What she really wants is for someone – anyone at all – to tap her on the shoulder and invite her into their world.  To ask her questions and tell her stories.  To be interested.  To laugh with her.  To want her to be a part of their life.

But it isn’t even this connection with someone new that she wants most.  At least not at the deepest level.  At the deepest level, in the core of her soul, even fleeting connections with others seem to interfere with what she desires most.  Which is to know that she’s truly loved.  That she’s not alone in this world.  And that whatever she was put here to do, in time, will be done and shared with others who care.


This young woman left a substantial segment of her life behind to be in this small city tonight.  A few months ago, she was engaged to a strapping young businessman, managing a fast-growing start-up company, working long, hard days and enjoying the fruits of her labor together with a deepening community of friendships in Manhattan.

In a period of just a few months, her fiancé and her split and decided that it was easiest to shutdown the company and divide the monetary remains rather than attempt co-ownership.  As they began the process of shutting down the company, she learned that most of the seemingly deep friendships she had made in Manhattan were tied directly to her old business affairs or her business-socialite of an ex-fiancé.

While this young woman didn’t consciously expect such a rapid, tragic series of events, it also wasn’t totally unexpected.  Subconsciously she knew that she had created a life for herself that was unsustainable.  It was a life revolving around her social status in which all of her relationships brought with them a mounting and revolving set of expectations.  This life left no time for spiritual growth or true love.

Yet, this young woman is drawn to spirituality and love.  She has been drawn to both all her life.  And the only thing that steered her off course into this unsustainable lifestyle was the imprudent belief that if she did certain things and acted in certain ways she would be worthy in the eyes of others.  That her social status would procure love from these people.  And that she would never be alone.

She realizes, now, how wrong she was.

The Sanctuary

The young woman walks up a steep paved road on the outskirts of the city center.  She feels the burn in her quads as she marches higher and higher.  The road is, at first, filled with quaint boutique shops and young couples and friends, but as it advances uphill they give way to small cottage homes and kids playing ball in the street.  She keeps marching higher and higher until she reaches a clearing where there is a small public park.

In this park, a group of teenagers huddle around two guitarists who are strumming and singing an acoustic melody.  “Is it a popular song?” she thinks to herself.  She isn’t sure because she hasn’t had time lately to listen to music.  She wants to join the group.  She wants to tell the guitarists that their music is incredible.  But she hesitates.  She just can’t find the courage to walk over to them.

Instead, she sits on a park bench a few hundred feet away.  The bench overlooks the cityscape below.  She stares off into the distance and up into the night sky for several minutes – thinking and breathing.  And she begins to smile, because she can see the spiritual sanctuary.  It’s dark outside, but the sanctuary shines bright.  She can see it clearly.  She can feel it’s warmth surrounding her.  And although she knows the sanctuary has existed for an eternity, her heart tells her something that keeps a smile stretched across her cheeks: “This sanctuary is all yours tonight.”

Not in the sense that she owns it.  Nor in the sense that it isn’t also a sanctuary for millions of other people around the world.  But rather in the sense that it belongs to all of us as part of our heritage, exclusively tailored for every human being and our unique needs and beliefs.  It’s a quiet refuge that, when we choose to pay attention, exists all around us and within us.  We can escape to it at any time.  It’s a place where we can dwell with the good spirits and guardian angels who love us unconditionally and guide us even when we feel lost and alone.

Especially when we feel lost and alone.

Photo by: Meg Wills