Healing Vigilante: Thanking a Stranger Who Helped Drastically Change My Life Story

One story influences another, which influences another, and so on. Bob O'Brien's actions greatly affected my life story, which affected my influence on other life stories. Everyday, the domino affect plays out in many ways, negative and positive, big and small.
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Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Aimee. She had just turned 5. She was petite with mousy brown hair and crooked bangs she had proudly cut herself. Her mother was about to step out and she couldn't wait to run upstairs and grab the stash of matches she'd hidden in the desk. She loved the sound when the match struck the grainy surface, and savored the delicious smell when it lit.

After watching her mother leave, she took a piece of paper and with joy-filled eyes watched it burn with beautiful orange, red and yellow colors. Her joy startled into worry as the paper burned rapidly. She threw it quickly into the paper shopping bag they used for trash. It's gone now, she thought. She turned back to enjoy another match. She became filled with panic when she saw the bag was burning! She jumped up and pushed it as far away as possible against the wall, which quickly caught fire. She was able to squeeze past the flames and run down to the kitchen. She feebly attempted to carry up a heavy pot of water determined to put out the fire but by then the entire room was swallowed by fire. Aimee was crying with terror. She didn't know what to do! She ran downstairs and hid underneath the big red velvet chair, where she felt safer. She waited desperately for it to stop.


At this point, there are two major story lines that can be written. One, of course, ends in tragedy. The other...


Aimee waited under the chair, petrified. She was shaking and crying, afraid she would get in trouble and also be burned. Her fingers were hurting, singed from trying to put out the fire. The house was filling with smoke, flames climbing down the staircase. Suddenly she heard banging on the back door. She felt frozen. What if it was her mother?! She was going to be SO mad! The banging got louder. She ran to see a bearded man in a blue hat. He jumped back, eyes wide with fear and shock to see such a little girl standing there. He shouted for her to step back attempting to knock down the heavy door. "DON'T MOVE!" he yelled and disappeared. She was frozen again, wide-eyed and crying. She stared at the door waiting for him to come back. She was abruptly lifted up and in a blur sitting safely outside by her swing set watching the house burn.

Because of this man, this little girls' story was written completely differently -- not just physically, but emotionally...

Although the fire was barely discussed, Aimee never forgot. Throughout her life, she wrote about how that day inspired her to live with strength and kindness. She was very aware of her second chance at life. She wrote school assignments about that inspiration and the man who saved her. She wrote her personal essay for college, a personal thesis, stories and dedicated several projects to that experience. She painted a picture that now hangs on her mantle in honor of the angel who saved her. But overall, a passion -- a fire -- grew inside of her to give back to others the way that her personal superhero had given to her -- to make a difference in her community. She hoped to cultivate a sense of kindness, equality and awareness throughout her life. And chose the field of therapy with the intention of supporting others to have more fulfilling and joyous lives.


Because of this man, this little girl's story was drastically affected. Because of him, she was inspired to grow up, persevere and help influence others to create more fulfilling life stories. Because of this man, she was able to see another day, and thousands of days after that. She was able to go to college, play soccer, go to Paris, laugh A LOT, create amazing friendships, become a writer, marry a wonderful man and mother two beautiful girls. Because of him, not only was her story written differently -- but also the story of her clients, family, friends, husband and children...

[Story continued...]

In May of 2014, something sparked inside of Aimee. She had a 5-year-old, mini-me daughter, and wildfires were burning in her city. She found herself flooded with emotion and felt compelled to find her superhero that saved her from that fire. Now. She wrote him an open letter and reached out to every resource she knew, but he did not turn up. Then, on Jan. 28, 2014, she received this:


Seeing that, Aimee cried with happiness and disbelief. Her superhero had found her! Bob O'Brien, age 76 and living just two miles from her childhood home! She stared at the picture he sent from 40 years ago. His eyes... so kind -- she remembered. She took an inhale after sitting there with bated breath. She put her hands on the keys to write the first of what would become their daily exchanges.

[To be continued...]

One story influences another, which influences another, and so on. Bob O'Brien's actions greatly affected my life story, which affected my influence on other life stories. Everyday, the domino affect plays out in many ways, negative and positive, big and small. It's crucial to be vigilant about our role. ASK YOURSELF: How will I affect another person's story today?

Bob has dedicated his life to quietly helping others. After announcing I'd found him, one of my hometown friends said he helped change a light for her mother that very day. That is Bob: He will save you from a burning home, and he will change your light. Either way, he's having a positive influence on someone's life story. Rarely is it possible to see how your personal act of kindness unfolds over the next 35 years. For Bob O'Brien, he now does. This post is for you, Kind Eyes. You are my personal hero, and now you are my family. Thank you.