Category Archives: intervene

There’s nothing quite like a mother’s love

Pink rose

Written by Ruth Howard – founder of The Joy Story

There’s nothing quite like a mother’s love.

On the night of Friday March 6, 2015 just near Salt Lake City in Utah, USA, Lynn Groesbeck, 25, of Springville, was driving home from her parent’s house when, for a reason unknown, she veered off the roadway and into the Spanish Fork River.  The car came to rest upside down, partially submerged, in the river and, as is shown to be true later, Lynn is killed instantly. In the backseat of the car, strapped into her baby capsule, is Lynn’s 18 month old baby girl, Lily. The water rushing into the car is just below Lily’s head.

Because the car could not be seen by the cement barriers on the road, it is another 14 hours before the car is spotted – by a fisherman. Rescuers arrive and begin a routine rescue of the car. Later, the four rescuers tell that they heard desperate pleas for help coming from the woman inside the car, calling out, ‘Help me, help us! and this spurred them on to greatly intensify their efforts.

They find the woman dead. They also find the baby girl, unconscious, strapped into her car seat. She had been hanging upside down for 14 hours as icy water flowed through the car. She had survived without food or water in frigid temperatures. They remove her from the car and she is taken to hospital where she is reunited with her father and reportedly makes a full recovery.

The four rescuers tried to work out how they heard the mother’s voice – yet she had passed away so much earlier. They all heard it. They couldn’t explain it, but they all heard it.

As I said, there’s nothing quite like  a mother’s love.

Ivan Visontay – saved by an act of courage.

1304867359807Written by Ruth Howard – founder of The Joy Story

One of the things that matters most in life is that we help others. Those we know. Those we don’t know. We might be shy, yet we strike up a conversation with the new neighbour who has moved next door and doesn’t know anyone. We are late for the movies, nevertheless we run to help a stranger who has tripped and fallen over in the street. We just do it. We hardly think about it, so spontaneous is our response. It is a kindness that swells up in our beings to answer the call of our connectedness, our oneness. And I think this is life affirming and beautiful.

The face smiling at you from the photo above belongs to Ivan Visontay (1929-2011). Today is the fourth anniversary of his death. I read about Ivan in the Sydney Morning Herald in 2011 and was so touched by the story about him that unfolded in his obituary that I kept the cutting from the paper with a view to writing about him one day. Today is that day.

Ivan’s story begins in 1944 and the scene is Auschwitz concentration camp. Dr Mengele is on the lookout for prisoners who are strong and robust – he needs labourers. He finds one in the 14 year old Ivan, the healthy looking son of a delicatessen owner. He suits Mengele’s purposes well and is soon put to work.

However before too long Ivan succumbs to scurvy and is dying. A fellow prisoner, a non-Jewish Czech doctor, makes a courageous decision and decides to help Ivan and does whatever he can to keep him alive. He does this at great risk to his own life. Ivan survives and is liberated, along with 7,000 other prisoners, on January 27, 1945.

That event happened to Ivan when he was very young. Ivan came to Australia in 1952 and he was in his seventies when he started to talk about what happened to him all those years ago. He told his story to school children, telling them about the difference a single act of courage could make to someone. Telling them specifically about the difference a single act of courage by someone who was not Jewish made to someone who was.

Telling them that what matters is helping others.
Telling them about kindness.
Telling them about love.

Ivan Visontay was named an officer of the Order of Australia in 2010 and died March 24, 2011.
Photo and material reproduced from the obituary by Michael Visontay, first published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday April 28, 2011 p.20. Used with kind permission of Michael Visontay.

About The Joy Story

Scan 1The Joy Story to Self Discovery has changed to –  The Joy Story.

New name. New graphics. New focus. It used to be the Joy Story to Self Discovery. Now it has changed into simply – The Joy Story.

Its focus is to bring you stories where love has intervened to change the direction of someone’s life.

Stories that touch something deep in us, that expand us, that make us feel good and feel joy.

The difference between heaven and hell

ScanWritten by Ruth Howard – founder of The Joy Story. Artwork by Ian Grant, Australian artist.

This is a beautiful story about how a Zen Master’s love and wisdom changed the life of one very angry samurai.

Heaven and hell.

There was once a samurai who wanted to learn the difference between heaven and hell.  He sought until he found a Master from whom he thought he could learn. He stood before the Master and asked him what was the difference between heaven and hell. The Master took the samurai’s sword and, turning it to the flat of the blade, struck the samurai on the head. The samurai was very surprised at this but chose to ignore it. He thought that the Master had failed to hear or understand his question. He once again asked the Master about the difference between heaven and hell. Again the Master struck the samurai on the head.

The samurai staggered back and puzzled over this. He approached with his question for a third time and, before he could utter a word, the Master struck him a third time. The samurai was now so angry at this behaviour that he grabbed his sword from the Master, raised it over his head and was about to bring it down on the Master’s head when the Master raised one finger and the samurai paused.

“That is hell,” said the Master, looking him in the eye.

The samurai was instantly so overcome by the courage of this frail old man – to have risked his life for the sake of a stranger’s question – that he fell to his knees and bowed before the Master.

“And that is heaven,” said the Master gently.

The samurai understood his experience of his anger and wanting to strike the Master was his own hell.
He understood his experience of his alert consciousness of bowing before the Master was his own heaven.
The only thing that made the difference were his thoughts that changed in just a few seconds.

NB. I have never seen this story attributed to anyone and does not seem to have any copyright attached to it. Many variations of it can be found on the internet.

Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Selfish Giant’


Written by Ruth Howard – founder of The Joy Story

Many years ago a friend photocopied Oscar Wilde’s story, The Selfish Giant, and gave it to me. It was around the time I started writing and back then I had a blog with the theme of gratitude. As I was looking for inspiration for today’s story, I found it among my ‘keepsakes’. I realised how perfectly well it fits with this theme of mine of telling stories where ‘love intervened’. So here it is. It is not bound by any copyright laws, so you too can share it if you wish. It is from Oscar Wilde’s book, “The Happy Prince and Other Tales (1888). My husband Ian has illustrated the story for me and I have coloured it. It is a very touching story and well worth the read.

The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde

Every afternoon, as they were coming from school, the children used to go and play in the Giant’s garden.

It was a large lovely garden, with soft green grass. Here and there over the grass stood beautiful flowers like stars, and there were twelve peach-trees that in the spring-time broke out into delicate blossoms of pink and pearl, and in the autumn bore rich fruit. The birds sat on the trees and sang so sweetly that the children used to stop their games in order to listen to them. ‘How happy we are here!’ they cried to each other.

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Dad and the (miracle) reunion

photo 2Written by Ruth Howard – founder of The Joy Story

In July 2014 my father Newton who is 95 ‘and a half’, (as he says), went to live in aged care accommodation in a beautiful town on the North Coast of NSW in Australia in order to be close to my sister.

He wasn’t there because he had dementia or was bed ridden or anything like that. He was there because as he was ‘getting on a bit’, it was considered better for him to be in a place where professional people like doctors and nurses could keep a watch out for him every day.

There he became friends with an Englishman, Peter.
One day Peter, who is 90, told Newton he had a younger brother, Hugh, who is 84 and who lived in England. Peter said that over the years he and Hugh had spoken to each other on the ‘phone however they had not seen each other face to face, so to speak, for such a very, long time. He didn’t tell Newton how long that was. He also told Newton, “I won’t ever see him again – unless a miracle happens!”

That night Newton hatched a plan to try and make that miracle happen for his friend.
His plan was to use his ipad to connect Peter with Hugh on Skype – if Hugh was on Skype too.

Newton told Peter his plan and asked him for Hugh’s email address.
Newton emailed Hugh and asked, “Hugh, are you on Skype?”
Hugh replied, “Yes”
Newton asked Hugh, “Would you like to see your brother Peter?”
Hugh answered, “Yes, of course!”
Newton said, “Well, let’s do it.”

At first a few minor technical problems thwarted the miracle. However, a week or so later, at seven o’ clock one Tuesday evening in December just before Christmas, in a bedroom in a small country town in Australia, and at the same time at eight o’clock in the morning of the same day, in a bedroom somewhere in England, two brothers, Peter and Hugh, sat in front of computer screens and saw each other for the very first time in thirty seven years.


Photo of my father Newton (left) and Peter.
Photo by Sharon, Aged Care facility staff.
Images used with permission.