Stories for Troubled Times
During trying times, we need more than news and practical insights to thrive.
These stories restore our faith in humanity — these are stories about people going the extra mile for the common good, stories about people motivated by hope and joy, stories about people finding sources of resilience they didn’t know they had. The antidote to the uncertainty and fear that is disrupting our lives is remembering our common humanity. These stories can nourish our interior lives and give us the resources to remain generous and hopeful.
Use these stories as a break from the stress of the social isolation for your community — it might help to share these videos with a post explaining, “Here’s a break from the stress — enjoy this uplifting story about XYZ.” Note that there are both video and written stories included below.
Grotto is built as a gift for the Church, so please freely share any of this content to serve your community of faith — simply tag us @GrottoNetwork if you are sharing on social media, or offer a link or attribution to our website GrottoNetwork.com.
We are already generating new content to meet this specific moment, and those pieces will be updated at the top of the page when they come out. You can also follow us on any social platform (@GrottoNetwork) to be in tune with our content stream for easy re-sharing opportunities.
And, as ever, please reach out if there is any content or expertise that we can offer to assist you in reaching your community of faith in this challenging moment. Contact Josh Noem with any inquiries.
Simple Actions, Big Love
The Power of Saying ‘Yes’ to Adoption: Jackie Appleman fostered teens as a single woman in her twenties. After battling her fears during her time as a foster mother, she finally said “yes” to adopting and is now a parent to her daughter, Jessie.
Helping the Homeless Find Shelter and Hope: Tamara Lucas works at the South Bend Center for the Homeless where she is an adult coaching specialist. For those experiencing homelessness, food, shelter, and other resources are just one part of what they need. Tamara offers counseling to women who experience homelessness to help them see their value and give them hope.
These DIY Food Pantries are Feeding the Community: During the pandemic, Lindsay Manolakos saw the lines at food pantries growing longer. It was clear that the need for food was high and she wanted to help, so she created a unique way to feed the community: she builds “Purple Pantries” and places them in her neighborhood as places where people and leave and take food for free.
Spreading Love in This Pandemic with Homemade Bread: Baking is an activity that many have turned to in this pandemic to fill their extra time at home. Nick and his family have found bread baking to not only be a calming activity, but also a way to stay connected with others during this time.
Children’s Author Teaches Kids How to Draw: K-Fai Steele doesn’t just write stories for children. She also teaches kids how to create their own masterpieces. In live-streamed drawing and illustration workshops, she shows kids how to embrace their imperfect and individual creativity.
Civil Rights Lawyer Doubles as Radio DJ: William Morris is changing the world in more ways than one. As a civil rights lawyer, he works to fight injustice. As a radio DJ, he’s committed to spreading a message of unity and love through the diverse songs he plays. Though these jobs differ greatly, in each one William is working to create a community where people are treated with dignity and respect.
Strangers Come Together to Help Native Groups Hit by Pandemic: Native nations have been hit hard by this pandemic. After working for years as a pediatrician on a reservation, Dr. Christina Thuet was determined to do something to help. So she started an organization — supported by “strangers” — that sends resources to hurting tribal communities in the Four Corners region.
Local Coffee Shop Runs on Acts of Kindness: The Local Cup runs on two things: locally-produced products and neighborly love. The coffee shop, which functions on a pay-it-forward basis, cultivates community, gratitude, and generosity with every cup it serves.
Sidewalk Talk Project Offers Free Listening: As a trained volunteer for Sidewalk Talk, Aimee Rozen has one job: to listen. She cherishes the opportunity that the project provides to hear others’ stories and make connections with people passing by.
Photographer Gives Hurting Mothers the Chance to Be Seen: Between 1939 and the 1990s, children were stolen from mothers across Spain as part of a eugenics program started under the Franco government. In order to offer the victims of this crisis a chance to be seen, Pedro Lange-Churion began a photography project dedicated to sharing their stories.
Free Flying Lessons for Kids from Marginalized Communities: Ray Smith is a pilot in Pennsylvania who gives free flight classes to children from marginalized communities.
Playing Air Guitar to Make a Better World: Air guitar is exactly what you think it is — pretending to play an instrument. But it’s also bringing joy to others through high-energy performances and personal connections. And as silly as it is, it’s actually part of a movement to build peace.
‘Bike Man’ Has Kept His Community Moving for Decades: Charles “Bike Man” Jenkins has been repairing and building bikes for people in his community for over 50 years. The impact he has had on countless lives on the West Side of South Bend, Indiana, can hardly be measured.
Teaching Music to People with Special Needs: Mr. B teaches music to people with special needs. “We’ll do performances and even the parents of the students will say, ‘I didn’t know my child could do that.'”
Harlem Juice Bar Brings Healthy Choices to the Neighborhood: Abdi is a refugee from Ethiopia who opened up a juice bar in Harlem, NYC. He changed his diet for health reasons and opened his juice bar to help others eat healthier, too.
Bringing Joy Through Fun and Faith-Inspired Socks: The Williams family first talked about selling Catholic socks as a joke. But now they run a joy-driven small business called Sock Religious.
Inspiring Makers and Artists
From His Bedroom Studio to an Award-Winning Music Career: Charles Righa is an award-winning musician and producer from Kenya who goes by the name Rigga. He started his journey of producing music with an iPad recording in his closet. But he kept following his passion and now shares his music with thousands of people.
Sharing Love Through Her Pottery: Catherine Leitz started her faith-based pottery business with hope to share love with others through her pottery. She puts her heart and care into her craft — a couple of her product lines are inspired by the two daughters she lost to miscarriage.
Artist Colors Her City With Vibrant Murals: You can tell that Alex Ann Allen loves what she does. The joy she feels from painting is evident in each stroke of her art. With her bright colors and bold designs, she ensures her murals can be seen far and wide — brightening up her city and spreading joy one wall at a time.
Designer Makes Clothes with Meaning: There are a lot of ways we can inspire others, whether it be with our words, actions, or the unique gifts we were given. For business owner Devin Jackson, he sees an opportunity to inspire and connect with others through the clothing he designs.
Finding Humor and Healing in Recovery: As a stand-up comic, Mean Dave gets a lot of his material from his own life. For him, that means talking (and joking) about his recovery from addiction. By bringing a subject like sobriety into the spotlight with him, he finds honesty, resilience, and joy in his journey — and he can offer the same to his audience.
This Young Breakdancer Found Healing in Hip Hop: Breakdancing is more than a hobby for Nimoy Vaidya. It’s a way for him to be fully himself, a path toward healing, and a source of joy. Born in Kathmandu, Nepal, Nimoy moved to the U.S. for school in 2015. While struggling through his parents’ divorce and being bullied at school, he found an outlet in the “b-boy” culture.
Meet One of the Nation’s Top Paratriathletes: Like all of us, this year didn’t go as planned for Mary Kate Callahan. A paratriathlete, she was training to qualify for the 2020 Paralympics when COVID-19 shut down the games. Instead of being discouraged, however, she’s grateful for the journey and is as committed as ever to her goals.
Louisiana Artist Modernizes Sacred Art: Baton Rouge-based artist Jacob Zumo is breaking down barriers with his art. Because of his innovative approach to portrait painting, he has attracted a diverse audience. For him, it’s about making traditional art more accessible to the modern world — without losing the meaning central to it.
Grassroots Art Festival Brings Community Together: Lauren Steinhofer turned to painting as a way to heal from loss. But it turned into a calling for something even greater — an opportunity to provide inspiration to others in her community. From the ground up, she organized and executed a successful grassroots art festival last summer that she plans to hold every year.
Voice Actor Leaves Small Town to Pursue Passion: Zack Johnson has always been an entertainer, but that doesn’t mean self-confidence came easily. He found a passion in the creative freedom that voice acting provided, and so he’s decided to follow it — even if that means leaving his small hometown.
Assistant Principal Finds Passion in Woodworking: When Eric Morin left his job as an assistant principal, he took a leap of faith. But it was one he knew he had to take in order to follow his passion. Now, after building a house from top to bottom, he proves that it’s never too late to change your course and find your purpose.
Percussionist Makes Music Using Nature’s Instruments: Jesse Armerding used to make music on the streets of New York City. Now, he finds a better environment for his percussion music in nature. He uses natural elements, such as a hollowed-out tree trunk, to create his beats and melodies.
Brewing Beer at a Benedictine Monastery: Vince Luecke is the founder and owner of Saint Benedict’s Brew Works — a craft brewery on the grounds of a women’s monastery in Ferdinand, Indiana. He shares about the miracle of brewing and the joy of bringing people together to share a beer at their brewery.
Reconnecting with Nature Through an Alpaca Farm: Lorrie Heber works at an alpaca farm run by the Sisters of Providence in Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. She explains how the farm supports the sisters’ mission to care for creation.
Refugee Creates Stunning Mosaic Art: Mosaic artist Reham Aarti has created beautiful works of art for spaces across Idaho. Her latest creation is a massive and stunning mosaic for a newly opened Catholic grade school. She talks to us about her work and how laying mosaic has taught her to let go and work with what you’ve got.
Reviving the Ancient Art of Stained Glass: Stained glass is one of the most iconic art forms. Judson Studios in Los Angeles is reviving this art with a new technique. “What fusing does differently is it replaces a lot of the darkness with a lot of light,” says lead artist Tim Carey.
The Bergamot Band Sings Message of Hope: The Bergamot is a husband-wife musical duo creating music to give people hope and meet them where they’re at in a vulnerable and authentic way. Recently, they held an auction to help fund a music therapy program.
Unexpected Bonds and Communities
Letters Bring Healing & Community For Those in Prison: Growing up, Tea Ingram and her peers started to write letters to their friends who were incarcerated to update them on current events. This became a passion of hers, and she started “Just Write,” a program for people to write letters to the incarcerated members of their community to help them know their worth and that they are loved.
Creating Community Around Catholic Beard Balm: Tony Vasinda didn’t know what to expect when he started making homemade beard balm in his house. Not only is he now running a successful business selling it, but by tying his products to his faith and creating a space for conversation, he’s also formed a strong community.
Urban Agriculture Program Provides Fresh, Affordable Produce: Since 2015, Fort Wayne’s “HEAL” (Healthy Eating Active Living) markets have served over 9,000 neighbors — ninety percent of which are eligible for WIC/Senior Produce Vouchers or SNAP assistance. Thanks to a partnership with St. Joseph Community Health Foundation and Parkview Health, all vouchers are worth double their value at HEAL Markets.
‘Street Nun’ Formed a Community Through Canning: Sister Ana Martinez de Luco, SFCC, recognized that to simply talk of God’s love to those who are suffering is not enough. So she adopted voluntary homelessness to better serve those in need. After learning how canning can be a means of survival for those who are homeless, she co-founded ‘Sure We Can,’ a non-profit recycling center and community space for those living on the streets.
Meet the Woman Who Turned Her Restaurant Into a Food Pantry: Opening a restaurant in Brooklyn was a dream come true for Nowshin Ali. An immigrant from India, she missed her native food, and the restaurant allowed her to continue enjoying it while sharing the signature dishes with others. When the pandemic struck, however, she shifted her focus and transformed her restaurant into a food bank to serve hungry families.
Women Find Healing Through Kintsugi Workshop: Through kintsugi, a Japanese art form that repairs broken pottery with gold, Kirsten Helgeson experienced healing. She offers that same healing to other women by leading them in a kintsugi workshop, focusing on the philosophy behind the art: there is beauty in brokenness.
Hillbilly Thomists at Appaloosa Music Festival: The Hillbilly Thomists are a group of Dominican friars who have come together to form a bluegrass/folk band. The cast of band members is always changing, but their music has appeared on bluegrass billboard charts.
Inside the Life of a Monk: Brother Paul Quenon, O.C.S.O., is a poet, photographer, and Trappist monk. To the outside world, he and his fellow monks aren’t serving any practical purpose. But they have found a deeper meaning in that “uselessness.”
From Online Searching to Marriage — A Story of Love: Finding love looks different for everyone. Online dating is more common these days, but flying across the country to find a spouse still qualifies as taking a chance on love. Watch how this now-married couple found each other from a Google search.
Tiny House Community Shelters Homeless: Alan Graham founded a 27-acre community of tiny houses and homes designed to lift up off the streets the most “outcast, lost, and abandoned people” in Austin, TX: the chronically homeless.
Holding on to Faith
“Out of the Plane, Into the Sky”: A skydiving experience showed this writer what it takes to live with hope and love.
How One Father Held Onto Faith in Hard Times: This writer’s son was born with special needs and the surgeries and demands this placed on the family challenged his faith.
Ordinary Stories, Clothed in Love: This writer was asked to help write a memoir with a man who is dying from ALS. She ponders the meaning of stories and hope.
Living with Hope
That Time I Lied to a Nun: Javi stretched the truth with a sister who was teaching him theology in college, but the experience actually led to an important insight about life and death.
What Cancer Taught Me About Hope: As Mary Beth fought cancer, she wrestled with the ambiguity of whether she was fully healed or not. This is how her faith became a source of hope.
Finding Hope in a 100-Mile Race: This writer attempted a 100-mile race in the Rocky Mountains — this is how she met the challenge.
Sources of Resilience
What it Feels Like to Live in Loneliness: This author has wrestled with loneliness and has come through it on the other side with a deeper sense of how God is present to him.
When Suffering Isn’t Fair: Jackie traveled to Lourdes, hoping for a miracle for her brother. When one didn’t come, she discovered something new about God.
Learning to Live With Not Knowing ‘Why’: After surviving a near-fatal car accident, Megan struggled with questions about why the experience happened to her.