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I recently met a friend who gave me a book he bought on a recent trip. Books you are gifted have a special feeling anyway, but books from somewhere special stand out. There is no way I'll ever be able to read it without thinking about where it is from.

These books, I can't help but relate to real life. They have a story beyond the one they're telling. Every book has one, but most aren't particularly interesting. They travel from the bookshop to your home. Books that travel with you (or with others) can have unwritten stories as interesting as their written ones.

Sometimes you know a book's unwritten story. This is special because you can find more meaning within its pages. It becomes part of your own story.

Other times, you don't know an unwritten story. Most people never think about these. I find them fascinating. Have you ever held a used book and wondered where it's been? Just because a story is unwritten doesn't mean it's unremarkable.

These days, unwritten stories tend to be untold ones, and I don't quite understand how I feel about that. I like their mystery and how unknowable they are. Do stories exist when no one knows them? That same thought saddens me. How many stories have been lost, how many heroes forgotten?

Unsung heroes are a particular tragedy. More so if they don't mind their anonymity. People who give deserve to receive, and it pains me to see them never even be thanked. I have so much love for those who are kind even in secret, and I wish I could give it to them. Unsung heroes are true heroes, because you know they didn't act in self-interest. There is nothing to gain when nobody knows your name. I know it doesn't change anything, but I like to think of these people. How many there must be.

To be clear, it doesn't matter to me how big, impactful, or even successful a heroic act is. Saving a kingdom is heroic, but so is raising a child with kindness and understanding. Even just trying your best at it. A heroic act can take a minute or a lifetime. I don't care about fame, details, or definitions. People shouldn't be deprived of recognition because their accomplishments don't seem as impressive as someone else's. I hate how some people hoard words, like they belong to them. Who can define what counts as heroic? Personally, I'd rather appreciate one person too many than miss anyone.

What comforts me is that forgotten stories still have an impact. I believe this to be true because things that happened in the past can sometimes be explained by discoveries made today. The kindness people put into the world stays in the world, even when it is never noticed. When something good happens without apparent reason, I like to imagine I've come across some residual kindness. I imagine one of those countless unsung heroes smiling at me. I don't believe in an afterlife, but I think past kindness can be returned by future kindness. The dead will never know, but their legacy will live on.

© Anna Kleinschmidt 2022-08-14


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