Stone Soup for the World: Life-Changing Stories of Everyday Heroes


The handbook for humanitarians, completely revised and updated with 5 new stories

Stone Soup for the World is a blueprint for building a better world. Its heroes are legendary people and ordinary folks who, by conviction, imagination, innovation, persistence, frequently hard work, and not infrequently moral or physical courage, have lifted their neighbors and their communities. They challenge each of us to respond in kind.” —Walter Cronkite, from the Introduction

“The inspiring...

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The handbook for humanitarians, completely revised and updated with 5 new stories

Stone Soup for the World is a blueprint for building a better world. Its heroes are legendary people and ordinary folks who, by conviction, imagination, innovation, persistence, frequently hard work, and not infrequently moral or physical courage, have lifted their neighbors and their communities. They challenge each of us to respond in kind.” —Walter Cronkite, from the Introduction

“The inspiring stories featured in this book are wonderful testaments to the ideals of good citizenship. Citizen service reflects one of the most basic convictions of our democracy: that we are all responsible for one another.” —Former president Bill Clinton

Stone Soup for the World tells many inspiring stories and reinforces a favorite quote of mine, ‘From now on in America any definition of a successful life must include service to others.’” —Former president George Bush

“My father used to say that one person could make a difference and each of us should try. This book tells the stories of people who have made that difference, and they are an inspiration to us all.” —Caroline Kennedy

“Wonderful . . . Young and old alike will be inspired by the hundreds of ideas for how we can help our children, our schools, our communities, and our country to be the best we can be.” —Retired General Colin Powell, Founding Chairman of America’s Promise—The Alliance for Youth

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The founding director of the Stone Soup Leadership Institute, Larned describes this book as "a collection of one hundred stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things." The stories are told by individuals who are either well known themselves (Jimmy Carter, Steven Spielberg, Nelson Mandela) or are affiliated with organizations devoted to improving the world by bettering people's lives. They describe generally unsung heroes who influenced the tellers by making extremely positive contributions to society, usually with little if any public recognition. In addition to providing uplifting reading, the book offers realistic ways for readers to join volunteer efforts by listing appropriate organizations and their address and web site at the end of each piece. There should be something here to motivate even the most diehard couch potato to take part in improving our world by becoming involved with a worthwhile group, even if only by mouse-clicking and making a monetary donation. Recommended for all public libraries. Mary Prokop, Savannah Country Day Prep. Sch., GA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780609809693
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/19/2002
  • Edition description: Updated
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.09 (w) x 7.11 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Meet the Author

MARIANNE LARNED is founding director of the Stone Soup Leadership Institute, a national nonprofit education organization committed to helping young people build a better world. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area.
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Read an Excerpt



The heroes of all time have gone before us. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path. Where we had thought to travel outward, we will come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we will be with all the world.

Joseph Campbell

Have you ever wondered if just one person can really make a difference? Sometimes the problems around us can seem overwhelming. But think about it: one person first walked on the moon and one person discovered electricity.

There are thousands of ways each of us can make a difference. A helping hand extended to a neighbor or a stranger creates a more caring world. Reading to children enriches their present and opens up their future. A gift to a church or a charity helps those helping others. One kind word or a thoughtful deed can change someone's day--or make history. It's amazing what one person can do!

There's a lot that needs changing in this world. We've been looking for heroes. On September 11, we found them: the "ordinary" people who risked their lives to help others, especially the firefighters, police, and EMT workers. As people were running for their lives away from the fireball, the firefighters ran toward it, never thinking that the World Trade Center buildings would collapse. Their code for the day was "Before we save ourselves, we save others." Selflessly risking their lives, they kept their promise to "preserve life and property"--and saved over 25,000 people. Actually, they'd been doing this all along. Everyday heroes are less often celebrated, but they're still heroes. Maybe more so.

Oakland fire captain Ray Gatachalian, who went to New York City to help in the aftermath of the attack, was moved to tears when he heard Bette Midler sing "Did you ever know that you're my hero?" at the Yankee Stadium memorial service for the victims' families. "They showed us what it means to be a hero," Ray says. "They exemplify the best in all of us."

The stories in this chapter show how ordinary people can become heroes with acts of human kindness and courageous acts of service. "A hero is someone who responds to a 'call to service' and gives his life to something bigger than himself," said Joseph Campbell, after helping George Lucas with Star Wars. In the movie, young Luke Skywalker responds to a call, goes on a quest, battles demons, both inside himself and out, and returns to his people victorious, with a gift. So he becomes a hero. In training one day, Obi-Wan Kenobi coaches Luke, "Turn off your computer, turn off your machine and do it yourself; follow your heart, trust your feelings." When Luke does this, he succeeds, and the audience breaks out in applause.

Like Luke Skywalker, when the heroes in this chapter responded to a "call," their lives changed as they changed the world. People from all walks of life--firefighters and ministers; nurses and doctors; artists and musicians; mothers, fathers, students, and seniors; presidents of countries and companies--all set out on journeys along paths of self-discovery. They overcame obstacles and discovered the resources to fulfill their destinies. Good Samaritans and great humanitarians, dedicated volunteers and corporate champions followed their hearts and trusted their instincts to help others. Along the way, they have found the kind of joy and fulfillment others only dream of--and an exciting, lifelong adventure.

"The ultimate aim of the quest must be the wisdom and the power to serve others," says Campbell. He describes "legendary heroes" as those who dedicate their entire lives to a new way of life, a new age, a new religion, a new world order. The legendary heroes in this chapter--Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, and Eleanor Roosevelt--have left exemplary footsteps for others to follow.

Every one of us can be a hero. We, too, can embrace the courage of our convictions. We can step up, make our mark, help make history, and, with it, a better world.

As you read these stories, let your imagination take you on a hero's journey. What has been calling to you? Remember, it's your choice. There's always something one person can do. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Everyone can be great because everyone can serve."

If you had one day or even one hour

to make a difference in someone's life

what would you do?

When you take time to listen for your "call," you may be surprised.

You may begin an adventure more exciting than any you could imagine!

May the force be with you.


A young girl was walking along a beach after a terrible storm. She was upset to find thousands of starfish washed up on the shore.

When she came to each starfish, she picked it up, and threw it back into the ocean.

After she'd been doing this for some time, a man approached her. "Little girl, why are you doing this?" he asked. "Look at this beach! You can't save all these starfish. You'll never make a difference!"

At first the girl was crushed, suddenly discouraged. After a few moments she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean.

She then looked up at the man and replied, "Well, I made a difference to that one."


Told by David Murcott

Sometimes big things come in little packages. Take Isis Johnson for example. At the tender age of four, she took her first step toward making a gigantic impact in her community. "Grandma," she asked, "can we send the chicken we have left to the children in Ethiopia? God didn't mean for them to be hungry." Isis had just seen pictures of starving children in the news on TV, as she was finishing her supper, and she wanted to do something to help them.

"Isis," her grandmother said tenderly, "Ethiopia is too far away. The chicken would spoil before it got there." Not ready to give up so easily, Isis asked, "Well, are there any hungry girls and boys in New Orleans?" Her grandmother told her the sad truth. "Yes, I'm sure there are." That was all Isis needed to know. "Then let's send our chicken to them," she said.

That's how it all started. Isis went door to door, asking her neighbors if they would donate food for hungry children. Then she and her grandmother drove around town, gathering even more. Isis put a sign in the window of their home asking people to feed the hungry. Soon people started bringing food to them. Their home became a small warehouse of donated food and supplies.

Isis and her grandmother decided to give the food away on a Saturday, just before Christmas. They told the Salvation Army what they were doing. In turn, the Salvation Army told needy families. That year, Isis gave out over one thousand items of food to hundreds of people, attracting the attention of the media. NBC Nightly News and Black Entertainment Television, to name just two, covered the story. People were surprised to hear how much one little girl could do.

Isis received calls of support from all over New Orleans. Everyone wanted to help. Some people gave money to buy goods, and others continued to bring food to her house. The following year, Isis helped collect 1,300 items. The Salvation Army, which had agreed to distribute them, had to send seven men to load it all into a truck. The next year her donations totaled four thousand; and each year they multiply.

A few years ago, when Hurricane Andrew hit Louisiana, Isis was upset by the amount of suffering she saw. She promptly collected over 1,600 pieces of clothing for the Red Cross to distribute to needy families. Whenever Isis hears stories that make her sad, she tries to find a way to help.

One day, for example, she heard about a New Orleans child who was killed in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting. When Isis learned that the parents couldn't afford the child's burial expenses, she collected money for the funeral and gave it to the family. Now Isis, the parents, and the child can be more at peace.

So many people have made contributions to Isis's projects that her grandmother and a lawyer helped create the Isis Johnson Foundation. Now her donors receive tax credit for giving money, food, or clothes. Sometimes it's still hard for Isis to believe she has a foundation named after her. She has received numerous awards of recognition such as induction into the Mickey Mouse Hall of Fame.

Some children envy her fame and popularity. Isis simply tells them, "If I can do it, so can you. You can get involved in projects like mine, or start a special one of your own. But, no matter how you do it, when you help people, you feel good about yourself." She's only human, but for her that's enough to give.

Isis is now a seventeen-year-old peer mediator, working with teens to solve their problems. She's often asked to speak at local schools, inspiring students to help people in their communities. There are many ways to help people, she explains: "No matter who you are or where you come from, you can make a difference. You don't have to be old to make things better, you only have to care." For those who still don't know where to begin, Isis suggests they listen to a child. For, as she has proven, the youngest will show us the way.

Good habits formed at youth make all the difference.


Organize a food or clothing drive for those in need in your community. If you want to help Isis in her war on hunger, write or call her grandmother, Claudette Jones, at the Isis T. Johnson Foundation, 3340 Fawn Drive, Apt. 7, Memphis, TN 38127; 901-354-8582.

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