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Damn you StoryCorps for Making Me Cry Again!

Daniel Ross firefighter

It happens every time.

I’m driving my kids to school before heading to work, listening to NPR, and coming back from break, I hear that nice acoustic guitar, and I know what’s coming. “Now it’s time for StoryCorps…” StoryCorps is a nonprofit organization dedicated to recording, sharing and preserving the stories of ordinary Americans. It seems they have a way with a story, because almost every time these 2-minute segments are aired on NPR, they make my cry. Yeah, I’m a tough guy.

A while back they aired a story on a prison inmate named Daniel Ross fighting forest fires in Wyoming. He first talked about how scary it was to confront these huge blazes, but then the story took a different turn. The prisoners-temporarily-turned-firefighters received a very warm thank you from the townspeople, and their well wishes included a meal, and more. Take a listen here.

As the townspeople thanked the firefighters, Daniel said “I was overwhelmed to see it in their eyes and hear it in their voices. It was so moving that I had to get up and go compose myself. That was my proudest moment, hands down.” He found a sense of significance and a feeling of contribution by helping the town. Two of his six human needs were fulfilled right there. I started breaking up a bit.

My older daughter said, “Dad, are you crying?” Funny, because they can’t see my eyes; they’re in the back seat. And I was wearing sunglasses. How did she know? “No, I’m not,” I said.

My kids always want to understand the stories they are hearing, so I tried to explain it. This is such a HUGE life lesson, and I so hope it registers with them. With a cracking voice, I basically told them “What that man felt after helping fight that fire and save that town … that is a feeling he never could have bought.” I reiterated that there was nothing he could ever buy that would make him feel that fulfilled. It made me think of Bob Burg’s The Go-Giver. Giving is so much more powerful than receiving.

Link to the story on NPR’s site:


  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience here – it’s always so valuable for us to see the impact of our work and of those we carry on our station – and that, like many things that are good, cannot be bought. Cheers.

    – Kelsey Proud, Online Producer, St. Louis Public Radio

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