Finding Meaning in a Harsh World

Stories of Resilience

As told to Cliff Williams

See Finding Meaning in a Harsh World for an updated page.

The First Ten Stories

"The Audacity of Speaking Out: A Woman's Story" by Kendall Jones Stanley

“I wanted an experience that would jolt me out of the cave of fear and anxiety and timidity I had been trapped in.”

"Invited to Tragedy" by Jesse Flanagan

Looking into the faces of victims causes me to grasp painful human experience more sharply. I see people for who they are.”

"Disillusioned by the Hidden Curriculum at a White Evangelical Seminary" by Steven R. Durgin

“Almost without exception, my spirit was crushed by the lack of compassion and empathy toward people who in no small numbers were lamenting their mistreatment.”

"Death of My Infant Son" by Shirley Ndoria

"I had to learn to talk about what happened so that I could heal. When I suppressed it, my body felt that, and I got sick.”

"Living in a Commune for Forty-Six Years" by Jon Trott

“I resolutely believed that agape love could be embodied in a close-knit community in a way that it couldn’t be in your normal American church experience.”

"From Iran to the United States" by Tahmineh Dehbozorgi

“I found that American society is generally very open and welcoming to newcomers. Most American people are genuinely interested in learning about my story.”

"Gay and Christian" by Bobby

"When I stopped having problems with being gay, no one else had a problem with it either.”

"Growing Up Amish" by Jonas Brenneman

“What had provided comfort before came to feel like a prison.”

"Becoming Engaged: First One, Then the Other" by Mary and Bryan

"I said to Bryan, 'Do you want to go for a walk? We can walk around to where the bonfire was.' When we got there, I took out the box and got down on one knee and asked him to marry me."

"Extricating Myself from Domestic Violence" by "Bella"

“For two years, I kept going back and forth, to and from, that relationship. It got worse and worse and worse.” 


The Second Ten Stories

"Betrayed by My Husband" by "Sara"

“I never imagined that my life would blow up as we approached our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.”

"A Month and a Half in a Cult" by "Claudia"

"I became suspicious of churches after I left. I have trouble trusting people in church spaces now. I am alert for narcissism."

"The Making of an American Rock Musician" by Andrew Scott Denlinger

“I love moments when I and my listeners are connected. These energize me.”

"Falling in Love": Ruby and David

"This was supposed to be only a summer fling. But I had let my heart get into it."

"Found Dead" by Ellen Palmer

"Somehow, the days and distance that had been between us when I had gone to Scotland for a week turned out to be much, much shorter than the time it took to travel across the room, to see my darling man curled up in rigor mortis, to take in the parts of him that were blue, blue, so blue, and those eyes that had missed nothing, staring off.

"Falling in Love": Denise and Jon

"Jon became beautiful to me. And I knew he was crazy about me."

"Conducting Group Therapy in a Prison" by "Kate"

“It was my job to listen to them describe their experiences. . . . And, I believe, respectful listening has healing power.”

"Fighting Anorexia" by "Robyn"

“That was the turning point for me—when someone said, ‘Will you let me help you?’ and I said yes.”

"A Big Hole" by Gail Childs

“My life has changed so radically that a lot of times I have to fight to hold the grief off.”

"Falling in Love: Cristina and David"

“I was standing at the top of the stairs at the entrance to my aunt’s house where my mom was combing my long and curly hair. I suddenly noticed a boy I had never seen staring at me as though he was mesmerized."


The Third Ten Stories

Stories below can be accessed by clicking on their titles.

"Escaping a Heroin Addiction" by Jenni Papanek

“I woke up one day with the clear sense that I wanted a different life. . . . I wanted to feel again, laugh again, and love again.”

"Fleeing Iran and Turkey" by Nasser Jahan

“We never went hungry, though that depends on the definition of ‘hungry.’ There were days when we only had bread. Others days it was lentils, some days beans, and some days cheese. We always had something to eat, not in abundance, but enough to keep us going."

"Becoming Disillusioned with Teaching" by "Matthew"

“In place of ideas and curiosity and the beautiful blooming of young people discovering life, I felt as though I was dying in front of them.”

"Confronting My ADHD" by "Ariana"

“I was miserable during the years after college. . . . I was not doing things I was good at and that I felt were meaningful. . . . Now . . . I am feeling competent and confident. . . . I still keep looking in disbelief at what I have become.”

See Finding Meaning in a Harsh World for an updated page.


I am looking for someone in each of the following categories:

Write me at if you are one of these persons and want to tell your story.

For information about being interviewed, see  Have You Done Something Unique and Meaningful? or  For Those Who Have Lived Through Trauma: Tell Your Story. Or write Cliff Williams at

About Cliff Williams

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