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My Favorite Life-Changing Stories


Jimmy reached the hayloft. He was alone. Suddenly, like a gopher, he ducked down a burrow. He groped a moment, elbow-deep in the hay, and drew forth a leather-hinged box of light pine. It was closed with a clasp and a padlock whose key hung from a string round his neck. Inside were a .22 caliber revolver, two boxes of cartridges, a jackknife, a sort of brown canvas knapsack, and three dollars and eighty-eight cents. He picked up the revolver, raised the hammer and lowered it, took out the chamber, filled it with cartridges and then removed them; with an oily rag he polished it. He opened the knapsack slowly, lovingly—and then a voice broke in on his preoccupation.

“Jim! O Jim!”

His father was calling from the orchard. Jim hesitated. If he stayed where he was, his father might think he was out of hearing, in the wood lot or perhaps in the far pasture. But the voice was coming nearer.

“Jim! O Jim!”

Suddenly it was within the barn itself, and cramming everything into the box again, Jim shouted, in a tone not too pleasant, “All right! I’m comin,’” and bolted down the ladder.

What he wanted was freedom, freedom from all the orders and restraints, and he meant to have it.

“Throughout my adult lifetime, I’ve been searching for stories having to do with pivotal moments or experiences in a person’s life. What a joy to gather some of the most inspirational, powerful ones into one collection. The beauty of such stories is that we can learn from the mistakes of others rather than making them ourselves.”  JOE L. WHEELER