Joan Steffend's latest project is intended to recognize the little things and inspire greatness.
Nothing against Kirby Puckett, Lindsey Vonn or the Purple People Eaters, but Joan Steffend is on a mission to find some real heroes, namely, people who bring a little happiness into other people's lives.
"Sure, people who climb mountains and do fantastic things, they're heroes," she said. "But I'm not looking for people with big, profound stories. I'm looking for people like the woman behind the convenience store cash register who greets every customer with a kind word."
The former TV news anchor and HGTV host believes that people can bring peace to the world one small act of kindness at a time. She helped launch the organization Peace Begins With Me (www.peacebeginswithme.org), and with co-founder Julianne Druzbacky put up their own money to print 20,000 "hero cards" to be handed out whenever they see someone doing something nice for another person.
Under the headline "You are a hero," the cards say: "It might have been your smile. It might have been a real, connected conversation. It might have been as simple as you really seeing me. That is a hero in my book, in a world that can feel disconnected."
While some churches and civic organizations have requested hundreds of the cards for their members to circulate, the bulk of the distribution has been fairly low-key. "Julianne and I hand out most of them ourselves," Steffend said. "A lot of times, the recipient will say, 'But I didn't do anything.' And we say, 'Oh, yes, you did.'"
Their ultimate goal is to change from a society that points fingers in blame to one that points with pride instead.
"The real heroes with the capacity to save our culture are us," Steffend said.