Starhawk has written: "Community means strength joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends. Someplace where we can be free." At one time or another, each of us has been a member of a community that was animated to action or service. To feel the thrill of a group coming alive in a giving way is to sense the Divine working through us. Individuals who are heroes of conscience and compassion, who reach out in the darkness and bring in the light, are often recognized. But there are also communities of healing who bring hope to others by their deeds of love.

Joy Carol, the author of Towers of Hope: Stories to Help Us Heal has gathered together a collection of stories about the healing power of community. Many of them are from New York City in the aftermath of September 11, when firemen, pastoral care givers, sanitation workers, and teachers found within themselves the call to serve and opened their hearts in courage and compassion. As Carol notes: "Healing stories can help us expand our consciousness so that we can see our lives and the world in new ways. Yes, telling and hearing stories can be powerful medicine."

The last two sections of the book contain touching and compelling stories about creative and sensitive souls who are trying to deal with the continuing legacy of "the Troubles" — the issues and fissures in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland brought on by violence, isolation, addiction, and fear"

Every storyteller needs a good listener. Joy Carol has proven in this book (as she did in her first book) that she knows the meaning of paying full attention to the storyteller and taking their messages to a wider world. In these tense times, we need more sensitive listeners and more healing stories. We especially appreciated the list of factors that the author believes can contribute to the healing of communities. Here are a few of them:

  • "Being open to change and new possibilities even when it may appear very difficult, being willing to respond to problems and dilemmas by transforming the situation.
  • "Accepting that problems, pain, and suffering are part of the life of a community, of being in the world, that they are not isolated events and cannot be avoided. Such an acceptance enables our communities to approach problems and use painful and difficult events to learn to grow and matureā€¦
  • "Treating all people with dignity, respect and compassion — ourselves included — even when people are regarded as inadequate, as unworthy, as addicts or criminals."

Journeys of Courage might just have a ripple effect with readers and inspire them to do what they can to extend the circle of compassion to those who are suffering, or to those who remain isolated outside of traditional communities.