The Hero's Journey

Updated: Oct 19, 2021

I love a good story. I absolutely love having my senses fully engaged as an author, actor, director, or some other storytelling artisan deliberately and skillfully weaves a world intentionally designed to transform its audience. That’s what good stories do. They change you. In some meaningful way, good stories—really good stories—make an imprint on your soul that leaves you different than you were before the story began. What’s interesting is that stories—the really good ones, that is—all follow a basic structure. Of course, that structure is shaped and honed by the storyteller’s talent, but the structure itself remains intact. There’s a hero who sets out on a journey, faces challenges, and returns home changed. That’s it. Now, of course, there is a lot that happens between “sets out on a journey” and “returns home changed,” but that is the basic structure of a good story. Let’s test it out.

In Lion King, the hero, Simba, sets out on a journey, faces challenges, and returns home changed. In Star Wars, the hero, Luke Skywalker, sets out on a journey, faces challenges, and returns home changed. In Rocky (pick one), the hero, Rocky, sets out on a journey, faces challenges, and returns home changed. In Harry Potter (again, pick one), the hero, Harry, sets out on a journey, faces challenges, and returns home changed. Copy. Paste. Repeat.

What is also common in good stories is that the hero typically doesn’t see himself or herself as a hero at all. So, when called to “save the world,” the hero will often rebuff the idea. Usually, some event thrusts the hero into action. Luke Skywalker accepts the call to save Princess Leia only after his aunt and uncle are killed by stormtroopers, thus thrusting him on the hero’s journey.

The hero’s journey is not relegated to the silver screen. All around us are people—ordinary people—who set out on journeys, faced challenges, and returned home changed. And just like the heroes of our favorite stories, many of these ordinary people began as reluctant heroes. Initially, they scoffed at the idea that they could change the world (and still may be reluctant to describe what they do in such terms). But after daring to set foot on the journey, that’s exactly what they did. They saved (are saving) the world, even if that world was (is) as small as one person.

Communities Supporting Schools is in need of heroes. And, yes, I know that your initial thought may be, “I’m no hero.” That’s okay. You might not be a hero right now, but that’s the whole point of the journey. The journey we’re asking you to embark upon is mentoring. There are children in our community who need guidance that only committed mentors can provide. Will the mentoring journey always be easy or fun? Nope. But remember it’s not a good story unless the hero faces challenges, and as a mentor, you’re sure to face plenty. But you’ll also have the opportunity to change as you save someone’s world.



For more information about how to become a mentor, contact Barbara Nelson at 919-735-1432 or by email at [email protected]


Barbara I. Nelson

Restorative Justice Program Director

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