6 illustrations of monsters can teach us a valuable lesson about empathy.

There are two sides to every story. Yep, even in monster movies.

Have you ever stopped to wonder "Why?" Why does the Kraken destroy sea-faring ships? Why does Godzilla lay waste to city after city?

Why doesn't Medusa just get a haircut already?


Artist Teo Zirinis has wondered.

In a hilarious and poignant set of illustrations he calls "Monster Issues," he sets out to give us the answers and show us what it's like to put ourselves in someone else's shoes — no matter how slimy or smelly they might be.

"It all started with Cthulhu," he told me.

Cthulhu, the monstrous creation of H.P. Lovecraft, is said to be part octopus, part man, and part dragon.

"It's a name that's pretty hard to spell. I pictured him trying to write it down and failing miserably every time and thought it would be a fun idea to illustrate."

All images from Teo Zirinis/Hands Off My Dinosaur, used with permission

(No wonder Cthulhu is so grumpy; only a few paragraphs into writing this piece, my spellcheck burst into flames.)

More monsters soon followed.

Like Bigfoot, the hairy, lumbering oaf who just wants someone to believe in him:


Then there's the classic zombie.

Poor guy. We're all so worried about him ripping the flesh from our bodies that we never stop to think that being a zombie must kind of suck.

And Godzilla!

Turns out he's really just an architecture snob. "This skyscraper is so derivative," I imagine him saying as he topples one to the ground.


Finally, there's Nessie, aka the Loch Ness Monster.

She might be the most famous monster on the planet, yet there's not a single good photo of her to be found. How do you think that makes her feel?

"It turns out their lives are harder than they seem," Teo says.

Guess I'd never thought of it that way, but you know what? He's right.

And maybe that's what Teo is really getting at in these illustrations. Yeah, his subjects are monsters, but they could just as easily be the guy who just cut you off in traffic or an anonymous stranger on the sidewalk.

Everyone has a story. If we look closely enough, they might just surprise us.

Teo plans to continue the series — after all, there are so many more monsters to cover, including some of Teo's favorites like the Wolf Man and Frankenstein. (Spoiler alert: Wolf Man must be itchy like all the time.)

Keep up the great work, Teo, and thanks for showing us that things we don't understand aren't always as scary as we imagine.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.