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First thing: The "S" in "S-Town" stands for shit, but that's not the S-word that came to mind in my listen of the new podcast.

The seven-chapter story — which has been downloaded more than 10 million times so far — follows "This American Life" reporter Brian Reed as he learns about the goings-on of Woodstock, Alabama, the shit-town in question, through one of its longtime residents: antique clock restorer, climate change fanatic, and dog rescuer John B. McLemore. From a potential murder and cover-up to forgery and buried treasure, this is not true crime as you know it.

"S-Town" host Brian Reed. Photo by Andrea Morales. All photos used with permission.


It's a deep-dive look into the world of McLemore. But more significantly, it's a beautifully produced case for sonder.

Sonder, a word invented by John Koenig for "The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows," is the idea that every single person you meet or see has a life as rich and complex as your own.

Sonder is essentially empathy+. While you are the star of your own life story, the people you interact with, even for a brief moment, are also the stars of their life stories. Unless they do something heroic, exceptional, or criminal, we don't always get to witness or hear everyone's experiences. But we know they're there.

"S-Town" lets you in on the secret. You're granted a front-row seat to McLemore's life, his complex story. It's sonder in action.

Reed with McLemore. Photo by Andrea Morales.

Listening to it feels intimate and self-indulgent, even borderline voyeuristic. Reed's reporting reveals a protagonist who is quirky and mysterious, who is highly intelligent and a self-identified semi-homosexual, who is well-known in his community, even if he's seen as an odd bird.

We get to know this man, for better or worse. It's a portrait of his lived experience few would ever see without this podcast. But as fascinating and compelling as McLemore is, he's just as remarkably ordinary as the rest of us. Sonder.

The beauty of "S-Town" was not McLemore himself, but that McLemore could have been anyone.

The unforgettable McLemore — and the riveting characters of "S-Town" — can be found in any town, with any family. Whether you believe it or not, we all have podcast-worthy lives.

Reed in the recording studio. Photo by Sandy Honig.

When we practice and recognize sonder, these previously unimaginable stories seem to reveal themselves.  

These characters walk among us. These stories already exist. You can explore new communities and dive deep into unique lived experiences just by listening — to podcasts, but mostly to each other.

You can practice and recognize sonder in your own life. Ask "How are you?" and mean it. Meet your neighbors. Introduce yourself to the people you see every day but never stop to talk to. Take your headphones off and listen to the sounds of your city, the people and places that make your neighborhood home. Recognize each of us has a part to play, large or small, in everyone's story. Who will you be for someone else? Who will tell your story? What will they have to say?

Because Reed might not be thinking about a second season of "S-Town," but you don't have to wait to discover the next great story.

Joy

Delivery driver's reaction to snacks left for him shows how a little kindness goes a long way

'Seeing a grown man get so excited about Capri Sun is extra wholesome.'

"Dee" the delivery guy stoked to get some Doritos.

Sometimes the smallest gesture can change someone’s day for the better, especially when that act of kindness lets them know their work is appreciated. Over the last few years, delivery drivers have done a fantastic job keeping people healthy during the pandemic, so Toni Hillison Barnett told News 11 that she and her husband started a tradition of leaving snacks for their drivers on the front porch.

The Barnetts, who live in Louisville, Kentucky, can see the drivers' reactions by recording them on their doorbell cameras. “I live for reactions like this to our snack cart! Thx to all of the delivery drivers out there! We appreciate you!” Toni wrote on an Instagram post.

Recently, one of the Barnetts’ delivery guys, a joyous fellow that we believe is known as Dee, went viral on TikTok because of his positive reaction to receiving some snacks during his deliveries. The snacks are tasty, no doubt. But it’s also wonderful to feel appreciated. After Toni posted the video, it received more than 100,000 views.

“Oh my God, you guys are the best, I gotta take a snapshot of this,” Dee can be heard saying in the video. “Oh, Capri Suns are my favorite, Yes!”

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Photo by Pixabay/Pexels

Train tracks leading into Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.

Kanye West (who has legally changed his name to Ye) has been making headlines—again—not only for his bizarre public behavior, but for blatantly antisemitic remarks he made in recent interviews.

There's no question that Ye's comments praising Hitler and Nazis and denying that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust are hurtful and dangerous. There's no question that bad actors are using Ye's antisemitic comments to push their white nationalist agenda. The question is whether Ye fans would allow their admiration of his musical talents—or whatever else they like about him—to overshadow the fact that he is now regularly spewing pro-Nazi rhetoric to millions of people.

In at least one corner of the internet, fans are responding in what may be the most effective and meaningful way possible—by countering Ye's commentary with a deluge of Holocaust education and remembrance.

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Photo by Roméo A. on Unsplash

Cat hilariously rats out owner in front of the landlord.

Maybe it's a right of passage into adulthood or maybe some landlords discriminate against pets because they can't tell people kids are forbidden in their residence. Either way, just about everyone has lived in a rental home that didn't allow pets. Most people just abide by the rules and vow to get a pet when they find a new home.

Some people, on the other hand, get creative. I once came across a post on social media where someone claimed their pit bull puppy was actually a silver Labrador. But one woman on TikTok was harboring a secret cat in her rental that had a no pets policy, and either her cat was unaware or he was aware and was simply being a jerk.

My money is on the latter since cats are known to be jerks for no reason. I mean, have you ever left something on the counter for a few minutes? They make it their mission to knock it on the floor. So I fully believe this fluffy little meow box wanted to make his presence known in an effort to rat out his owner.

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Pop Culture

'Princess Bride' star Mandy Patinkin shared a moving detail about the film with a grieving woman

Two souls connecting over the loss of their fathers. (Phew, grab a tissue for this one, folks.)

via Mandy Patinkin / TikTok

This story originally appeared on 08.25.21


There was an emotional exchange on TikTok between two people who lost their fathers to cancer. One was actor Mandy Patinkin, the other was TikTok user Amanda Webb.

Patinkin currently stars on "The Good Fight" but one of his most famous roles is Inigo Montoya in the 1987 classic "The Princess Bride." In the film, Montoya is a swordsman who is obsessed with confronting a six-fingered man who killed his father.

Webb recently lost her father Dan to mantle cell lymphoma. She had heard a rumor that Patinkin used his father's death from cancer as motivation in a pivotal scene where he confronts the six-fingered Count Rugen (Christopher Guest) in a duel.

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