The Key to Life.

Photo by Richard Lu on Unsplash

To download these free stories, please enter the newspaper publication you represent with your email address.
We will email you when we add new stories each month. Thanks!

Note: We are committed to keeping your e-mail address confidential. We do not sell, rent, or lease our contact data or lists to third parties.
Please see our privacy policy for details.

Please enter your organization and email above before downloading these articles.

Download PDF Word .doc Download Photo .jpg

Pass It On®

The Key to Life.

Father-and-son locksmiths Phil and Philip Mortillaro share the simple wisdom of being happy. From the StoryCorps collection.

By The Foundation for a Better Life

Phil Mortillaro is the son of immigrants. He has worked as a locksmith since he left school in the eighth grade. All five of his children grew up watching their father work hard in his Greenwich Village shop, but only his youngest son followed in his footsteps and became a locksmith as well.

As wave after wave of immigrants have found new lives in this country, their stories have inspired the generations that started here, in a new place, with new opportunities and a strong sense of the traditions that shape their families. The Mortillaro children all went on to successful careers, grateful that their father worked so hard to provide them opportunities. But Philip, the youngest, saw a different path.

He reminisces about being raised in the business: “I was literally in the shop from day one. I saw you (his father) in the shop, and I thought, I can do this. I realized that everyone loves my dad. One half of that is because he’s a great guy, and the other half is because he is the guy who helps you even when other locksmiths can’t.”

Phil Senior brightens when he talks about his kids. It’s clear that he is proud of them. He has been a good father and made sure they had what they needed to get a good start. He is also part of a very encouraging statistic. According to the Pew Research Center, second-generation citizens improve their lives beyond the level at which their parents lived.

Phil would shy away from taking credit for his children’s success. He’s just happy they are all doing well. But ask his son what the secret to making it is, and he’ll tell you it’s all about taking care of other people, being there to help, being fair and treating people the way you want to be treated.

“Coming from immigrant parents, you can never work hard enough,” the son says. And it’s not the smarts that make a difference; it’s recognizing your own abilities and putting them to good use.

“I’m no genius,” Phil Senior says, paraphrasing IBM founder Tom Watson Sr. “But I am bright in spots, and I stay around those spots.”

The youngest son pays tribute to his father this way: “You raised five kids, and not a single one of them did not want for anything. That’s hard to do for someone who just went up to the eighth grade.”

Phil Senior counters with, “You do your best, kid. That’s what you do. Your honest best.”

The work ethic, integrity and sense of responsibility to the future: That’s what Phil Mortillaro leaves as a legacy to his children. His son tries to measure up to the expectations every day.

“You are always my barometer. You never let anyone down. That’s what sets you apart,” Philip says.

From a son to a father, and a father to his family, the key to happiness is to be your best in all situations. That is what opens doors.

Be The Key... PassItOn.com®

Copyright ©2024 The Foundation for a Better Life. All rights reserved. Available under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License (international): https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

Pass It On®

The Foundation for a Better Life, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, gives your newspaper permission to publish these stories in print and electronic media (excluding audio and video), provided the stories are published in their entirety, without modification and including the copyright notice. For any modification, permission must first be obtained from the Foundation by emailing media-relations@passiton.com. Thank you.

  email

Your Comments

Here are some other inspiring newspaper articles you might like.
A Legend On and Off the Court.

A Legend On and Off the Court.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sold his four championship rings and three MVP trophies for $2.8 million. Then he donated all of the money to support youth education programs

Respecting Your Customers.

Respecting Your Customers.
As the Great Depression impoverished the country, many families stretched their budgets by making clothes out of flour and seed sacks. What companies did next may surprise you.

A Diamond in the Making.

A Diamond in the Making.
How an everyday superhero saved the day by taking time to go through the garbage to find a stranger’s wedding ring.

The Calm in the Storm.

The Calm in the Storm.
Being that one voice of encouragement in a community makes all the difference.

Taking Care.

Taking Care.
How one woman turned a life of neglect into a lifetime of taking care of people.

A Lesson We Should Never Forget.

A Lesson We Should Never Forget.
The incredible story of American POWs smuggling rations to Russian prisoners at Stalag-B.

Finding Our Way.

Finding Our Way.
Using the natural elements around her, Kala Baybayan Tanaka navigates the ocean in a canoe for up to three weeks using nothing but observations of the natural elements around her.

The Science of Happiness.

The Science of Happiness.
How a high school senior made sure an entire elementary school got Halloween.

Ramping Up to Help those in Need.

Ramping Up to Help those in Need.
How a community came together in a time of tragedy.

Don’t Let a Bad Day Trick You Into Believing You Have a Bad Life.

Don’t Let a Bad Day Trick You Into Believing You Have a Bad Life.
Allie Newman not only survived cancer but also helps hospitals better meet the needs of teenage cancer patients.

Getting 100 on her Final Exam.

Getting 100 on her Final Exam.
Nola Ochs went back to college at 95 years old. At age 100, she had earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees and was still taking classes.

If You Don’t Know Anything About Orangutans, You Don’t Know Jack.

If You Don’t Know Anything About Orangutans, You Don’t Know Jack.
Meet Jack Dalton, Gloria Barron Prize Winner and the nature conservationist who started by saving the orangutans at age 8.

How To Be Free.

How To Be Free.
Eliza Zenger teaches dance, music and arts to adults with disabilities. Their performance is the most beautiful you will ever see.

Walking and Learning and Appreciating what we Have.

Walking and Learning and Appreciating what we Have.
Neil King’s walk from Washington, D.C., to New York City uncovered the gems of slowing down.

Are You Smarter Than a Seventh-Grade Business Owner?

Are You Smarter Than a Seventh-Grade Business Owner?
How Kidpreneur Alejandro Buxton is making money for college and helping others.

Bigger than Life.

Bigger than Life.
How Premier League superstar Sadio Mané is changing the world beyond soccer.

How to Honor Your Mother.

How to Honor Your Mother.
Warrick Dunn played in the NFL for 12 seasons. His most impressive stat: He’s built 200 homes for single mothers. And he’s not done.

Stay Curious.

Stay Curious.
The remarkable underwater life of Jacques Cousteau.

Photographs that Changed the World.

Photographs that Changed the World.
How the searing photographs of Walker Evans’ America during the Depression created a national change in attitude toward the poor.

Taking Responsibility.

Taking Responsibility.
How one high school student supported her family during the pandemic.

Matter In Motion.

Matter In Motion.
How a physics professor is igniting the scientific passions of her female students.

Finding a New Family at the Mountain Man Rendezvous.

Finding a New Family at the Mountain Man Rendezvous.
How a Vietnam vet pulled himself out of drug addiction by going back in the past.

The Little Things that Make the Biggest Difference.

The Little Things that Make the Biggest Difference.
How one man created a forest the size of Central Park by planting one tree a day.

Winning at the Game of Life.

Winning at the Game of Life.
College football player gives up his scholarship to make more possible for a teammate.

Running to Win isn’t Always Running to Come in First.

Running to Win isn’t Always Running to Come in First.
Jacqueline Nyetipei Kiplimo demonstrates what really matters in life and in sports.

The Least Likely to Help.

The Least Likely to Help.
How a bedridden attorney still fights for the rights of others.

An Impossible Journey.

An Impossible Journey.
How John Wesley Powell navigated the Colorado River and Grand Canyon in wooden boats.

The Future Belongs to Kids.

The Future Belongs to Kids.
So far, things look pretty bright.

Going Deep to Deliver Kindness.

Going Deep to Deliver Kindness.
Free-dive record holder Enzo Maiorca rescues a trapped dolphin, then watches as it gives birth.

Beyond the Moon with an Eye on Mars.

Beyond the Moon with an Eye on Mars.
The story of a young woman who dreamed of pushing the boundaries and now designs launch systems for NASA.

To All who are Lost: You will be Found Again.

To All who are Lost: You will be Found Again.
The amazing story of the missing marathon runner who turned up 54 years later.

Bear with Me!

Bear with Me!
The story of Wojtek the bear, who joined the Polish Army in WWll.

The World Awaits You.

The World Awaits You.
The story of the first woman to circumnavigate the world.

The Taming of the West Featuring Diamond Kitty.

The Taming of the West Featuring Diamond Kitty.
It’s time to give cowgirls their due. Kitty Canutt was a bronc rider in the early 1900s who wore a diamond in her tooth that she occasionally removed and pawned when she needed contest entry money.

The Art of Pitching.

The Art of Pitching.
A little confidence at the right time goes a long way.

Never Give Up.

Never Give Up.
Lessons learned from Preston Tucker, creator of one of the most innovative cars in American history.

Our Local Heroes in Scrubs.

Our Local Heroes in Scrubs.
How health care workers saved the day.

Fix it Yourself.

Fix it Yourself.
How one couple moved hundreds of miles from home to run a center for pregnant teenage girls.

Taking the Fear Out of Surgery.

Taking the Fear Out of Surgery.
How one doctor helps children face their hospital fears by dressing them up as superheroes.

Love Rules.

Love Rules.
How Rick Moranis shrunk his role as an actor to be with his kids.

Going the Distance.

Going the Distance.
Why top collegiate and professional athlete Dillon Shije will never stop running for his people.

Not Out of the Way, Along the Way.

Not Out of the Way, Along the Way.
Taking the long way to school makes for a long friendship.

The Art of Doing Good.

The Art of Doing Good.
How 18-year-old Gloria Barron Prize winner Austin Picinich is saving the salmon of Seattle by painting community murals.

From Homeless to Johns Hopkins.

From Homeless to Johns Hopkins.
Life is never fair. But if you work hard enough, and help someone along the way, you give yourself a better chance to make it.

The Frozen Race to Save Lives.

The Frozen Race to Save Lives.
The 1925 dog sled run to deliver serum across Alaska covered 674 miles with 20 mushers and 150 dogs.

Family of 7 Adopts a Grandpa.

Family of 7 Adopts a Grandpa.
Friends come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. But love is universal.

No Matter Who You Are, You Can Always Help.

No Matter Who You Are, You Can Always Help.
The day Muhammad Ali rushed to save a stranger who was about to take his own life.

Unlikely Friends with Common Roots.

Unlikely Friends with Common Roots.
From the StoryCorps archives, a story of two friends from the same side of the tracks, with very different backgrounds.

Playtime is for Everybody.

Playtime is for Everybody.
A dad sells off his business and builds a theme park for disabled kids.

Born to Make a Difference.

Born to Make a Difference.
Kids who are changing their world.

Overcoming Fear Sometimes Requires a Patient Friend.

Overcoming Fear Sometimes Requires a Patient Friend.
How a flight attendant took the time to comfort a passenger who was having panic attacks.

From First Response to 11 Years of Friendship.

From First Response to 11 Years of Friendship.
How EMTs saved a life and then enjoyed living it together.

Overcoming Our Own Worst Mistakes.

Overcoming Our Own Worst Mistakes.
Kaelin Clay made an unpardonable error in football. And he owned it.

Being a Mother…

Being a Mother…
The roundabout journey to a dream fulfilled.

Teach Your Children.

Teach Your Children.
How Graham Nash is still leading children into a better future.

When the World Says You Can’t, Listen to the Inner Voice that Says You Can.

When the World Says You Can’t, Listen to the Inner Voice that Says You Can.
The legacy of Susan La Flesche, the first Native American to earn a medical degree.

Let the Kids Give it a Try

Let the Kids Give it a Try
How 17-year-old Dasia Taylor developed sutures that detect infection.

For Soccer Superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, Every Day is Mother’s Day.

For Soccer Superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, Every Day is Mother’s Day.
Fortune and fame have allowed the soccer great to take care of his mother after all she has done for him.

The Last Person you Think of Should Probably be the First.

The Last Person you Think of Should Probably be the First.
How a group of high school boys practiced the art of inclusion.

Cross Safely.

Cross Safely.
How one man made sure his retirement years were spent helping kids move safely through life.

How to Land an Airplane Without Landing Gear.

How to Land an Airplane Without Landing Gear.
17-year-old Maggie Taraska landed her airplane without landing gear on her way to flying solo cross-country.

No Strings Attached.

No Strings Attached.
How a 7-year-old girl brings joy to neighbors with her violin.

From Russia, With Love.

From Russia, With Love.
The incredible story of Russian sculptor Andrey and his mission to bring unity to Ukraine and Russia through art.

The Curse of Texting and Driving.

The Curse of Texting and Driving.
How one father turned personal tragedy into triumph for thousands of teenagers by creating the Honor Connor Scholarship Fund.

Turning Tough News Into Hope.

Turning Tough News Into Hope.
How 11-year-old Jordan Phillips raised $120,000 to help fund cancer treatment.

Listening to the Music Inside.

Listening to the Music Inside.
The long journey of Maria Tallchief from the Osage Nation in Oklahoma to prima ballerina in New York City.

Rescuing a Vessel — and a Family’s Memories.

Rescuing a Vessel — and a Family’s Memories.
A boat at the bottom of the lake for 30 years and a renewed appreciation for life when it is restored.

The Birth of Superman.

The Birth of Superman.
How two awkward teenage boys dreamed up the world’s most popular superhero.

A Hero for Accessibility.

A Hero for Accessibility.
How an 8-year-old girl captured the attention of the nation and motivated Congress.

Hope. Dream. Become.

Hope. Dream. Become.
Expressing emotions in a healthy way helps us see the world for what it is and, more importantly, how we choose to engage with it. Check out these young poetry winners from the WPSU poetry contest in Pennsylvania.

Trusting Those Who Guide Us Through Life.

Trusting Those Who Guide Us Through Life.
The amazing brotherhood of aviation navigators.

It’s Not Your Lifespan, it’s Your Wingspan.

It’s Not Your Lifespan, it’s Your Wingspan.
How one girl’s 16 years of life impacts thousands.

Lift Your Voice, Use Your Mind, Lift Others.

Lift Your Voice, Use Your Mind, Lift Others.
How a spark plug of a teacher ignites possibilities within her students in classroom 161.

Courage in a New World.

Courage in a New World.
The story of Stagecoach Mary, the first Black woman to deliver mail in the Wild West.

Understanding Our Universe.

Understanding Our Universe.
In a suburban neighborhood, the angst of the world still reaches a group of elementary kids. Bob stares at the stars with them and explains the universe and how there is order to everything.

Let the Music Move You.

Let the Music Move You.
Bob Geldof has spent a lifetime seeking harmony in the world.

A Voice for Our Time.

A Voice for Our Time.
The improbable dream journey of singer-songwriter Kodi Lee.

The Woman Who Talks to Trees.

The Woman Who Talks to Trees.
Understanding the power of relationships in the natural world will help us heal the people we share our communities with.

The Weight We Carry and the Burdens We Share.

The Weight We Carry and the Burdens We Share.
The life of best-selling author Isabelle Allende is a mission to bring relief to the suffering and a call to join the effort.

Billy Mills

Billy Mills
The story behind America’s first and only 10,000-meter Olympic champion.

Give Peace a Chance.

Give Peace a Chance.
How a Mexican-American Marine negotiated peace speaking Japanese during WWll.

The Legacy of Dorothy Vaughan.

The Legacy of Dorothy Vaughan.
The Hidden Figure who Helped Put a man on the Moon.

Out of the Village and On to Break Records.

Out of the Village and On to Break Records.
The incredible story of Makazole Mapimpi, the first South African to score in a Rugby World Cup Final. Against almost impossible personal odds, Makazole succeeded, a triumph of the human spirit.

The Last American Explorer.

The Last American Explorer.
Norman Vaughan trekked Antarctica with Admiral Byrd, completed the Iditarod 13 times and climbed the 10,000-foot, icy mountain named after him at age 89.

You’re Never Too Old to Make a Difference.

You’re Never Too Old to Make a Difference.
British WWll veteran Captain Tom Moore raised over $45 million for charity at age 100.

Living Alone doesn’t Mean you Have to be Lonely.

Living Alone doesn’t Mean you Have to be Lonely.
How a community in Maine supports those who want to be left alone.

The Mistakes We Learn From and Build On.

The Mistakes We Learn From and Build On.
Every year, a handful of students in prisons across America take stock of their lives and make changes. Many earn their diplomas, ensuring better options and choices when they get out.

Laughter is the Best Teacher.

Laughter is the Best Teacher.
How humor and history go together in this classroom.

Reach for the Stars…

Reach for the Stars…
No Matter How Long it Takes.

How Far Would you go for a Friend?

How Far Would you go for a Friend?
The story of Dindim, the penguin who travels 5,000 miles every year to visit with its rescuer.

Doubling Back for a Friend.

Doubling Back for a Friend.
Two teammates paused their 5K race to help a fellow competitor.

Beatrice Shilling

Beatrice Shilling
The motorcycle daredevil who became a mechanical engineer and saved the lives of countless pilots in WWll.

More Than Just Dancing

More Than Just Dancing
How inclusion helps overcome mental illness.

The History of Us.

The History of Us.
How a football coach develops young men by teaching them their own history.

Bringing the Moon to your Living Room.

Bringing the Moon to your Living Room.
How 14-year-old Philo Farnsworth tinkered his way to the technology that broadcast the moon landing.

Something Healthy for All of Us

Something Healthy for All of Us
How 17-year-old Gloria Barron Prize Winners Annie and Shirley Zhu provide fresh food for 1,400 people a year.

Using the Write Words

Using the Write Words
How an African American Woman Wrote her Way to Freedom.

Never, Ever Give Up.

Never, Ever Give Up.
The incredible story of the 12-year-old cancer patient who brings joy to half a million children fighting cancer.

The Brotherhood in Sports Goes Beyond the Field.

The Brotherhood in Sports Goes Beyond the Field.
How a men’s rugby team supported one of their own.

Anatomy of a Bestseller.

Anatomy of a Bestseller.
How “Gray’s Anatomy,” a book of drawings featuring blood vessels, muscles, the nervous system and other squeamish things, came to be one of the world’s most widely read books.

Dream Big.

Dream Big.
How a young artist from a remote mountainous tribe came to illustrate one of the most popular books of our time: ‘The Archer,’ by Paulo Coelho

Including Everybody Means Everybody.

Including Everybody Means Everybody.
How Inclusion Films is making movies using crew with developmental disabilities.

Laughter is the Best Medicine.

Laughter is the Best Medicine.
While filming ‘Schindler’s List,’ weekly calls from Robin Williams helped Steven Spielberg ease the weight of directing such a heavy film.

A Most Unlikely Friendship.

A Most Unlikely Friendship.
How the war in Ukraine brought two families together from opposite sides.

Sometimes the Wrong Direction is the Right Way.

Sometimes the Wrong Direction is the Right Way.
How a wrong number, a wrong text and a mix-up led to long-lasting friendships.

To the Coaches of Pint-sized Athletes.

To the Coaches of Pint-sized Athletes.
All year round, you’ll find brave dads and moms standing in the rink, on the field and in the gymnasium — surrounded by eager eyes and short attention spans. Here’s to the volunteers in our communities who teach our kids life lessons and never forget the orange slices.

From the Beach to the Desert.

From the Beach to the Desert.
How a group of ambitious kids from Laguna Beach High School in California are digging wells in Kenya.

Everybody Can Be a Hero.

Everybody Can Be a Hero.
How window cleaners brightened the day at a children’s hospital.

Taking Care of the Most Vulnerable.

Taking Care of the Most Vulnerable.
Pam Tully dedicates 6 months a year to rescuing baby flying foxes alongside the volunteers who help her.

Road Trip Across America.

Road Trip Across America.
A discovery of what unites us.

A Custom of Respect.

A Custom of Respect.
How the Japanese soccer team brings sportsmanship to the game.

If You Love Dogs, You’ll Love this Story.

If You Love Dogs, You’ll Love this Story.
A German shepherd slept at his owner’s gravesite.

To Stay or Run?

To Stay or Run?
The courageous story of a collegiate wrestler who fought a grizzly bear to save a friend. With thanks to the Cowboy State Daily.

Education is for Everyone.

Education is for Everyone.
Reading and writing are the basics of an education. See why a 90-year-old Kenyan great-grandmother went back to primary school.

Everybody Gets on Base.

Everybody Gets on Base.
Measuring the victories of life, one single at a time.

If a Man Asks for Bread, Will You Give Him a Stone?

If a Man Asks for Bread, Will You Give Him a Stone?
Treating people, even prisoners, with respect is what food service giant Bill Mouskondis is all about.

Teamwork that Saves Lives.

Teamwork that Saves Lives.
How a high school baseball team lifted a car off one of their classmates pinned underneath.

The Friendship Heard Round the World.

The Friendship Heard Round the World.
Luz Long and Jesse Owens struck up a friendship at the 1936 Olympics that transcended sport, race and history.

Recognizing the Need.

Recognizing the Need.
How a neighbor took a disaffected young man under his wing and taught him how to be a man

What we Learn About Ourselves from the Boys in the Boat.

What we Learn About Ourselves from the Boys in the Boat.
Joe Rantz overcame childhood scarlet fever, abandonment and depression to become the oak-strong oarsman of the winning boat that shocked the world in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

For the Cost of a Box of Cereal.

For the Cost of a Box of Cereal.
How just noticing makes all the difference in the world.

Bee Productive.

Bee Productive.
17-year-old Gloria Barron Prize winner Anna Devolld is helping small things make a difference: Pollinators.

Curing Cancer, One Bar of Soap at a Time.

Curing Cancer, One Bar of Soap at a Time.
14-year-old Heman Bekele awarded the 3M Young Scientist Award for developing a soap that activates skin cells to fight cancer.