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As far as years go, 2016 could use some good PR.

It seemed like we lost every celebrity we'd ever loved. We slogged through a divisive and bitter campaign season. And just when cellphones seemed like our only solace in the madness, they started literally exploding in our hands.

Needless to say, people are ready to throw in the towel on this one.


‌GIF from "Saturday Night Live." ‌

But some really good stuff happened in 2016, too.

Lots of people worked to make the world a kinder, safer, and happier place this year. They helped lend a hand, spread joy, and support people in need. And hearing about these people gives me hope that we're all gonna be OK.

Volunteers serve a traditional Thanksgiving meal during the Safeway Feast of Sharing event in Washington, D.C..Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.

Today, I want to highlight and remember the stories of these people. I want to give 2016 the positive press it needs before its relegated to the dustbin of history.

Here are 15 stories about 2016's bright spots. With helpers like this, it's clear we're headed in the right direction.

1. J.K. Rowling found out her books helped save this baby's life and did the most J.K. Rowling thing ever.

After Kelley Benham French's daughter Juniper was born prematurely, she and her husband started reading the Harry Potter series to Juniper in the hospital. The books (and top-notch medical care) helped the baby get through her time in the NICU. And when J.K. Rowling heard about young Juniper five years later, she kept the good going.

‌Juniper in the NICU. Photo by Cherie Diez. Photo used with Kelley Benham French's permission. ‌

2. This school replaced detention with meditation, and it completely turned things around.

Robert W. Coleman Elementary School had zero suspensions last school year and they're on track to do it again. Way to go, kids (and forward-thinking teachers)!

Photo from Holistic Life Foundation, used with permission.‌

3. Politicians took a break from arguing to unite against racism.

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton disagreed on a few things, but they were a united front against bigotry, at least on social media. And it was a pretty great day.

‌Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.‌

4. Even after the election, complete strangers rallied together to support one another.

They offered positive messages of encouragement ... in a subway tunnel no less! Classic, 2016!

‌Photos by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.‌

5. This amazing mom took care of people's babies while they made huge parenting decisions.

Interim parents like Ann Lapin provide a vital service for new parents and these sweet babies.

‌Photo of Ann Lapin by Stacey Natal/Total City Girl, used with permission.‌

6. This man studied photography while in prison, and his photos showed a side of humanity we don't often see.

Since his release in 2011, Donato Di Camillo has captured portraits of people who are mentally ill and homeless and larger than life characters he meets while exploring New York. "These people walk around, and they're faceless," he said. "I feel that everybody deserves a face."

‌Image by Donato Di Camillo, used with permission.‌

7. Michelle Obama wore a gorgeous gown that had an equally remarkable story.

The stunning rose gold gown by Donatella Versace was a symbol of female strength and empowerment.

‌Photo by Shawn Thew/Getty Images.‌

8. When this woman's wife came out as transgender at her office, she was nervous. But her colleagues surprised her with a party.

There were cupcakes, hugs, and lots of happy tears. That's the positive power of 2016.

‌Photo of Zoe on her first day back to work after coming out, taken by Amanda Jette, used with permission.‌

9. Remember when everyone's imaginary life partner Leonardo DiCaprio took home his first Oscar and used his speech to fight back against climate change?

Not only did he finally take home the statuette, he reminded us why we fell in love with his work and activism in the first place.

10. Even when terrible things happened, good people stood up and said, "Not today, 2016," like this woman in a local restaurant.

She overheard a table full of homophobes and decided to kill 'em with kindness.

Photo courtesy of Natalie Woods, used with permission.‌

11. Two awesome tweens kicked butt in their Halloween costumes and taught us all an important lesson.

It's hard to hate on a year that gave us the Juslims, the Jewish and Muslim superhero team created by these amazing girls.

‌Photo courtesy of Catherine Pearlman, used with permission.‌

12. Stephen Colbert and Killer Mike got real about race relations.

Sometimes, representing your entire race actually works. (But just this once.)

13. Yes, there were natural disasters, but in the wake of devastation, people were there for each other.

When a massive wildfire broke out in Canada, people like Les Wiley stopped what they were doing to lend a hand.

‌Les Wiley hands out bottles of water to people fleeing their homes threatened by forest fires. Photo by Cole Burston/AFP/Getty Images. ‌

14. Even on the world stage,  kindness and courage were never outpaced by the thrill of victory.

When Olympic athletes Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand and Abbey D’Agostino of the U.S. collided on the track, they helped each other up and finished together.

‌Photos by Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters (left) and Lucy Nicholson/Reuters. ‌

15. People dug in and fought for what they believed in this year, like the water protectors at Standing Rock and the thousands of allies supporting them.

Even the Māori, an indigenous group from New Zealand performed a traditional haka as a show of support.

Māori Solidarity with Standing Rock Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi #standingwithstandingrock

Posted by Tylee Hudson on Saturday, October 29, 2016

2016 wasn't perfect. But there's no such thing as a perfect year.

There will be tear-jerking triumphs and bitter defeats every year. We'll lose leaders and loved ones every year. We'll celebrate new babies and make lasting friendships every year. That's because life continues in a wobbly, perfectly imperfect circle.

As this year ends, I hope you can keep an eye on the good things too. It won't make the bad things go away or change them. But it will help us remember something important: Many people are good. Many people will stand up for what's right. And when we fall down, many of us help each other up. No flip of the calendar can change that.

Volunteers load donated flats of water to be taken to a camp just outside of Wandering River, Canada, in the wake of a devastating wildfire. Photo by Cole Burston/AFP/Getty Images.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

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Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

Blake's owner sings and he "sings" along.

When a dog howls along to music, are they complaining because the music hurts their ears, or are they actually trying to sing along?

Most likely, it's the latter—or something like it. According to the American Kennel Club, research shows that canines do actually have a sense of pitch and can differentiate between different tones. That ability stems from their wolf ancestors, who each howl at a different pitch as more and more wolves join in on a group howl.

So when Blake the rescue Rottweiler joins his owner in a viral TikTok video duet, perhaps he's really trying to "sing" along with her.

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As the saying goes, "You have to kiss a few frogs..."

Dating has certainly evolved over the years—we’ve gone from courtship being purely a financial arrangement (not that this trend has ever truly died) to knights jousting for a lady’s favor, to casual hookups … and now, romance is primarily found through an app more than anything else.

Technology used for meeting that special someone has become so advanced that you can base your search entirely upon specific interests. Like … oddly specific interests. Think a fellow cat person would be the purrfect match? There’s an app for that. Wish to “love long and prosper” with a fellow Trekkie? There’s an app for that too.

No matter the changes, one thing remains the same—dating is awkward. It’s got all the unspoken formalities of a job interview, disguised as innocent fun. The balance between playing it too cool and too eager is hard to find even for the smoothest among us, and usually results in total embarrassment. Even if we aren’t the ones committing those embarrassing acts ourselves, we are often the reluctant witness to them.

Terrible dates might not always be fun in the moment, but they can be just as important as the good ones. They can teach us a lot about ourselves and what qualities we want in a partner. And at the very least, they can teach us to embrace social clumsiness with a sense of humor.

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share a “funny or embarrassing first date story” for his ever popular #Hashtags segment. The best part—some of these awful first dates ended in marriage. There’s hope for us all.

Below, find 15 stories that are truly the best of the worst. How do some of your first dates compare?

1. "After a nice dinner, she invited me to her house. On the way up, inside the elevator, I decided to push the button to stop between floors and give her a kiss... She had a phobia of closed spaces and she smacked my face as a reflex, two punches after we were kissing and laughing.” – @PanqueAlgarvio

2. “His jeans were so tight he couldn’t sit down. Stood at a bar stool the whole time.” – @onlyintheozarks

3. “Waiting 4 my date when an older couple asked me for a ride. my date came up and said sure! We drove them home & they asked us to come in. Date said “sure”. I pulled him back & asked why he wanted to hang w/strangers. He said ‘sh@t! YOU DON'T KNOW THEM!?’ We bolted!” – @natashaham75

facebook dating

Talk about a fashion faux pas.

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4. “Before the date, we had been chatting about books we liked and I talked about a great book I just read. We went on the date. I loaned her the book. She ghosted me.” – @thenextbarstool

5. “The worst first date I ever had was when my date locked his keys in the car and I had a curfew so he had to break his car window out to get me home on time. Didn’t think I’d ever see him again but we wound up married.” – @csleblan

6. “First date movie ‘Basic Instinct’ not realizing how suggestive it was. We just thought it was a mystery thriller! We left the movie discussing how each character could have actually murdered someone. We're married now.” – @Southrnbell_Amy

black people meet

There are worse first date movies tbh.

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7. “First date with my ex husband was a double date with his parents. The preview for ‘Speed Racer’ came on, and she leaned over me to say to her son, ‘You know what your dad's nickname in the bedroom is?’" – @theostoria

8. “A friend asked me on a double date as a blind date with his date's friend. I went to the bathroom and came back just in time to hear my date say to her friend, ‘why do I get the ugly one?’ I said good night to all three and headed home, leaving her w/the bill.” – @StevenTrustum

9. “He loved cheese. I was subjected to a 2 hour conversation/lecture about cheese, and why cottage cheese is not cheese!” – @Optimist_Eeyore

bumble

I'd like to see this two-hour cheese lecture.

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10. “He took me to an Asian fish market. We walked around looking at live & dead fish for a while. I don’t like seeing dead animals & I don’t eat seafood. Then we sat on a curb & he pulled out a ziplock bag of pineapple for us to share. I don’t like pineapple.” – @markayhali

11. “My cousin set up a first date for me with a family friend. During a break from dinner, Mr. Man follows me into the ladies’ room, comes up close and says in a low voice, ‘I shave my butt.’ Can’t remember what I said in response but the evening ended abruptly.” – @carli_zarzana

12. “I once took out my high school crush to a sports bar and ordered the spiciest wings there in an attempt to impress her. Not only was she not impressed. The next morning I woke up with heartburn.” –@Dmonster38

tindr conversation starters

Talk about a hot date.

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13. “My date showed up with his bestie and girlfriend, and they talked through dinner about people I don’t know. Walking to the car, he gave me a wedgie because he thought he hadn’t been paying enough attention to me.” – @surrealDazey


14. “I was taking my date home and was pulled over by the police for speeding. When the cop came to my car, she jumped out and told him she had to get home. She walked home and I never heard from her again. I'm not sure who's #WorstFirstDate it was mine or hers!” – @eastriverbear

15. “After an evening of dancing with a first date, leaving the dance hall, I had to take a quick pee break. Rushing out to the parking lot, I see a lady, I grab her and swoop her around, and plant a big wet kiss on the lips. She was another guy's wife. Oops!” – @seadogskamore

date you

Only Gomez could have gotten away with it.

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