+
More

15 heartwarming stories from 2016 that made me cry big happy tears.

It wasn't all bad.

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.

Science

Sustainably good news: Recycling is getting better and this family is showing us how

What if instead of focusing on what isn’t working, we looked at these stories as an invitation to do better?

Via Ridwell

Ryan Metzger and son Owen

There is no shortage of dire news about the state of modern recycling. Most recently, this NPR article shared the jaw-dropping statistic that about 5% of all plastics produced get recycled, meaning the rest of it ends up in landfills. While the underlying concerns here are sound, I worry that the public narrative around recycling has gotten so pessimistic that it will make people give up on it entirely instead of seeing the opportunities to improve it. What if instead of focusing on what isn’t working, we looked at these news stories as an invitation to do better?

Keep ReadingShow less
via Tod Perry

An artist's recreation of Jackie's napkin note.

A woman named Jackie pulled a move straight out of a romantic comedy recently, and it has the internet rallying around her potential love interest. Jackie met a guy at a bar and liked him so much that she gave him her phone number. Well, 80% of her number, that is.

The world heard about it on January 17 when Twitter user Henpecked Hal and shared a picture of the napkin with her partial phone number written on it. "My 22-year-old cousin met his dream girl at a bar and it's going pretty well,” Hal wrote in the tweet.

Keep ReadingShow less

Women are looking for love at Home Depot.

Even though people have endless options to find love these days, whether in real life or online, finding the perfect person still isn’t easy. In fact, according to Pew Research, 55% of women believe dating is harder today than it was 10 years ago. So it’s understandable that some are considering ditching the apps to meet people in real life.

Studies show that for people looking for a serious relationship, real life may be the better option.

According to Newsweek, a study by Illinois State University sociology professor Susan Sprecher found that young people who first met face to face were 25% more likely to report feelings of closeness than those who initially met online. Aditi Paul, a communications professor at Pace University in New York, found that people who first met in real life lasted four times longer than those who met online.

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

A letter to the woman who told me to stay in my daughter's life after seeing my skin.

'I'm not a shiny unicorn. There are plenty of black men like me who love fatherhood.'

Doyin Richards

Dad and daughters take a walk through Disneyland.

True
Fathers Everywhere

This article originally appeared on 06.15.16


To a stranger I met at a coffee shop a few years ago who introduced me to what my life as a parent would be like:

My "welcome to black fatherhood moment" happened five years ago, and I remember it like it happened yesterday.

I doubt you'll remember it, though — so let me refresh your memory.

Keep ReadingShow less
Science

Man was awake and playing the saxophone throughout his entire 9-hour brain tumor surgery

Several times during the surgery, the patient played the theme song from "Love Story" by Francis Lai.

"Awake surgery" allows brain surgeons to see the functioning parts of the brain to avoid during surgery.

This article originally appeared on 10.17.22


Do you ever step back and marvel at the miraculous things human beings have figured out how to do?

Less than 200 years ago, no human being had ever played a saxophone, there was no such thing as anesthesia and if you had even a simple brain tumor, you were just out of luck.

Now, a team of doctors in Italy has successfully performed a highly complex, nine-hour brain surgery on a man while he was awake and while he played the saxophone. Not only that, but the patient reported feeling "tranquility" during the surgery and only spent a few days in the hospital after the surgery before being discharged.

Keep ReadingShow less
The Prince Charles Cinema/Youtube

Brendan Fraser dressed as Rick O'Connell.

Brendan Fraser might be making the greatest career comeback ever, racking up accolades and award nominations for his dramatic, transformative role in “The Whale." But the OG Fraser fans (the ones who watch “Deadpool” solely to hear his voice and proudly pronounce his last name as Fray-zure, for this is the proper pronunciation) have known of his remarkable talent since the 90s, when he embodied the ultimate charming, dashing—and slightly goofball—Hollywood action lead.

Let us not forget his arguably most well known and beloved 90s character—Rick O’Connell from the “Mummy” franchise. Between his quippy one-liners, Indiana Jones-like adventuring skills and fabulous hair, what’s not to like?

During a double feature of “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Returns” in London, moviegoers got the ultimate surprise when who should walk in but Brendan Fraser himself, completely decked out in Rick O’Connell attire. The brown leather jacket. The scarf. Everything.

Keep ReadingShow less

Parenting children requires some serious balancing skills.

This article originally appeared on 03.08.16


Like most parents, I didn't know what I was doing when I first became a mom — because I'd never done it before.

I was 27 when our first child joined our family through adoption. He was 10 months old.

My son and me shortly after his adoption. That look on my face can probably best be described as "clueless but hopeful." All photos of my kids and me belong to me.

Keep ReadingShow less