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

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.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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