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.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

via Hennepin County Sheriff

The verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minnesota police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd, has many breathing a sigh of relief. Even though the disturbing video evidence of Floyd dying under Chauvin's knee is impossible to refute, it's incredibly hard to convict an officer of murder.

The United States judicial system is so preferential to law enforcement that even though the world saw murder in broad daylight, many were skeptical of whether he'd be convicted.

"Most people, I think, believe that it's a slam dunk," David Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh and an expert in policing, told the Washington Post before the trial. "But he said, "the reality of the law and the legal system is, it's just not."

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.