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15 things to do when the world feels terrifying.

Small things you can do every day to make your world feel a little bit less hopeless.

15 things to do when the world feels terrifying.

Laquan MacDonald was 17 when he was murdered by a Chicago police officer. I watched a video of his death made public, along with most of America, between reading about how Americans are terrified to let refugees from war-torn Syria into our country, and reading about how a man with a rifle opened fire at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado.

I couldn't think of anything else to say that hadn't already been said about how horrible and sad and awful and bleak and unfathomable all those things are.


So instead, here are 15 things you can do every day to make your world just the tiniest bit better.

1. Open your closet.

Find one warm piece of clothing you haven't worn in awhile. Bring it to a place that will give it away, for free, to someone who needs it.

2. Go to a public park or playground. Sit on a bench.

Watch some kids running around playing. Don't get up and try to engage with them, don't depress yourself further, don't go down a sadhole if you want kids but don't have them, or if your own relationship with your kids or parents isn't perfect. Just … sit and watch. Turn your brain off for a bit.

Photo via iStock.

If your brain has to work, picture the way that a kid's body works: the air filling the lungs and expelling laughter, the tiny heartbeat pulsing and racing, the immense number of neurons firing to process the information that keeps their eyes blinking and ears listening and skin tingling and lungs expanding and contracting.

If you see a parent looking stressed out, give them an encouraging smile, as if to say, "You're doing a great job."

3. Think of a song you love, preferably by a non-super-famous musician.

Even if you already own it, download it again. Think about how your 99 cents is actually telling the musician that their work has value.

4. Buy an e-gift card.

There are several Dunkin' Donuts in the general area of Sullivan House High School, the alternative school in Chicago's South Side where Laquan MacDonald was enrolled. It's probably been a tough time for the teachers and the students both. Buy an e-gift card, and send the link to the faculty. Tell them a stranger bought them coffee.

5. Google a small business florist near the site of any recent tragedy.

Call and explain that you'd like to pay for flowers to be sent to, say, the staff of the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs (3480 Centennial Boulevard, Colorado Springs, CO 80907) or to Hope Church (5740 Academy Blvd N, Colorado Springs, CO 80918), where slain police officer Garrett Swasey and his family were members.

Folk expressed their emotions following the Boston bombing by mailing thousands of flower bouquets to the city and bringing them to the sites of the explosions. Photo by Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

When you leave a note, don't make it about you, or your political or religious beliefs. Leave it anonymous or simply say, "From a stranger who thought you might be sad today."

6. Leave a copy of your favorite book in a public place.

Trust that the right person will find it.

7. Locate your nearest animal shelter.

You don't need to adopt a pet, and you don't need go in and volunteer, although that's a really nice thing you can do too. You can just look at the puppies and kittens playing for awhile or feel what it's like to hold a tiny, furry, purring creature in your arms for a bit.

9. Think of the kindest person you know personally.

Write them an email, letting them know that you thought of them and hope they are doing well.

Photo via iStock.

8. Here's a link to Amazon, where you can buy a 10-pack of socks for $9.99.

Click the link. When you're asked for your shipping address, find the address of a homeless shelter in your community. If you don't have a homeless shelter in your community, here's mine.

10. Buy an extra box of tampons the next time you're out shopping.

Leave them in the ladies' room of your workplace for anyone to take. (If you're a dude and this weirds you out, talk to this 15-year-old kid about it).

11. Think about the people that you frequently interact with in your daily life but know very little about.

Maybe it's the barista who works at your coffee shop, the janitor in your building, or your mail person. Introduce yourself. Call them by name whenever you see them again.

12. Go to a diner.

Order a milkshake. Tip 10 dollars.

Photo via iStock.

13. Buy a pile of index cards and a sharpie.

Write down, "You are Important" or "Breathe." Carry them with you as you go about your day, leaving them in waiting room magazines, on car windshields, in elevators, in bathroom stalls. Keep one for yourself. We all need the reminder sometimes too.

14. Dig up an embarrassing photo of yourself from your teenage years.

Post it online. Laugh gently at the person you were, and celebrate the human you are now. If you're still in the process of living through your teenage years, take lots of pictures. You're doing great.

15. Think. Think about the fact that the world can sometimes feel like a flaming cesspool of garbage.

Think about everyone in your zip code who is homeless and hungry, cold, terrified, and lonely. Think about global warming, handguns and assault rifles, violence on television, rape statistics, domestic abuse. Think about terrorism, both domestic and abroad. Think about petty cruelty. Think about your childhood schoolyard bully. Think about the times that you won the argument but lost the friendship.

Think about all the times you got too busy and didn't visit your relatives like you said you would or didn't give the dollar in the checkout line because times are rough and who even knows what the March of Dimes is. Think about how you don't want to think about who grows your food or makes your clothes or pieces your iPhone together, because in the world we inhabit, it's virtually impossible to exist without making some kind of ethical compromises.

Think about the 7 billion other people people out there in the world. Think about the average 318,000 births today or the 133,000 deaths.

Think about how enormously complicated all of this is.

Think about how Mother Teresa accepted funds from corrupt embezzlers, how George Bush is an oil painter, a husband, a father, and a war criminal. Think about Princess Diana's life's work of charity and goodwill; remember also that she was depressed, lived through bulimia, and self-harmed. Name five celebrities, and then imagine them in the morning, with horse breath and red-rimmed eyes, stumbling to splash water on their face, just like you and me.

And remember, amidst all this, there are tons of incredibly easy, tiny ways to make the world a slightly less shitty place for everyone.

Take a deep breath of gratitude for the people out there who actually do make the world a better place. Challenge yourself to be that person, in whatever small way you can manage right now.

Photo via iStock.

Close your browser window. Shut down your laptop. Silence your cell phone. Just for a minute, before you go back to Netflix, before you text someone, before you answer more emails or meet friends for drinks or order a pizza or whatever it is that you're doing today: Just for a second, take a moment to remember that the world can be pretty magical sometimes, and you're really lucky to be alive in it.

Do what you can.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

This article originally appeared on 12.02.19


Just imagine being an 11-year-old boy who's been shuffled through the foster care system. No forever home. No forever family. No idea where you'll be living or who will take care of you in the near future.

Then, a loving couple takes you under their care and chooses to love you forever.

What could one be more thankful for?

That's why when a fifth grader at Deerfield Elementary School in Cedar Hills, Utah was asked by his substitute teacher what he's thankful for this Thanksgiving, he said finally being adopted by his two dads.

via OD Action / Twitter

To the child's shock, the teacher replied, "that's nothing to be thankful for," and then went on a rant in front of 30 students saying that "two men living together is a sin" and "homosexuality is wrong."

While the boy sat there embarrassed, three girls in the class stood up for him by walking out of the room to tell the principal. Shortly after, the substitute was then escorted out of the building.

While on her way out she scolded the boy, saying it was his fault she was removed.

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One of the boy's parents-to-be is Louis van Amstel, is a former dancer on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars." "It's absolutely ridiculous and horrible what she did," he told The Salt Lake Tribune. "We were livid. It's 2019 and this is a public school."

The boy told his parents-to-be he didn't speak up in the classroom because their final adoption hearing is December 19 and he didn't want to do anything that would interfere.

He had already been through two failed adoptions and didn't want it to happen again.

via Loren Javier / Flickr

A spokesperson for the Alpine School District didn't go into detail about the situation but praised the students who spoke out.

"Fellow students saw a need, and they were able to offer support," David Stephenson said. "It's awesome what happened as far as those girls coming forward."

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He also said that "appropriate action has been taken" with the substitute teacher.

"We are concerned about any reports of inappropriate behavior and take these matters very seriously," Kelly Services, the school the contracts out substitute teachers for the district, said in a statement. "We conduct business based on the highest standards of integrity, quality, and professional excellence. We're looking into this situation."

After the incident made the news, the soon-to-be adoptive parents' home was covered in paper hearts that said, "We love you" and "We support you."

Religion is supposed to make us better people.

But what have here is clearly a situation where a woman's judgement about what is good and right was clouded by bigoted dogma. She was more bothered by the idea of two men loving each other than the act of pure love they committed when choosing to adopt a child.