21 things even a pessimist can be thankful for.

Thanksgiving must be really hard for pessimists.

Holiday shade courtesy of "Arrested Development."


It's the one day when we're all supposed to happily focus on the good things that exist in our lives and the world, but all you can think about is how it's not supposed to be this warm in November but "thanks, climate change," and the food that we're eating is covered in pesticides and preservatives, so we're all going to die from it, which is actually very fitting since that's what the Pilgrims brought to America anyway — disease and death — and speaking of death, are we really going to keep calling it the death tax, or are we finally going to get real about inequality once and for all, and...

And I get it. Those things are bad. No argument there.

But gratitude has proven positive emotional and psychological impact — and all the realist, half-glass-empty people deserve those benefits just as much as anyone else!

So here are 21 things from 2015 that even a pessimist can be grateful for.


1. The White House proudly displayed the LGBTQ flag colors.

Rainbow Brite would be proud. Photo by Mladen Antonov/Getty Images.

When marriage equality became the law of the land on June 26, the White House lit up in a rainbow to commemorate the occasion. The White House. Was a rainbow. That happened.

2. To help children with cancer, MIT engineers created a robot stuffed animal named Huggable.

Huggable wasn't invented just to give us all the feels. He was made by MIT engineers this year to help children in cancer hospitals deal with the emotional and psychological trauma of battling the disease. But it's just one of many examples of how us humans continue to use science, creativity, and compassion to make people's lives better.

3. People aren't taking injustice lying down.

Fight for 15 protesters spread their message. Photo by Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images.

Everywhere you look, people are standing up and fighting back. From college campuses to multinational corporations, from protests and boycotts to marches and campaigns, it's clear that people are recognizing their power. And that means they haven't lost faith and still believe they really can change the world. "Oh, they're just naive," the pessimist in your head says. But not so fast. Their activism is actually working. See #1, #11, and #17 as proof.

4. A lot of Americans have finally stopped denying science.

According to a poll by the National Surveys on Energy and Environment, fewer people than ever are denying the existence of climate change. Or — to put it more glass-half-full — 70% of Americans believe that climate change is real, and that's more than ever before!

5. This guy is a teacher.

His name is Chris Ulmer. He's a Florida special education teacher, and a video of him complimenting his entire class, student by student, went viral last week.

Image via ABC News/YouTube.

But he's not the only amazing teacher out there. Not by a long shot. Despite all the horrible stories and statistics that exist about our education system, there are still thousands of passionate, smart, creative, and compassionate people working their butts off to make children's lives better every single day. They don't get a lot of attention, but they are out there. And those kids are probably going to grow into better adult humans because of them. So yeah. Thanks, teachers.

6. This.

(OMG, the widdle paws and eyes and tongue and nose and ears!)

7. Social media is being used to connect people around the world to fight for justice and equality.

For all the selfies and silly trends that give social media a bad rap, it's undeniably been a game-changer for positive social change. Several items on this very list happened a lot sooner thanks to social media than they would have if sites like Facebook and Twitter didn't exist. It's easier now than ever for people to make their voices heard and actually have influence.

8. "America's Next Top Model" has finally been canceled.

Tyra Banks, smizing. An art form that she taught with passion on "ANTM." Photo via David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons.

Sorry, I couldn't help myself. (On the off chance you actually liked the show responsible for giving a man a facial hair weave, you can be grateful for the 22 — TWENTY-TWO (!) — cycles you already had.)

9. STEM is finally starting to love (and respect!) the ladies.

There's undoubtedly still a ton of reasons why being a woman in a male-dominated field is hard, but here's something that should help: A study this April found that women are now favored for tenure-track positions in university science departments. They are twice as likely to be hired as an equally qualified man. Take that, patriarchy!

10. The Black Lives Matter movement.

Remember when everyone said it was just a hashtag? Wrong. All across the country, young people are standing up to fight racism — winning tangible victories (University of Missouri, anyone?) and forcing presidential candidates to take note. They will not let racism go unchecked on their watch. And they're just getting started.

11. Barbie is stepping into the 21st century.

Actress Zendaya and the doll made to look like her and her famous dreadlocked hairstyle. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

From introducing eight new skin colors to creating a doll with locs (above — isn't she pretty?) to inclduing a boy for the first time ever in their newest commericial, the still-popular iconic doll company is making sure that children across America might actually have play experiences that reflect real life. Now if they could only get over that unrealistic body shape and size. But I digress.

12. People are finding creative ways to do something about the refugee crisis.

It was hard to find something to be grateful for when looking at the current refugee crises around the world.

But then I stumbled on the story of the mom who is helping thousands of refugees by giving away free baby carriers to help getting children across the border and lightening the load. Or the organization that actually meets refugees at the water's edge to give them warm blankets and care for them as they get out of their boats. Remember that while the bigger picture may look terrible, you can always see goodness and kindness and love if you look a little closer. We just need the governments of the world to follow suit.

13. You're alive! YAY!

Sorry, just had to get meta real quick here. Life may not be perfect, it may not be exactly want you want it to be, and it may be downright unfair sometimes. But you being here right now means that you have another day to maybe help someone else, maybe get some help yourself, and at the very least have another opportunity to enjoy #15 on this list which brings me to...

14. Bacon. Mmmm. Bacon.

Yeah, sure, there's a chance it could kill you, but odds are it probably won't. This holiday, don't just be grateful for this fatty, salty treat. Be grateful that the odds are forever in our favor.

15. The Affordable Care Act still stands.

On the off chance the bacon strips do make you sick, be grateful the Supreme Court upheld the ACA this year. Millions of people continue to have access to affordable health insurance.

16. Diversity in media. It's getting better. And better.

2015 has actually been a really good year when it comes to increased gender and racial diversity in media.

From Aziz Ansari's "Master of None" to Amy Schumer's hit, viral-clip-ready "Inside with Amy Schumer" to Viola Davis' and Regina King's Emmy wins to ABC's "Fresh Off the Boat," now is a good time to turn on the television and maybe, just maybe, see someone other than a white man as the lead. Nothing against white men, but it's about time.

17. President Obama blocked the Keystone pipeline.

People have been fighting the pipeline for years on the grounds that it would cause major harm to the environment. Looks like the environment — and those activists — won.

18. Diseases are being wiped off the face of the earth.

"Bye, diseases!" — Marilyn Monroe (I'm guessing that's what she's saying here.)

No matter how much pink we wear or how many concerts Bono holds, it's easy to think that deadly diseases like cancer and AIDS will never go away. But guess what? We are actually beating diseases that once killed millions of people.

Guinea worm (which I know you may have never heard of but was killing 3.5 million people a year in the mid-1980s) is now set to become the second human disease in history, after smallpox, to be eradicated. Only 15 cases were reported in the first eight months of this year. Almost gone! And if that doesn't move you, poliovirus type 2 was completely eradicated this year as well.

19. Some young celebs totally get it. "It" being equality.

Move over, Raven-Symoné. There's a new crop of young female celebs, and they're using their voice and their platforms to tackle inequality head on. From Amandla Stenberg and Zendaya to Ariana Grande and Emma Watson, 2015 saw the rise of the conscious young female celeb. They talked about race, diversity, gender inequality, feminism, and well — that's a good sign for the future, right?

20. Global poverty is actually decreasing.

What? Everyone in the world isn't getting poorer? That's right. Even though the wealth gap is growing and far too many people still don't have what they need to survive, the data actually says we're doing a bit better than before.

The World Bank announced that they project less than 10% of the world's population will be living in extreme poverty by the end of this year for the first time. If nothing else, that's proof that we could maybe actually eradicate extreme poverty one day. We're making progress.

21. Love. <3

Yeah, I'm going there.

Whether it's the romantic kind or the family kind or the friend kind or the I-don't-know-you-but-let-me-help-you kind or the severely-underrated-but-really-incredible self kind, love in all its forms is pretty amazing.

If you think things in the world are bad now, Debbie Downer, imagine how they would be without any love at all.

Now go enjoy some turkey or some ham and add a small plate of thankfulness to your gigantic mug of haterade this year. It will feel good, and it's good for you.

P.S. To practice feeling good right away, go ahead and give the video of teacher Chris Ulmer and his students (from #3 above) a watch. I dare you not to smile.

Most Shared

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

popular

Gerrymandering is a funny word, isn't it? Did you know that it's actually a mashup of the name "Gerry" and the word "salamander"? Apparently, in 1812, Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry had a new voting district drawn that seemed to favor his party. On a map, the district looked like a salamander, and a Boston paper published it with the title The GerryMander.

That tidbit of absurdity seems rather tame compared to an entire alphabet made from redrawn voting districts a century later, and yet here we are. God bless America.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Facebook / Maverick Austin

Your first period is always a weird one. You know it's going to happen eventually, but you're not always expecting it. One day, everything is normal, then BAM. Puberty hits you in a way you can't ignore.

One dad is getting attention for the incredibly supportive way he handled his daughter's first period. "So today I got 'The Call,'" Maverick Austin started out a Facebook post that has now gone viral.

The only thing is, Austin didn't know he got "the call." His 13-year-old thought she pooped her pants. At that age, your body makes no sense whatsoever. It's a miracle every time you even think you know what's going on.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Wikipedia

Women in country music are fighting to be heard. Literally. A study found that between 2000 and 2018, the amount of country songs on the radio by women had fallen by 66%. In 2018, just 11.3% of country songs on the radio were by women. The statistics don't exist in a vacuum. There are misogynistic attitudes behind them. Anyone remember the time radio consultant Keith Hill compared country radio stations to a salad, saying male artists are the lettuce and women are "the tomatoes of our salad"...? Air play of female country artists fell from 19% of songs on the radio to 10.4% of songs on the radio in the three years after he said that.

Not everyone thinks that women are tomatoes. This year's CMA Awards celebrated women, and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles saw the opportunity to bring awareness to this issue and "inspire conversation about country music's need to play more women artists on radio and play listings," as Nettles put it on her Instagram. She did it in a uniquely feminine way – by making a fashion statement that also made a statement-statement.

Keep Reading Show less
popular