2016 may have technically been 366 days long, but for some, it felt like an eternity.

There have been countless political struggles, protests, and conflicts that have left an indelible mark on our collective psyche. From the U.S. presidential election to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests to the many unfortunate deaths, this year has certainly left a permanent mark in history.

Despite these events, there have been many overlooked moments of humanity, empathy, and love.

These 23 incredible photos capture moments from this year that prove it wasn't a complete dumpster fire.


1. We celebrated love...

Photo by Mark Bugnaski/Kalamazoo Gazette /AP.

Ed and Betty Hartman renew their vows after 65 years of marriage Oct. 8 on Western Michigan University's Heritage Hall Grand Lawn to break the Guinness World Record for most vow renewals in one place. The Hartmans met at Western Michigan — Ed graduated in 1949, and Betty in 1951. A record 1,201 couples renewed their wedding vows at the ceremony.

2. ...in every way possible.

Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images.

Marjorie Enya (right) and rugby player Isadora Cerullo of Brazil kiss during their marriage proposal after the Women's Gold Medal Rugby Sevens match between Australia and New Zealand at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games on Aug. 8.

3. We celebrated life...  

Photo by Shula Kopershtouk/AFP/Getty Images.

Yisrael Kristal in his Haifa, Israel, home on Jan. 21. Yisrael, a Holocaust survivor, may be the world's oldest man at 112, Guinness World Records said, providing he can find the documents to prove it. His family says he was born in Poland on Sept. 15, 1903, three months before the Wright brothers took the first airplane flight.

4. ...and its small triumphs.

Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images.

A refugee from Syria holds his daughter at a shelter for migrants and refugees run by the Berliner Stadtmission charity on Jan. 9 in Berlin. Fast Retailing Co., the parent company of Uniqlo, donated about 50,000 articles of clothing to help refugees in Germany stay warm through the winter. Germany took in about 1.1 million migrants and refugees in 2015 and expected about 300,000 more in 2016.  

5. We mourned those we lost.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Jiffy Lube employee Ralph Nieves shows support for the Orlando, Florida, community following the shootings at the Pulse nightclub on June 16. This small but significant gesture helped the Orlando area and the country to heal from one of the worst mass shootings in American history. It showed that with all our progress, we still have much to achieve for future generations.

6. We tried to find ways to work through our differences...

Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images.

In a year full of tension over civil rights, this brief moment of calm during a protest between police officers and protesters in the early hours of Sept. 21 in Charlotte, North Carolina, showed that our right to assemble is as important as ever. The protests began the night before after a police officer fatally shot Keith Lamont Scott near UNC Charlotte.

7. ...and take a moment to reflect on our losses.

Photo by Mary Turner/Getty Images.

The Brexit vote was one of the most nerve-wracking examples of democracy in 2016. This moment of protesters awaiting the results of the vote in London on June 24 shows how important reflection can be before our expectations are subverted.

8. But we helped each other get back up again.

Photo by Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters.

Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand helps fellow competitor Abbey D'Agostino of the United States after she suffered a cramp on Aug. 16 during a women's 5,000-meter race at the Rio Olympics. This kind act proved that friendship and empathy are what the Olympics are really about.

9. We stood strong together...

Photo by Hatem Moussa/AP.

Four Palestinian friends who were injured during conflicts walk by the sea at Gaza's small fishing harbor on Oct. 24. Fighting has left thousands of people with disabilities or missing limbs in this Palestinian enclave. The heart-wrenching scars of conflict are a reminder that war is still present in our world but that we can stand tall together in its face.

10. ...for our heritage and our future.

Photo by Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune/AP.

This powerful image of Kat Eng holding 2-year-old Wiconi Suta Win Hopkins while painting a banner at the Seven Councils Camp on Aug. 18 during protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline shows that our environment and our heritage still need to be fought for.

11. We went on new adventures...

Photo by Aaron Sheldon, used with permission.

Photographer Aaron Sheldon was at the doctor's office with his son when he stumbled onto the perfect metaphor for childhood. "[Harrison] was scared to sit on the exam table because it's a little high up for a 3-year-old," Aaron recalled. "So I'm talking with him about being brave, and what types of people are brave and have to sit on exam tables. And we're talking about policemen and firemen and he said, 'Hey, how about astronauts? Are they brave?'" When Harrison had to go back for another checkup a few months later, Aaron brought his camera. And a space suit.

12. ...even if they may seem a little silly.

Photo by Michael Dwyer/AP.

Thomas Thwaites accepts the Ig Nobel prize in biology from economics Nobel laureate Eric Maskin at Harvard University on Sept. 22. Thwaites, of the United Kingdom, won for creating prosthetic extensions of his limbs that allowed him to move like a goat.

13. We'll get there any way we can...

Photo by Richard Vogel/AP.

Ivory McCloud maneuvers his horse, Diamond, down a street in Compton, California, on Aug. 7. Although best known as the birthplace of gangsta rap and the hometown of tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams, Compton has a long and vibrant equestrian history.

14. ...and cherish the moments we have together.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

A family embraces at the U.S.-Mexico border fence during an "Opening the Door of Hope" event on April 30 in San Diego. Five families, with some members living in Mexico and others in the United States, were permitted to meet and embrace for three minutes each at a door in the fence, which the U.S. Border Patrol opened to celebrate Mexican Children's Day. It was only the third time the fence, which separates San Diego from Tijuana, had been opened for families to briefly reunite. The event was planned by the immigrant advocacy group Border Angels.

15. We vowed to always stand up for our rights...

Photo by Olivier Morin/AFP/Getty Images.

Ethiopia's Feyisa Lilesa protests the Ethiopian government's crackdown on political dissent by crossing his arms over his head at the finish line of the men's marathon at the Rio Olympics on Aug. 21.

16. ...no matter what obstacles are in our way...

Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

"My family and friends have continuously pushed me to face adversities and succeed despite them. I am not afraid of failure and push myself to try to be the best at everything," Nagla Bedir, who is Muslim and works as a social studies teacher, told the Andalou Agency during an interview about hate speech and Islamophobia ahead of the U.S. presidential election on Oct. 29. These issues were major dividing lines during the election, and Bedir was one of many who spoke out about the real struggles they dealt with every day this year.

17. ...to put our best foot forward...

Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.

These models walking the runway during New York Fashion Week on Sept. 12 were the first to wear hijab at the event. This moment showcased the importance of respecting each others' beliefs and traditions. The designer, Anniesa Hasibuan, received a standing ovation at the event for her stunning work.

18. ...soak in those triumphs...

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images.

Ibtihaj Muhammad of the United States celebrates during the women's saber team semifinal against Russia on Aug. 13 at the Rio Olympics. She was the first American Olympic athlete to wear the hijab during competition, and despite being knocked out during the competition, her performance left a powerful mark.

19. ...but always be mindful of the progress that's yet to be made.

Photo by Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images.

Activists from Abaad (Dimensions), a resource center for gender equality, dress as brides and wear injury patches during a protest in Beirut on Dec. 6 against a law that shields rapists from prosecution on the condition that they marry their victim.

20. We try to hang with our pals...

Photo by Mike Groll/AP.

Jim Kowalczik plays with Jimbo, a 1,500-pound Kodiak bear, at the Orphaned Wildlife Center in Otisville, New York, on Sept. 7. Our complicated relationship with the natural world had many ups and downs this year. This quiet moment between two friends shows the importance of compassion between us and the animal world.

21. ...stretch our legs...

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

Maja, a 40-year-old elephant, checks out a bakery on July 1 in Berlin. Maja performs daily at Circus Busch, and circus workers take her on walks among the nearby apartment buildings to vacant lots, where she likes to eat the grass. City authorities sanction the outings and federal regulations reportedly encourage activities for elephants to stimulate the animals' cognitive awareness.

22. ...and our arms too.

Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

A Sumatran orangutan plays at the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme's rehabilitation center in Kuta Mbelin, North Sumatra, Indonesia on Nov. 11. The orangutans in Indonesia are on the verge of extinction as a result of deforestation and poaching.

23. Together, we can hope for a better new year.

Photo by Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images.

A woman adds a sticky note to the art piece "Subway Therapy" at the Union Square station in New York on Nov. 17. This powerful display of compassion and empathy helped a city to heal after a divisive presidential election. It offered New Yorkers a collective outlet to reflect and move forward together in the new year.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani wows audiences with his amazing musical talents.

Mozart was known for his musical talent at a young age, playing the harpsichord at age 4 and writing original compositions at age 5. So perhaps it's fitting that a video of 5-year-old piano prodigy Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani playing Mozart has gone viral as people marvel at his musical abilities.

Alberto's legs can't even reach the pedals, but that doesn't stop his little hands from flying expertly over the keys as incredible music pours out of the piano at the 10th International Musical Competition "Città di Penne" in Italy. Even if you've seen young musicians play impressively, it's hard not to have your jaw drop at this one. Sometimes a kid comes along who just clearly has a gift.

Of course, that gift has been helped along by two professional musician parents. But no amount of teaching can create an ability like this.

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