It's here, kids! It's here! The Census Bureau's report on Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2015 is FINALLY HERE!

We've spent so many days beside our empty Census boxes, eagerly awaiting the Census man in his apron, black tie, and cap to drop it off with a warm smile and friendly wave.

"Morning, Johnny!" Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images.


Oh how excited we all were when we woke up this morning to the smell of warm ozone and printer ink, then scampered downstairs in our footy-pajamas to find a fresh-hot Census report awaiting us. What a day. What a glorious day!

The most recent Census report is brimming with good news.

News that honestly and truly means life is getting better for Americans just like you! That's right, you! Reading this right now on your phone. In your plaid shirt.

"It's me! He's talking about me!" Photo via iStock.

So go ahead and curl up with the full 70-page report and get ready to spend a couple of hours reading footnotes on how life is about to be several percentage points better for you and your loved ones.

(Just kidding, I did it for you.)

1. Average household income has increased 5.2% in the past year.

That's great news by itself, but the better news is that it's actually the first annual increase in household income since 2007 — the year before the housing market imploded and the U.S. economy sank faster than a cannonball tied to a piano.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

As always, race is a significant factor in income and economic growth, so there are disparities there. According to the report, Hispanic households saw a median increase of 6.1% and black households saw an increase of 4.1%. But! Households in every region of the United States saw an income increase. Which is pretty cool.

2. The poverty rate has decreased 1.2%.

It might not seem like a lot, and of course any place that calls itself "the land of opportunity" should be doing a better job of combatting poverty, but 1.2% is far from nothing.

In 2014, the estimated number of families living in poverty was 9.5 million. This latest report estimates the number at 8.6 million. So nearly a million families in America are no longer living in poverty.

Urban farming has recently been stimulating the economy in Detroit, which has some of the highest poverty levels in the U.S. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

3. The number of people without health insurance has fallen.

In the period covered by the report, the number of uninsured people in the U.S. fell from 33 million to 29 million. So that's — hang on, give me a second — 4? Yeah. 4 million people who now have health insurance.

Even better? For the second year in a row, that increase in health insurance is true for every age group under 65.

People over 65 benefit from government-operated programs like Medicare. Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images.

Things are looking up. But of course, there's still work to do.

On a family-to-family, human-to-human level, we're better off than we were last year — and much better off than eight years ago, when people were losing jobs by the millions and no one knew if the economy would totally collapse.

We got better. And we can get even better.

According to the report, income inequality has remained statistically unchanged. It's been an important issue in the 2016 election and has been on the minds of millions of Americans since 2008, when the market crashed.

Protesters at the New York Stock Exchange in 2008. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Racial disparities also continue to plague this country and make it measurably harder for some families to do as well as others. Not to mention the fact that despite the shrinking number, millions of Americans still don't have health insurance.

We've pulled ourselves out of a deep rut over the past several years, but we need to keep climbing, working toward things that have been proven to help the economy like immigration, infrastructure investment, and education, to name a few.

Americans face hardships every day, but we come out stronger and more ready for the next challenge. So next year, when the new Census Report on Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage comes out, I hope you all get as excited as I just did. If we work together to build a stronger, fairer, better America, the news next year will be even better.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

A guy was caught not being a creep in the gym, prompting praise and discussion over gym etiquette.

Videos of creepy guys staring at or harassing women at the gym are plentiful, and their virality underscores how common such experiences are. However, we don't often see the opposite go viral—the guys at the gym who aren't creepy, who are aware of how their behavior is perceived and who do what they can to make women feel comfortable while they're working out.

Now a video of one of those guys has gone viral.

TikTok user @libbychristensen shared a video she took of herself doing squats on a machine at the gym, which happened to catch a man who was working out directly behind her. (If you're wondering why she was filming herself, some people record their workouts to check their form. Christensen said in the comments that she films each set from a different angle—it wasn't about catching someone else on film.)

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

via Pexels and Google

A seal and The Old Lock and Weir pub in England.

The Old Lock and Weir pub just outside of Bristol, England had a unique visitor stop by on Sunday, January 2 at about 11:30 in the morning, a seal pup somewhere between six and 12 months old. The seal swam up to the pub, which lies on the banks of the River Avon.

"It was amazing. Totally out of the blue," Dan Rawlins, the general manager of the pub, told the BBC. "It's not every day you expect to find a baby seal outside the pub," said bar and kitchen worker John Jefferies.

The seal, nicknamed Nacho by the pub staff, was a social little guy who seemed to be comfortable around humans. “He was moving around quite a lot and didn't seem too bothered about all the people around,” Rawlins told The Dodo.

Rawlins thinks that he probably walked up to the pub to get a bite to eat. Some fish and chips, maybe? Or possibly the pub’s signature prawn cocktail?

“As he was underweight, [he was] obviously attracted to the pub kitchen," Rawlins told The Dodo. "We're speculating that he was hungry."

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Star soprano Lisette Oropesa was surprised when an audience member joined her in an encore.

There's a certain etiquette that audience members generally adhere to while watching a live performance, and that goes doubly for the opera world. But you don't have to be an opera-goer to know that it's generally frowned upon—to put it lightly—for a member of the audience to stand up and start singing right in the middle of an opera singer's performance.

It ain't Lollapalooza, for crying out loud.

But an audience member adding his voice to an opera performance was exactly what happened at the Verdi Festival in Parma, Italy this past fall. According to Classic FM, renowned soprano Lisette Oropesa was performing an encore at the end of her recital, singing the female part from "Sempre Libera" (Always Free) from Verdi's "La traviata." The song is a duet, usually sung between a female soprano and a male tenor, but she was performing it solo. So when the tenor part arrived and no one sang opposite her, 24-year-old Liu Jianwei, a fan of Oropesa and a student of opera at the Conservatorio Giuseppe Nicolini di Piacenza, stood up and filled in the gap.

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