Thanks for stopping by for Day 16 of Upworthy's 31 Days of Happiness Countdown! If this is your first visit, here's the gist: Each day between Dec. 1 and Dec. 31, we're sharing stories we hope will bring joy, smiles, and laughter into your life. It's been a challenging year, so why not end it on a high note? Check back tomorrow (or click the links at the bottom) for another installment!

Picking up trash isn't the most glamorous job, but it is an important one. In Baltimore's Inner Harbor, that effort is led by a wise-cracking, anthropomorphic, googly-eyed conveyor belt named Mr. Trash Wheel. At a time when America is gearing up to make coal smog its national bird and give oil companies unfettered access to public lands, it's hard not to feel a tiny twinge of hope that one city now sports a 16-foot-long floating dumpster whose job it is to eat litter. Not to mention, he's awesome.


I mean ... just look at him:

Photo by Dicklyon/Wikimedia Commons.

Mr. Trash Wheel was installed in 2014 by the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore. So far, he's cleaned up over 1 million pounds of refuse from the city's waterways. His heroics have inspired T-shirts, dozens of Halloween costumes, a beer, several Choose-Your-Own-Adventure stories, and even a tribute song.

If you don't live in Baltimore, you should follow him on Twitter, where he makes waterway conservation weird and hilarious on a daily basis.

In December 2016, the Waterfront Partnership installed a second garbage collector, named Professor Trash Wheel, expanding the trash clean-up effort further down the harbor.

Her up-river colleague welcomed her with open arms.

Thanks to the project's success, other cities have begun installing similar devices. Mr. Trash Wheel, naturally, is a big fan — but occasionally offers some unsolicited notes.

Getting people invested in the tireless work of conservation is no mean feat. For managing to make the process of hauling empty beer bottles, used tires, and the occasional pet snake out of the water 1,000% more entertaining, Mr. Trash Wheel earned national respect, local hero status, and a fanatically devoted following.

Your holiday season will be a billion times more magical if you hitch a ride on the Trash Wheel bandwagon.

More days of happiness here: DAY 1 / DAY 2 / DAY 3 / DAY 4 / DAY 5 / DAY 6 / DAY 7 / DAY 8 / DAY 9 / DAY 10 / DAY 11 / DAY 12 / DAY 13 / DAY 14 / DAY 15 / [DAY 16] / DAY 17 / DAY 18 / DAY 19 / DAY 20 / DAY 21 / DAY 22 / DAY 23 / DAY 24 / DAY 25 / DAY 26 / DAY 27 / DAY 28 / DAY 29 / DAY 30 / DAY 31

Most of us don't think of a bird as a cuddly pet, but Swoop the snuggly magpie didn't care what humans think. After he was rescued by New Zealander Matt Owens, the baby bird became a beloved part of the family—the family being Owens and his cat, Mowgli.

"It was just sitting there bleeding, sort of unable to walk properly and it looked like it had been abandoned by its mum so I just picked it up and decided to take it home," Owens told Newshub. The timing of finding Swoop couldn't have been better. Owens' dad had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and the bond he formed taking care of Swoop gave Owens an extra dose of love and comfort.

Mowgli wasn't sure about the new family member at first, but soon took to Swoop and the two became fur-feather friends. The Dodo recently shared a video on Facebook highlighting Owens, Swoop, and Mowgli's story, and it's unbelievably adorable.

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It is said that once you've seen something, you can't unsee it. This is exactly what is happening in America right now. We have collectively watched the pot of racial tension boil over after years of looking the other way, insisting that hot water doesn't exist, pretending not to notice the smoke billowing out from every direction.

Ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away—it prolongs resolution. There's a whole lot of harm to be remedied and damage to be repaired as a result of racial injustice, and it's up to all of us to figure out how to do that. Parents, in particular, are recognizing the importance of raising anti-racist children; if we are unable to completely eradicate racism, maybe the next generation will.

How can parents ensure that the next generation will actively refuse to perpetuate systems and behaviors embedded in racism? The most obvious answer is to model it. Take for example, professional tennis player Serena Williams and her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

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Photo by Mahir Uysal on Unsplash

Two years ago, I got off the phone after an interview and cried my eyes out. I'd just spent an hour talking to Tim Ballard, the founder of Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that helps fight child sex trafficking, and I just couldn't take it.

Ballard told me about how the training to go undercover as a child predator nearly broke him. He told me an eerie story of a trafficker who could totally compartmentalize, showing Ballard photos of kids he had for sale, then switching gears to proudly show him a photo of his own daughter on her bicycle, just as any parent would. He told me about how lucrative child trafficking is—how a child can bring in three or four times as much as a female prostitute—and how Americans are the industry's biggest consumers.

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Bill Gates has always been passionate about providing vaccines to the parts of the world that lack resources. On Friday he came through again by announcing that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is committing $150 million toward efforts to develop and distribute a low cost COVID-19 vaccine to some of the poorer countries of the world.

According to Vox, this latest financial commitment brings the total Gates has dedicated to the pandemic to around $500 million. He is hoping the funds will keep vaccine costs down to increase accessibility beyond just the wealthier populations. As Gates told Bloomberg, "We're trying to make sure we can end it not just in the rich countries." Gates is working with the Serum Institute, which is the most prolific vaccine producer in the world, to make $100 million doses that would not exceed $3. In general, companies producing the vaccine have agreed to keep the profit margin low."


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