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Sherri James was leading a busy and fulfilling life as the minister of a church when she found herself in a position to answer a second calling.

The 45-year-old self-proclaimed workaholic made the ultimate offer: to become a primary caregiver for her grandnephew, Jordan.

Sherri first met Jordan when he was 13 months old, after she returned to her home state to officiate her uncle's funeral. “I fell in love with [Jordan] immediately," she recalled. “I can remember holding him one night and praying over him."


Sherri and Jordan, enjoying dinner together.

Jordan's mother — Sherri's niece — had untreated mental health issues and was having a hard time caring for Jordan. One day, Sherri's mom called to vent some frustration over potentially needing to become Jordan's caregiver when Sherri said, “What if I take him?"

“The next thing I know, my niece is calling me to ask if Jordan can stay with me for one year while she gets help," Sherri recalled. Sherri agreed, and a short time later, she flew from California to Texas to pick up her 14-month-old grandnephew. Her niece came along to help get Jordan settled in, and then she returned to Texas.

But it soon became apparent that what started off as a short-term plan would need to become more permanent. “When it became obvious that my niece would not get treatment, I petitioned the courts for guardianship and received it," Sherri said. Now 20 months old, Jordan is doing well. But here's where the story gets interesting.

Relatives take in children all the time. But how many end up co-parenting with their sibling? That's right.

Making their situation more unusual, Sherri is co-parenting Jordan with her 37-year-old brother John*.

“I absolutely adore my brother," Sherri said of John. They were close as kids despite their eight-year age difference, and their bond extended into adulthood. John stayed with her during summer breaks while she was in college, and he eventually moved to L.A., where Sherri had moved eight years earlier. After living with her for five years, he moved out in 2008.

But when John decided to stay with Sherri again temporarily last fall, the timing was perfect. Temporary stretched into indefinite because Sherri found John's presence and assistance raising Jordan "essential." She said: "I can't imagine doing this without my brother's help."

Sherri, John, and Jordan are a reminder that families aren't just made up of a mom, a dad, and their biological children. That's not just OK. It's beautiful.

The reality of life is that when a parent finds himself or herself unable to raise their child, there just aren't that many options. Foster care is one, although it's less than ideal. Family care, where a relative steps in to raise the child, is another.

Family care, also called kinship care, is fairly common.

In fact, over 6 million kids are being raised by family members other than their birth parents. In communities all across the country, family members are stepping in and stepping up where they are needed to help care for the children who need it most. These relatives don't always get recognized and rewarded, but they put in the love and work — and millions of children are better for it.

While Sherri functions as the “primary" parent, John's help raising Jordan is invaluable.

When Sherri is unable to take care of Jordan, John steps in. “What's wonderful is how much Jordan loves him," Sherri said. “When he leaves the house, Jordan cries crocodile tears. My brother is truly his BFF. ... I've learned to respect their bond."

The Jameses may have an unconventional family situation, but it works — very well.

While her “new" life is filled with toys, play dates, and diapers, Sherri prefers it. “I feel like I have better balance now with Jordan," she explained. “Before he came, I was a workaholic. But his presence forces me to play outdoors at least once a day. Now, I try to squeeze all my work into the time that he's in day care. And, at 5:30 p.m. when I pick him up, it's party on!"

At the same time, Sherri is very mindful of her niece, the woman whose baby she is raising. “She's not a bad person. She has a mental illness and it negatively impacted how she cared for Jordan," Sherri explained.

“It was not an easy decision to step in and take this baby. The fact that he is thriving now — meaning gained weight, got back on track developmentally — is our consolation that we made the right choice. But it's still hard emotionally."

The popular parenting adage “It takes a village to raise a child" came to mind when Sherri told me about her community's support.

Sherri with her mom and her "spiritual mom," Della Reese.

“I am so grateful for the way my church family has stepped up to help me," she said. One member watches Jordan during services so Sherri can serve as minister. Others have generously given clothing, toys, education resources, and welcome parenting advice.

“I really, really appreciate the way my church family has embraced Jordan and is helping me look after him. They are an enormous blessing."

Sherri may not have intended to become a parent at the exact time it happened or in the way it occurred, but she has a lot in common with most parents.

Like all moms and women raising kids, she wants one thing: what's best for Jordan.

Acknowledging that she and her brother haven't had a discussion yet about their “parenting philosophy," Sherri shared: “Who I am as a parent is still emerging. My primary goal is to protect Jordan's image of himself. I want him to understand himself as a limitless spiritual being and that he can be, do, and have whatever he wants in life."

That probably sounds pretty familiar to those of us who are parents!

And like most parents, she's figuring this parenting gig out as she goes. “I don't consciously know how to teach him that," she added. “So, I pray for guidance each night for the wisdom and humility to do what is best for him."

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.

Ronny Tertnes' "liquid sculptures" are otherworldly.

Human beings have sculpted artwork out of all kinds of materials throughout history, from clay to concrete to bronze. Some sculpt with water in the form of ice, but what if you could create sculptures with small drops of liquid?

Norwegian artist Ronny Tertnes does just that. His "liquid sculptures" look like something from another planet or another dimension, while at the same time are entirely recognizable as water droplets.

I mean, check this out:


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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.

The scarf, a simple accessory that some find an essential fashion piece. Both fashionable and function with the warmth they provide, scarves can be a valuable gift for any occasion or person. Here, we've selected our best selling scarves from our store. At Upworthy Market, when you purchase a product, you directly support the artisans who craft their own products, so with every purchase, you're doing good. These scarves are not only unique, but they are hand-made by local artisans and all under $30.

1. Fair Trade Woven Dark Gray Alpaca Blend Scarf

Celinda Jaco selects a cozy blend of Andean alpaca for this handsome men's scarf. Classic in style, it features fine stripes of white and black woven through the dark grey textile. Hand-tied fringe completes a distinguished design.

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Kayla Sullivan nails the reality of toddler tantrums in her mock news report.

Anyone who's ever had a 2-year-old knows that they can be … a lot. Adorable for sure, but … a lot. Toddlers are just starting to figure out that they have their own free will, but they have zero idea how to wield it or use it for good. They want what they want, when they want it—except when they change their mind and absolutely do not want what they just wanted—and they don't really have the emotional maturity or verbal acuity to adequately express any of these things without crying, whining or screaming.

There's a reason they're so darn cute.

For parents, handling a 2-year-old's 2-year-oldness can be a challenge. You can't rationalize with them. You know they're not being little toddler terrors on purpose. You know that they're just learning and that it's a stage and a phase that won't last forever, but when you're in it? Phew.

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