A woman's story of mistakenly sharing the holiday spirit with a stranger has people in stitches

What's better than a heartwarming story of holiday cheer? How about a heartwarming story that turns out to be a hilarious moment of holiday embarrassment?

When Mary Katherine Backstrom of Fort Myers, Florida, decided to do a good deed for a stranger in a gas station convenience store, she had no idea that her most embarrassing moment would result in a viral story viewed by millions.


It all started when the writer and mother of two was killing time at the Wawa, a local gas station and convenience store, before picking up her kids from school. She had just been reading a story on Facebook about how everyone is so generous over the holidays and how the spirit of giving lifts everyone's mood, so she decided to pass along some of that spirit to someone else. The woman behind her in line was just buying a ginger ale, so Backstrom offered to pay for it. It was a simple but lovely act of kindness, the woman was moved, and holiday magic was made.

RELATED: 7 wonderful reasons to give to strangers this holiday season.

Backstrom left the store to go back to her car, still full of the Christmas spirit, and found a man cleaning her windshield. Blown away by the magic of the holidays and the reverberating kindness of strangers, Backstrom walked up to the man, gave him a huge hug, and told him how much she loved humanity and the magic of Christmas.

Only one problem—it wasn't her car, it was his. Oh. My. Word. The awkwardness of it all.

You have to hear her tell it, complete with infectious laughter, and don't be surprised if you feel compelled to watch it over and over again. When Christmas cheer meets abject embarrassment, holiday hilarity is born.

The Facebook Live video has been viewed more than 23 million times in just a few days, and has already been shared nearly 100,000 times. Clearly people are loving it.

Backstrom told Upworthy, "I think the reason it is resonating is that the holidays can be a very hard time for adults, and we forget about the levity of holiday magic, and crave it in these times." She admits she was highly caffeinated and a little sleep deprived—as most mothers of young children are—when she hugged and gushed all over an unsuspecting stranger, but she hopes to continue to live her life "with reckless joy."

RELATED: Hallmark asked Fred Rogers to create a holiday display. His design was peak Mr. Rogers

"This one moment has returned so much laughter and encouragement to my life that I have to think there is something to this," she says. "Humans miss warm interactions, even if they are a little...erm...bizarre."

Here's to the bizarre, awkward, recklessly joyful human moments that bring us all together.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."