After a scary diagnosis, a connection with a hairdresser offered this man a lifeline.
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I’d always been an anxious person, but it wasn’t until grad school that I realized something was very, very wrong.

After getting an acceptance letter to my dream school, it felt like everything was finally falling into place. Eager to leave my hometown behind, I crammed everything I could into a single suitcase and embarked on my new life in the San Francisco Bay Area.

But the life I’d pictured — exploring the Bay, hanging out at the beach, making new friends, and trying every single vegetarian restaurant I could find — looked nothing like the life I walked into.


Photo by Camila Rubio Varón on Unsplash

Every time I tried to leave my new apartment by myself … I couldn’t.

At first, I didn’t think much of it. I was in a totally new place, so it made sense that I’d be nervous to venture out on my own. I was lucky to have found an apartment with roommates that were eager to show me around the city, so it was easy to forget that I’d eventually have to navigate this new life alone.

I had no idea how much I’d later come to rely on these connections in my recovery.

When classes began and I had to take public transit to get there, my panic about the outside world took over.

Knowing I’d have to take two busses alone to get to campus left me shaking, dizzy, nauseous, and terrified.

Photo by Andy Mai on Unsplash

What if I needed help and no one was there? What if I got lost? What if I got attacked? What if I had a panic attack in public and humiliated myself? The “what if” became so daunting in my mind that staying home seemed like the only safe and certain option.

I started missing classes.

The more I avoided going out, the more relief I felt, but staying home only worsened my condition, until I stopped leaving entirely — not for groceries, not for medicine, not for anything or anyone.

That’s when my friends encouraged me to get help.

I was diagnosed with Agoraphobia, which is a panic disorder that develops as a response to fear. It’s fueled by avoidance, and can include an avoidance of public transportation, open spaces (like bridges or parking lots), closed-in spaces (like movie theaters), crowds, or in cases like mine, a fear of going anywhere alone.

Agoraphobia can be completely debilitating, leading a person to isolate themselves, even if it means going without basic necessities like food. My disorder actually led me to drop out of graduate school altogether, a wakeup call that made me realize that enough was enough.

While things like therapy and antidepressant medication were an important part of recovery, it was the small acts of kindness that made the biggest difference.

I found this kind of generosity often where I least expected it — like when I met a hairdresser who struggled with the very same disorder that I did.

I had reached out in an online community, desperately looking for a haircut from someone who wouldn’t judge me if I cancelled at the last minute or arrived in tears. That’s how I found Jane.

When I made it to Jane’s salon for the first time, I was greeted by a tattooed woman with a pixie cut, a beaming smile, and her adorable little dog. It was the first time I met someone who knew what I was going through.

“You made it!” she exclaimed. With those three simple words, I immediately felt safe.

We talked about the endless cycle of making plans and cancelling them, stepping outside only to turn right back around, how embarrassed we sometimes felt to be ordering our groceries online, and the frustration of how “simple” tasks — going to the pharmacy, taking the bus, making and keeping friends — were huge obstacles for us.

Photo by Hai Phung on Unsplash

It was an unexpected miracle to not only find a hairdresser who was understanding, but who knew first hand what it was like to live with agoraphobia. That connection motivated me to make the trek to an entirely different city — even when it felt impossible — not just for an awesome haircut, but for that hour in her tiny salon, when I could forget how alone I felt.

It was people like Jane, who refused to give up on me, that kept me connected to the world that I would have otherwise cut myself off from.

It was friends who kept inviting me to brunch, even though they knew I might not make it there. It was loved ones who stayed on the phone with me while I braved public transport. It was roommates who encouraged me to step outside, even when I didn’t believe I could.

I won’t lie — getting my life back was difficult. I started by just trying to make it to a coffee shop down the street. When I finally reached the door, my loved ones were waiting for me, cheering for me. The little things — a study date with a classmate, taking the subway, or just an afternoon of binge-watching Netflix at a friend’s house — became huge victories for me.

One of the best humans + me 💖💖

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We might not always understand what someone’s going through. But a little compassion can go such a long way.

Even small gestures, like a morning text cheering a friend on before their big test, a small gift to remind someone that we care, or asking “how can I help” when someone seems to be struggling can go a long way.

In spite of a debilitating disorder, I’m finally getting my life back — and that’s due, in no small part, to these seemingly insignificant acts of kindness.

Photo by Rémi Walle on Unsplash

These small moments of connection can be the lifeline that reminds us there’s something worth holding onto. And every single day is filled with opportunities to offer that lifeline to someone else — to the barista that makes your morning coffee, the cashier at the corner bodega, or the neighbor struggling to carry their groceries up the stairs.

Moments like these offer us a reminder that we should never underestimate the power of a helping hand. You never know who might need it.

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.

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

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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."