After a story about a boy bringing lunch for his classmate went viral, Reddit responded.

Josette Duran didn't expect her story of kindness, compassion, and sandwiches to go viral, but it's not hard to see why it did.

A bagged lunch. Photo by Henry Kellner/Wikimedia Commons.

In early September, Duran's son Dylan asked her if she would start packing him two lunches to take to school. Worried she wasn't feeding him enough, Dylan quickly laid those concerns to rest.


"Mom it's for this boy," Josette wrote on her Facebook page, recalling her conversation with her son. "He only eats a fruit cup for lunch can you make him lunch too? I don't think he has lunch money."

Josette told ABC News that she sent Dylan to school with extra sandwiches, yogurt, and chips for two months. When the boy's mother found out, she asked the school to call Josette so she could thank her in person and offer to reimburse her — but Josette said she declined.

"This hits home to me because a few years ago, me and my son were homeless," Josette said. "I was living in my car, I was washing him in bathrooms, and we didn’t have food."

The story was posted to Reddit, where it received hundreds of comments. One user recalled how their parents helped feed their friends when they were in grade school.

"My mom gave me $3 for lunch every day, which was $3 more than my best friend's mom gave him. That was enough to buy a Pizza Hut personal pizza, so we shared one of those every single day at lunch. I never thought about it much back then — I shared with him like I shared with my brothers, it was a given — but when we were in our 40s he told me how much it meant to him that I shared my lunch with him every day. He told me that he loved my mom and dad because they took care of him too. That meant the world to me."

Another jumped in to say "thank you" to the classmates who fed him.

"Coming from a guy that has a best friend that did this for me. Thank you. He saw it as nothing as well, I can never repay him for how much it meant to me. Even when my mother kicked me out at 16, I lived in his backyard in a tent and every time his father would leave, I would come in to eat, shower etc. He's still my best friend 28 years later and one of the only dudes I truly love to death."

One wondered why there isn't a better system in place to provide food for children whose parents are struggling.

Photo via iStock.

"My mom paid for my best friends lunch for 3 years in middle school because her parents believed that she didn't get hungry at school (read: they didn't give a shit about her). It's so sad to me that so many children don't get lunches at school. There really needs to be a system that will give a hungry child food no matter what. The kids can't help it if their parents don't feed them/make sure they get a lunch."

In response, a redditor recalled the shame that led them to lean on their friends for help.

"I knew we didn't have money so I never told my mom when I ran out of lunch money. One time I racked up a negative bill so bad they were going to not let me eat school lunch and they finally called my mom. When she came to pick me up she was crying at my school because she couldn't afford to pay it (she was working full time and didn't qualify for free lunch). My friends mom saw and paid it off plus added a chunk of money to it. I wasn't old enough to really appreciate the gesture, so I never said thanks. Will you tell your mom I said thanks, she didn't help me specifically but she helped somebody in the same situation so it might as well have been me."

One had a story about settling lunch debts for kids who owed the school:

"My son's school would literally give the students two packages of crackers (not cheese or peanut butter crackers, just regular crackers) and a carton of milk. Fortunately, my son never had to worry about that, but when I found out about it I started going into the school every month and paying up all the late accounts. It wasn't a major amount (the most I ever paid was around $23), but I couldn't bare the thought of one of these elementary kids eating that for lunch.
It really pissed me off that in the US we still have kids that are treated like that."

Which inspired another user to take action:

"I had a single mom, so we were poor when we were growing up. So poor that I actually feel guilty (I don't quite know how to describe the feeling but guilty is pretty close) that I'm married and that my child can grow up in a financially stable home.
I didn't know you could settle other children's lunch debts, and this is something that I want to do when it's time for my child to go to school. I'm glad I found out about this, thank you."

According to USDA, food insecurity affected at least 7 million American children in 2015.

Like the Reddit users who saw themselves in Josette and Dylan's story, these children lack access to affordable, nutritious food, they skip a meal every now and again to save money for other essentials, and others live in deep poverty.  

Like the Durans' Albuquerque school, many lunchrooms allow students to take a meal and pay later, but those who do accrue debt with the cafeteria frequently face stigma from peers and teachers. Some report feeling singled out when cafeteria workers remind them to pay. Others recall embarrassing lectures from school officials, and still others report having their lunches thrown away in front of them.

Some cities are trying to take the burden away from parents by stepping up to fill the holes in the USDA's National School Lunch Program, the main federal program that subsidizes meals for schoolchildren.

In 2014, New York City began offering free lunch — previously only available to the city's poorest children — to all middle school students. Baltimore followed suit in 2015.

New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray eating lunch with fifth-graders in 2014. Photo by Susan Watts-Pool/Getty Images.

Meanwhile, some in Congress are trying to make it harder for schools to serve students across the board.

In 2010, Congress — with wide bipartisan support — passed a bill establishing a "community eligibility" standard for school districts wishing to serve breakfast and lunch to their students at no cost. Under the provision, students would no longer have to apply for free meals individually by household. Instead, meals would be subsidized for the entire student body based on the district's level of need — determined by its percentage of at-risk students.

A bill introduced in April by Rep. Todd Rokita of Indiana seeks to limit the program and make fewer schools eligible — by raising the threshold of needy students required for schools to qualify from 40% to 60%.

There are a lot of hungry kids in America, and — unfortunately — a limited number of parents like Josette Duran.

Individual efforts to pay it forward are heartwarming. They're inspiring. And they only go so far. Feeding all of America's kids means supporting policies that expand benefits for children like that boy in Albuquerque — and the politicians who expand those benefits.

Students eat free breakfast at Holy Ghost Elementary School in Dubuque, Iowa, which recently qualified for federal community eligibility assistance. Photo by AP Photo/Telegraph Herald, Jessica Reilly.

Ensuring one child doesn't go hungry might take a concerned friend, a nosy neighbor, or a vigilant school.

Ensuring no child goes hungry? That takes all of us.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Cipolla's graph with the benefits and losses that an individual causes to him or herself and causes to others.

Have you ever known someone who was educated, well-spoken and curious, but had a real knack for making terrible decisions and bringing others down with them? These people are perplexing because we're trained to see them as intelligent, but their lives are a total mess.

On the other hand, have you ever met someone who may not have a formal education or be the best with words, but they live wisely and their actions uplift themselves and others?

In 1976, Italian economist Carlo Cipolla wrote a tongue-in-cheek essay called "The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity" that provides a great framework for judging someone's real intelligence. Now, the term "stupid" isn't the most artful way of describing someone who lives unwisely, but in his essay Cipolla uses it in a lighthearted way.

Cipolla explains his theory of intelligence through five basic laws and a matrix that he believes applies to everyone.

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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.

'Tis the season to do weird things with pumpkins.

A few years ago, the midwives of the Royal Oldham hospital in England decided to illustrate the horrors of childbirth using the whimsy of Halloween pumpkin art. The maternity ward became a zone of terror, as the "dilation pumpkins" were lined up in ascendant order, matching how the cervix dilates during labor, from a harmless 1cm to a terrifying 10cm.

The first pumpkin looks adorably surprised. Nothing too scary about that, right? Kind of like it just had an unexpected visit from a cute puppy.

Then take a look at that last pumpkin, apparently at the optimum dilation for giving birth, mouth fully agape, with an expression that can't help but convey "OUCH!" No amount of fun googly eyes are gonna make that image less frightening. Yikes.

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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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