You must be cringing as you read this.

You must be thinking I’m going to school you on how to treat your new boyfriend. You must be thinking I’m going to lay down some laws about how to treat my children.

That is not at all what this letter is about.


I would like to welcome you.

Welcome to this unique dynamic of “modern family.”

Welcome to the way we wing this life and this relationship. Yes, I said relationship, but not by its standard definition.

The children keep us in a relationship, much like your work keeps you in a relationship with your boss. If success is the goal, whether in work or parenting, the relationship between those who strive for that is important. I will not fill this letter with none-of-my-business type advice on how to treat a man I have known since I was 20. I won’t tell you anything that is personal about him; anything that he chooses to share is between you two. I’m not going to tell you why things did not work between us. All I will say on the subject of us is what I say to everyone:

"To me, he’s a great guy — for someone else."

This might sound weird, but I’m so excited about you.

My sons will see a side of their father they don’t even know they missed. They’ll witness the kind of happiness that blooms from the excitement, joy, and mystery that comes with a new relationship. They’ll see their father beaming with hope. They’ll hear him laugh (too much and too loud, as they’ve reported to us) and speak with a new charm in his voice. And because they love and admire him, all of these things will make them happier too.

Photo via iStock.

I want you to know that it is so important to be yourself around us. Please don’t ever feel threatened, intimidated, or out of place around us. Just like you, we are also fumbling through the newness of your place in our lives. We trust that if you are good enough for him, you are good enough for us. We expect you to have quirks, flaws, and a uniqueness about you that might leave us scratching our heads from time to time.

And we don’t want you to change a thing.

Don’t ever feel like you can’t speak to me, my (new) husband, or any of the boys.

Photo via iStock.

Say anything. Or say nothing at all. Please be you.

You’re going to see us (the kids, mostly, but also my current husband and me) quite often. You’re going to find yourself sitting with us at concerts, plays, games, graduations, and many other events. It will feel awkward at first, maybe, but I hope that changes quickly. While the kids know very well their father and I are divorced and done, they need to know we are united in our support of them, and this is one of the many ways we will unapologetically display that support.

I want them to look out at the audience while on stage and see all of us together watching them with pride and excitement. Many of my friends have asked me if sitting between their father and stepfather feels weird. I have done weirder things to esteem, encourage, teach, and build my sons. (Singing ridiculous songs about potty training is the first that comes to my mind.) This is no sweat. I ask that you join us (when you are ready) and become part of the united front that supports them unconditionally.

Say anything. Or say nothing at all. Please be you.

You may find yourself sitting through conversations between him and me. Please understand that we need to communicate in order to run our successful “business” of raising amazing humans. Sometimes we need to do it often. And along with the trust I mentioned in the former paragraph, there is trust you will know when it’s appropriate to chime in. Should you ever feel uncomfortable or insignificant during times like this, I ask that you look at the bigger picture and keep in mind that our communication outside the subject of our children is almost nonexistent.

He will never call to ask me advice on fashion (which is a good thing because I have none!).

He won’t call me to chat about a TV show he enjoys.

He won’t call me to complain about his work day.

Our relationship revolves around three growing boys. While other subjects may arise while we’re in the same space for a long period of time, please know that my role in his life is “mother of his children.”

Nothing more.

I give you a lot of credit for embarking on a relationship with a father of teenage boys!

This is new to them too, and they have no idea what to do or say around you. They are teenagers with their own lives, hopes, dreams, and intentions, and they may not always be at their best. I ask that as you become more of a presence in their lives, you get to know them individually.

My hope is that as time goes by and you are around them more, you’ll have a unique relationship with each of them. This will take deliberate work and effort. And at times it won’t be easy, much like anything else worthwhile.

Carefully and respectfully, I welcome you.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

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.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

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.

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