A hopeful, open letter to Susan Collins from someone who worked hard to defeat you

I have something I would like to say to you, Senator Susan Collins.

My name is Tim Mercer. Yes, the same Mercer who's mother appeared in an ad on television opposing you this past election. And yes, the same Mercer who's brother put out multiple full page ads in the Portland Press Herald and got national attention when you refused to answer his questions in an airport a year ago. But before you tune me out, I would like you to hear me out. Some things might be hard to hear, but I assure you there is a light at the end of this tunnel.

First off, I would like to congratulate you on your decisive win over Sarah Gideon to retain your seat as senator for the great state of Maine: a state my family calls home—a place I have lived for over 10 years of my life. Even though I have disagreed with you on most issues, you have potential to be the best person for the job. Not for the senator you are right now, but for who you could be.

Over the past few days, I've discussed your voting record, position on issues and your commitment to Maine and the United States with numerous people who work with you and held positions within the walls of the state capitol in Augusta, ME. In recent years, I had become disenchanted with your ways, and full disclosure, I was going to write you an angry letter. But as I heard these people talk about you, I realized that you have their respect. The people who disagree with you had some good things to say, as did those who are more alined with you. They were all very candid, so there were no perfect scores, but that is okay. I don't trust perfect.

With every conversation I had, there was one consistent tone: hope.


You clearly have something special with the people of Maine based on your tenure as their representative spanning over two decades. Not only that, but you won convincingly as a Republican in a state that favored Democrat, Joe Biden, as their choice for the next president of the United States. You are clearly doing something right. But you have done some things wrong, too. The first thing that comes to mind is Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

This was your opportunity for that career-defining moment. But instead you voted for Kavanaugh in 2018. Eight months later, you told the New York Times you didn't regret that decision. Why? I know you received harsh criticism, and I understand where it came from. In supporting Kavanaugh, you've threatened the safety of women and their right to choose. With your pro-choice views, which we agree on, you were the Republican that should have voted against Kavanaugh. I am not sure if you were pressured or made some sort of deal with Trump, but either way it wasn't a good look.

Although you claim to be a champion for women's rights, when the national spotlight was on you, you disappointed a large amount of people. It was your chance at the big solo and we were expecting to hear this glorious note, but instead, we got Selena Gomez without the auto tune. You could have knocked it out of the park by making a decision that would forever put you down in the books for standing against alleged sexual assault. I wonder if you regret that decision now?

Then there's your bipartisan voting. It seems that you are able to boast a bipartisan voting record because you side with Democrats when your vote has no impact on the final result. That is like purposely putting your credit card down at a restaurant after someone else just footed the bill. It is a hollow gesture that has no effect on the situation, costs you nothing and makes it seem like you genuinely meant to do the right thing. When you are called out for voting the party line, you can just point to your record to show how often you have gone against the Republican narrative. Similarly, the person with the second fastest credit card reflex at an eating establishment, when accused of never picking up the tab, can always point out how many times they have tried to pay. Technically, neither of you are wrong, but I am sure you can see how it isn't right.

Another aspect of your voting that's troublesome to many is your voting record for taxing the wealthy. I was talking to a friend of mine a few weeks ago, and while he is a multi-millionaire, he says he only pays 4% in taxes. I pay over 20% (and let's just say I am not expecting an American Express Black card to show up in the mail anytime soon). According to Politicsthatwork.com, you vote to tax the wealthy only 18.2% of the time. I understand there might be a margin of error on those statistics, but I am pretty sure it isn't 81.8%. There are so many hard working people in the state of Maine and across the country who desperately need your help.

Also, I do find it strange that you haven't held a town hall meeting in 20 years. As a woman of the people, which you claim to be, I don't understand why you wouldn't be eager to hear our voices much less avoid them. Then I heard something interesting that every single person I talked to who worked with you confirmed. You have a reputation for having thin-skin. Face-to-face adversity appears to be difficult for you. There was even someone who organized an event that you spoke at, recalling your extremely unusual request to see the RSVP list so you could seemingly vet them. Speakers look at those list all the time out of curiosity, but this was different. My guess is that you probably know what I am referring to. My point is that I think I understand you a little better now. You seem to want to control your environment. Perhaps you should let go of that and start holding town halls more often. You might take a few lumps, but you will also get plenty of praise from your supporters—especially if you take more steps to look Mainers in the eye and connect on a human level.

Finally, I need to ask this because I would be remiss if I didn't: Is the support you have shown for President Trump over the past four years genuine?

I know the Overton Window moves left and right, but Trump has found a way to make it move down. In other words, statements and actions so juvenile, rude and completely baseless used to mean the end of a political career. For President Trump, it is known as "every day of the week." I challenge you to find a 30 second clip from any of Trump's rallies where he doesn't insult someone or make it about himself. The man has successfully divided the United States of America to a level I never thought possible, and that is not an easy thing to do.

I find it hard to believe that you, a public servant for 23 years, doesn't cringe on an hourly basis about the fact that you have to report to a misogynistic narcissist with no political experience, who doesn't pay his taxes and has the bed side manner of Triumph The Insult Comic Dog. You will soon be free of him, and you will have a chance to work with the Biden administration, a president who possess dignity and values. You might not always agree, but at least it will be an adult conversation.


The gridlock in Washington is the most dysfunctional it has ever been by far. You know this, Susan. You have a front row seat. You could be the spark that leads to a different way of thinking. This country was so desperate for anything other than business-as-usual in our federal government that they elected Donald Trump, and continued to convince themselves that his behavior wasn't that of a spoiled five-year old who needs attention. All the time.

People need to remember that you were a maverick in years past. I believe you can get back the ear of the Democratic constituents you lost and keep the Republican ones so loyal to you. Someone has to break this seemingly endless and profoundly dangerous cycle of behavior on Capitol Hill. There needs to be a first, and I really think you could be her. Forget about who is Democrat and who is Republican, and lead by example. Someone needs to step up and it may as well be you. We as Americans know the difference between disingenuous actions and those that are pure of heart. If you lead the way, people like my mother, my brother and I will all be right behind you.

By the way, I also think I understand why you didn't (or couldn't) answer my brother's questions when he approached you in that airport last year. Maybe it is because you couldn't in good conscience give an answer when he asked questions like, "What do I say to my daughter when president uses language on a daily basis that would get her kicked out of school?" Maybe it is because you couldn't justify it either, but you had to be loyal to your party. Those days are behind you and you made it through. You have the next six years to get your "maverick" on and make a difference. And I can't wait to see what you do.

This country has too much potential to keep going down a path where the best case scenario is everyone being consistently angry and growing even more divided. The worst case scenario is all-out civil war, which doesn't seem far fetched enough at this point. President Trump's version of unity is telling militia groups like The Proud Boys to "stand by," and it is scary to think about what that might lead to. Those guys seem like the kind of fellas that could cause a great deal of chaos. I do believe we all want the same thing: freedom, unity and the pursuit of happiness. We have dug ourselves quite a hole, but Susan, if you can be the catalyst that pulls us out of it, you will be one of the most important trailblazers in political history.

Make America great again, because the last guy who preached those words kind of went the other way on that one. If you can pull this off, even if you put your credit card out first, I will be the first one to buy you dinner.

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.

This article originally appeared on 07.22.15



"So just recently I went out on a Match.com date, and it was fantastic," begins Dr. Danielle Sheypuk in her TEDx Talk.

If you've ever been on a bunch of Match.com dates, that opening line might make you do a double take. How does one get so lucky?!

Not Dr. Sheypuck's actual date.

Not Dr. Sheypuck's actual date. Photo by Thinkstock.


But don't get too jealous. Things quickly went downhill two dates later, as most Match.com dates ultimately do. This time, however, the reason may not be something that you've ever experienced. Intrigued? I was too. So here's the story.Gorgeous!

Gorgeous! Photo from Dr. Sheypuk's Instagram account, used with permission.

She's a licensed clinical psychologist, an advocate, and a model — among other things. She's also been confined to a wheelchair since childhood. And that last fact is what did her recent date in.

On their third date over a romantic Italian dinner, Sheypuk noticed that he was sitting farther away from her than usual. And then, out of nowhere, he began to ask the following questions:

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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.

@elenisabracos on TikTok

Look, it’s a sad situation for anyone to hear that Adele will not be gracing the stage any time soon. The beloved singer woefully announced on Instagram last Friday (Jan 21) that her planned residency in Las Vegas “wasn’t ready” due to coronavirus. Half of her crew had been infected, making it “impossible to finish the show.”

But for one fan in particular, who has tried—and failed miserably—to catch Adele live on three separate occasions, the news hit particularly hard. Luckily, her sense of humor proves that any tragedy can turn into comedy gold.

This story, with all its hilarious twists and turns, is quite the delightful saga. And though it doesn’t erase all the gutting disappointments left from pandemic cancellations, it does serve as wholesome entertainment.

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This article originally appeared on August 14, 2016


Time travel back to 1905.

Back in 1905, a book called "The Apples of New York" was published by the New York State Department of Agriculture. It featured hundreds of apple varieties of all shapes, colors, and sizes, including Thomas Jefferson's personal favorite, the Esopus Spitzenburg.






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