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A long 12 years ago, in a Los Angeles far, far away ... Noah Bella Michaelis was born with a congenital heart defect.

She was diagnosed with a combination of heterotaxy syndrome, dextrocardia, and a single-ventricle defect — meaning, among other things, that her heart formed on the opposite side of her body.

She's also a huge fan of "Star Wars," although the verdict's still out on whether that's a congenital condition or something that developed over time.


Noah with her parents, who are totally dressed as Han Solo and Princess Leia.

In her short life so far, Noah has already undergone four open-heart surgeries, and numerous lengthy hospital stays.

In "Star Wars" terms, that's kind of like battling your best friend on the lava planet of Mustafar, but with less dramatic posturing and more endless bouts of hospital-induced boredom interspersed with moments of fear and relief.

Noah passes her recovery time in the hospital with homework, marathons of Minecraft and Settlers of Catan, and working with her parents on her lemonade stand and backyard festival fundraisers that have helped to raise more than $60,000 so far for the Hopeful Hearts Foundation.

GIF from "Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith."

But after too much time spent in hospitals, even a resilient kid like Noah needs an extra-special pick-me-up.

Fortunately, there are organizations like the For the Win Project that offer fantastical surprises and superheroic opportunities for kids like Noah who are stuck in the children's ward for weeks or months at a time.

When a nurse asked Noah who her favorite superhero was — not-so-inconspicuously-inquiring because of an upcoming kind of special visit — Noah offered a rather unconventional answer: Darth Vader.

Yep. Noah's favorite superhero is ... this guy:

GIF from "Star Wars IV: A New Hope."

OK, so maybe the Jedi-turned-Dark-Lord-of-the-Sith isn't exactly the first role model that comes to mind.

For most of us, the iconic image of Darth Vader emerging from the smoke for his first on-screen appearance is, erm, well, not something we usually associate with "happy thoughts."

When you think about it, though, Noah's affinity for Vader makes a lot of sense.

"I always found Darth Vader to be such a strong character," Noah says. "I'm short for my age, and I liked that he was really tall and so it made me feel tall."

Granted, Noah probably doesn't relate to the immaculate-Force-conception or the Tusken Raider attacks or the terrible tinny dialogue about sand, but still.

Like Noah, Vader has lived through plenty of physical hardships. He endured immense physical pain and had to rely on technology to save his failing body, just like she has, and he still managed to become the second-most-powerful person in the galaxy.

And, oh yeah, let's not forget that time he redeemed himself by overthrowing the Emperor and restoring balance to The Force. That was cool too.

"Being Darth Vader kind of helped me step away from being in the hospital," Noah says.

For The Win Project arranged a special "Star Wars"-themed celebration for Noah at her favorite restaurant , complete with stormtroopers and a "Darth Noah" photoshoot. They even surprised her with messages from some special celebrity guests, which made her smile brighter than the twin suns of Vader's home planet of Tatooine. Somehow. It's even more delightful than it sounds.

Sure, the photoshoot and celebrity messages aren't a cure. But for one day, Darth Noah got to revel in the stoic, black-caped confidence of her hero.

And sometimes that's all you need to keep going.

A breastfeeding mother's experience at Vienna's Schoenbrunn Zoo is touching people's hearts—but not without a fair amount of controversy.

Gemma Copeland shared her story on Facebook, which was then picked up by the Facebook page Boobie Babies. Photos show the mom breastfeeding her baby next to the window of the zoo's orangutan habitat, with a female orangutan sitting close to the glass, gazing at them.

"Today I got feeding support from the most unlikely of places, the most surreal moment of my life that had me in tears," Copeland wrote.

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Small actions lead to big movements.

Acts of kindness—we know they’re important not only for others, but for ourselves. They can contribute to a more positive community and help us feel more connected, happier even. But in our incessantly busy and hectic lives, performing good deeds can feel like an unattainable goal. Or perhaps we equate generosity with monetary contribution, which can feel like an impossible task depending on a person’s financial situation.

Perhaps surprisingly, the main reason people don’t offer more acts of kindness is the fear of being misunderstood. That is, at least, according to The Kindness Test—an online questionnaire about being nice to others that more than 60,000 people from 144 countries completed. It does make sense—having your good intentions be viewed as an awkward source of discomfort is not exactly fun for either party.

However, the results of The Kindness Test also indicated those fears were perhaps unfounded. The most common words people used were "happy," "grateful," "loved," "relieved" and "pleased" to describe their feelings after receiving kindness. Less than 1% of people said they felt embarrassed, according to the BBC.


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She's enjoying the big benefits of some simple life hacks.

James Clear’s landmark book “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones” has sold more than 9 million copies worldwide. The book is incredibly popular because it has a simple message that can help everyone. We can develop habits that increase our productivity and success by making small changes to our daily routines.

"It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis,” James Clear writes. “It is only when looking back 2 or 5 or 10 years later that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones becomes strikingly apparent.”

His work proves that we don’t need to move mountains to improve ourselves, just get 1% better every day.

Most of us are reluctant to change because breaking old habits and starting new ones can be hard. However, there are a lot of incredibly easy habits we can develop that can add up to monumental changes.

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