Even small acts make a big difference. Just ask anyone who knew this firefighter.

Capt. Mark Lee, a New Jersey firefighter for nearly 30 years, lived his whole life helping and serving others.

He wanted to do more than his "job."

He wanted to keep helping, even after the fires were put out.


Lee and some of his fellow firefighters in 1987. All images via Cheryl Lee, used with permission.

If a family in the community lost all their belongings in a fire, Mark would come back later to hand-deliver clothes, toothbrushes, and anything else they might need.

"He was also a roofer," his wife, Cheryl, said. "So if someone had a fire in their house and he had worked that fire, the next day he would get back in his truck and go repair their roof for them so they would be able to go back home."

Mark wanted to be there for his neighborhood. "If you had something going on, he would just sit on the front bench of the firehouse, just sit down and talk to people," said Carina Escolastico, who lives across the street from the firehouse. "He always had a smile for everybody. It was motivating to have him around you because he would just bring positive energy."

When people were injured in a fire, Mark would visit them in the hospital, and if they died, he would attend their funerals.

Lee and some of his fellow firefighters outside the fire station during the Jersey City Fire Department toy drive in the 1990s.

"He just took care of the community all of the time," Cheryl said.

Mark would even spring into action on family vacations if help was needed. In Mexico, he rescued five men from drowning after they got caught in a riptide.

But in his community, he was especially driven to help the children.

When he first became a fireman, Cheryl said, he started a new tradition for the kids in his neighborhood: free ice cream. "Every Friday payday, he bought the whole neighborhood ice cream. And I would say, 'Honey, you just got the paycheck,' and he would just say to me, 'But the kids are waiting for their ice cream.'"

Lee wrapping gifts for the toy drive.

Mark also helped build playgrounds in the neighborhood, worked with the Special Olympics, and, for 27 years, led the Jersey City Fire Department’s annual toy drive so that he could make sure that no child was without a present for the holidays.

"[The toy drive] just kept getting bigger and bigger every year," remembered retired firefighter Thomas Facciola, who worked alongside Mark at the firehouse for about 20 years. "It was almost like a yearlong thing because he would keep adding people. ... He would go to all the churches and schools, to all the projects, just to add more kids to the list."

Carina said she will never forget when Mark delivered toys to her daughter as part of the Christmas drive. In 2009, she had given birth to baby girl diagnosed with health issues and brain damage, and as a new single mother alone for the holidays, Carina said she felt down and a little depressed. But Mark brought her new family cheer.  

"He just knocked on my door and said 'Merry Christmas,' and he gave [my daughter] her first toys and stuff," she recalled. "He brought a lot of joy to me and my baby at that time. ... He brought tears to my eyes."

On 9/11, Mark was one of the first responders.

Lee and other first responders at Ground Zero.

Mark had worked a 24-hour shift the day before 9/11, and he had planned to take the next day off, Cheryl said, but as soon as he heard that a plane had hit the World Trade Center, he headed straight into the city.

And he stayed at the site for seven straight days.

"He ate there and slept there. ... He did search-and-rescue, he worked on the bucket line," Cheryl explained. "He came home, and he had a very bad cough, you know."

Lee and other first responders at Ground Zero.

Years later, Mark began to develop a series of chronic illnesses associated with his efforts at Ground Zero.

Mark worked as long as he could, both in the line of duty and through his volunteer causes, until he was too sick to continue.

"He went into the hospital in January [2014], and they said he couldn’t work anymore, but he said to me, 'I’m going back, I’m going back,'" Cheryl remembered. "And he told the doctors. He told everybody, 'I can do this. I can do this,' but in reality, he really couldn’t."

Mark died at the age of 54 on May 9, 2014. Even in death, he helped others by being an organ donor — donating his corneas and skin for burn victims.

Cheryl Lee and one of the Engine 10 firetrucks dedicated in memory of her husband.

Before he died, Mark's family made him a promise that they would continue his work for him in his memory. And they are doing just that.

Cheryl now volunteers with a number of local community organizations, including the toy drive, which they have renamed the Capt. Mark Lee Christmas Fund Drive in his memory.

The Lees and others at the 2013 toy drive.

Mark chose to live his life knowing that every decision you make — from the biggest to the smallest — affects others.

Whether it is being there to listen to a neighbor or helping families rebuild after a tragedy, any positive action can help make someone else's day just a little bit better. Even if these gestures seem small at the time, they can have lasting impacts on our communities for the better.

Carina recently applied to have the street with his firehouse dedicated to Mark because of the lasting effects he had on his community. "We still miss him. We will always miss him, and that is why we want to dedicate the street to him to recognize all his hard work — 29 years serving our community."

Through his service in the line of duty and his volunteer work, Mark worked diligently to make the world a better place not only for his own family, but for his community. And in the process, he inspired others to follow in his footsteps.

Lee and his son.

"If we had fruit in the house, [my daughter] would cross over to the firehouse and bring an apple, a banana, ever since she was two," said Carina. Her daughter is now seven. "She thought that Mark was nice — he would give her toys — so she still remembers him."

And Cheryl said her family was inspired to do good, too. "My son is just like him … [and Mark], he inspired me. He made me who I am today," Cheryl said. "He touched so many lives, and he will continue to touch their lives. We will make sure of that."

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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

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The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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