Rebecca White really didn't enjoy being yelled at all day.

In her job as a telephone support representative for a bank, White — a Louisville, Kentucky, educator — had to contend with abusive colleagues, monotony, and patchy training that left her baffled by customer questions she was often unable to answer.

It was a job she felt she had to take. Struggling through a series of part-time teaching gigs left her with inadequate care for her diabetes and kidney problems. Relying on Planned Parenthood and other free or low-cost clinics for basic treatment was not working anymore. The job offered her health insurance — even as it left her glued to her chair for hours at a time, exacerbating her medical issues.


Photo via iStock.

"It was really rough on me to be as immobile as you have to be. There's no moving around," White says.

A month after the most recent legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was struck down by the Supreme Court in June 2015, White quit her job.

She now receives insurance through Kentucky's Kynect exchange while working part-time as a substitute teacher and launching her own tutoring business. Emotionally — and physically — she's in a better, more secure place.

Before the Affordable Care Act, if you got seriously sick, and didn't want to go bankrupt, having a have a full-time job with a good health plan attached was essential.

In 2008, a Harvard Business School study estimated that 11 million Americans were stuck in jobs they would prefer to change or leave because those jobs offered health care coverage.

In the years since ACA's passage, millions of those Americans have been able to leave those jobs and try something new.

Photo via iStock.

Data on the law's effect on "employment lock" — workers staying in unwanted jobs because those jobs offer health benefits — is mixed. A Princeton-Cornell study recently detailed in a working paper found that the ACA's Medicaid expansion produced no substantial short-term job shifting among lower-income workers. Meanwhile, an analysis by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found a 10% increase in voluntary part-time workers since the first quarter of 2013.

The latter figure includes people, like White, who suddenly found themselves free to leave toxic or harmful work environments to pursue alternate or self-employment as well as others who discovered that working a series of projects, rather than a single full-time job, was a boon to their career growth and personal lives.

James Sasek, an IT worker in Des Moines, Iowa, discovered that the flexibility to jump from project to project afforded by his ACA insurance allows him to better balance work and family.

Sasek found access to the ACA's health insurance market invaluable after his wife was laid off from her banking job shortly after giving birth to their second child. The law allowed him to leave his own frustrating job and go freelance, something both he and his wife had long desired.

"Our plan is to take advantage of our gaps in employment to enjoy our kids' childhood with them," he said. "If one of us has a few months off between gigs, it's a really great and unique opportunity."

In addition to the flexibility to spend time with his family, Sasek explained that he earns more money in his freelance gigs than he did in his old jobs and that the ability to take on a diverse array of projects allows him to consistently add new skills to his resume.

For David Rigano, a theater director and playwright in New York City, the ACA was both a hurdle and a blessing.

After graduating from college, Rigano took a part-time job at Trader Joe's to secure a steady income and health insurance. When the ACA was passed, he was informed that he would need to scale up his hours to stay on his employer's health plan. Instead, he transferred to a plan on the exchange, which allowed him to continue to work a part-time schedule that helped him pursue directing and writing jobs.  

David Rigano (right) and brother Paul (left), performing in New York City. Photo by Tiffany Doris Kaldenbach/Facebook.  

"I learned a lot that year about applying for insurance as a freelancer whose work from year to year changes," he said.

With the freedom to work any job — not just one that offered him insurance — he landed a gig as a guest services representative at New York's Lincoln Center, which doesn't offer a health plan, and left Trader Joe's in December. His new job offers him a steady paycheck in his chosen field and lets him do personal projects on the side.

Some of the same folks are nervous that the law's repeal will jeopardize the gains they've made in their lives and careers.

Nearly 16.4 million people have gained insurance coverage since the ACA was passed in 2010, prompting many of them, like White, Sasek, and Rigano, to make big personal and professional decisions.

Unsurprisingly, the prospect of seeing the law scaled back — or done away with altogether — is setting their nerves on edge.

"If we go back to pre-ACA, my family will have to work more, have less choice in jobs, and spend less time with our children," Sasek said. It's a message he frequently relays to his local and national legislators.

Without coverage on the ACA's health care exchange, Sasek explained, either he or his wife would have to find work that offers it, giving them less flexibility to chart their careers or spend time with their kids.

White, meanwhile, worries about returning to a job that mistreats her. "Even if I can find one — and I looked a good long time before I got the bank job — if this is accompanied by the economy tanking again, and I'm pretty sure it will, things will just be a disaster," she said.

As the 115th Congress debates what to do with the ACA, the people who depend on it are waiting and watching.

With a Republican administration incoming, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has vowed to repeal and replace Obamacare this year. While the repeal part is self-explanatory, it is unclear what a potential replacement would look like.

Photo via iStock.

For now, Rigano's theater career is on the upswing. In recent years, he's seen more paying directing jobs and is mounting a production of a new science-fiction musical in New York.

That trajectory, he worries, is what's at stake for him in the coming months.

"I think that a complete repeal without something comparable replacing it will result in a lot of people who need to find jobs and can't build careers," he said. A vastly scaled-back Obamacare would leave him with a tough choice: to compromise his goals for the sake of his health.

Like many of the law's beneficiaries, he hopes he doesn't have to choose any time soon.

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.

Your weekly roundup of internet sunshine.

Hey everyone! Hope you're staying safe and healthy, and if you're not, at least you know you're not alone. I mean, omicron? Phew. Pandemics certainly know how to keep us on our toes.

If you need a respite or distraction from all that, we've got you covered. If immersing yourself in cute animal videos and feel-good stories of human awesomeness is wrong, who wants to be right? Nobody, that's who.

We all need a break from the less pleasant parts of life, and cheering ourselves up with simple, happy things is a tried and true way to push those endorphins and lift our mood for a bit.

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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.

The scarf, a simple accessory that some find an essential fashion piece. Both fashionable and function with the warmth they provide, scarves can be a valuable gift for any occasion or person. Here, we've selected our best selling scarves from our store. At Upworthy Market, when you purchase a product, you directly support the artisans who craft their own products, so with every purchase, you're doing good. These scarves are not only unique, but they are hand-made by local artisans and all under $30.

1. Fair Trade Woven Dark Gray Alpaca Blend Scarf

Celinda Jaco selects a cozy blend of Andean alpaca for this handsome men's scarf. Classic in style, it features fine stripes of white and black woven through the dark grey textile. Hand-tied fringe completes a distinguished design.

cdn11.bigcommerce.com

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"What Do You Know About The Female Body?" from Jimmy Kimmel

When Jimmy Kimmel takes to the street, you know you’re in for a good laugh at just how little we actually know about, well, seemingly anything. That goes for anatomy too. In this case, female anatomy.

In a segment called “What Do You Know About The Female Body?” men try—and hilariously fail—to answer even the most basic questions, like “does a female have one uterus, or two?” much to the amazement of some of their female partners.

Here are some of the very best bits of nonwisdom:

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