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Leah Ableson is a 24-year-old wedding planner living in New York City, and she’s made it her mission to create traditions that bring others joy.

On paper, Leah could be quintessential material for the opening of a Christmas movie: a millennial who’s overtaxed by work and too busy to think of anyone other than herself before having an unexpected run-in with Santa that reminds her of the true meaning of Christmas. But Leah’s already begun a tradition of helping others around the holidays with no Santa run-in required.

Busy as she is, Leah sets aside her birthday every year — just a few weeks before the holidays — to go shopping for as many toys as she can afford, and then she drops them off at Toys for Tots. She’s also part of a bigger annual tradition: She’s a member of a specially trained team that helps Macy's host Santa and his elves during their month-long residency at SantaLand on 34th Street.


All images via iStock.

Leah created her holiday traditions to be about one thing: keeping the magic alive for others.

She sees much of that magic firsthand as children — and adults! — interact with Santa. "There have been kids who have asked for peace in the world, or peace in their families, or for their parents to get everything that they've ever wanted," she writes in a message. "You really see so much good.”

That human goodness — and Santa’s ability to coax it out of people and into the open — is what constitutes holiday magic in Leah’s book. The idea that she, too, could spread some magic of her own is what inspired her to start her own toy-drive tradition.

"Seeing the kids at SantaLand every year really drove home to me how special Christmas and the magic surrounding it are for a lot of them," she says. "To a lot of kids, toys aren't these material objects, they are treasures that inspire their imagination and creativity. Going out and picking out toys for kids felt like a way that I could sort of encourage that magic."

There's a common misconception that millennials are universally uninterested in traditions. But Leah is definitely not alone in using rituals new and old to celebrate the season.

Across her generation, people are doing the same thing: picking and choosing which traditions are important based not on an older generation's input, but on what rituals bring them and their communities the most joy.

For 23-year-old Mae McKenna, midnight Mass is the event that completes her Christmas. She goes with her seven-person family, and as she begins to think about starting a family of her own, she says that church will be a tradition that she keeps with her.

"There’s a lot of really sweet magical stories that come out of the religious end of the holiday that keep people humble," she shares. "It’ll be important to me to pass that onto my kids so they care more about spending time with family and celebrating than focusing on the gifts they get."

For a family of swing dancers, it's raucous cooking-and-dancing Christmas prep that defines the season. "We listen to the same six CDs in the same six-disk CD changer," explains 22-year-old Carolyn Chadwick. "It's not so much about the gift-getting or giving. My family doesn't get along very well, but something happens to us when we dance. I can't quite describe it, but it's important that we keep doing it."

Some traditions are downright ridiculous but no less treasured. "I created a tradition of always getting my brother and sister wooden shapes from Michael's for Christmas. It's the worst gift ever, and it's always funny," says 24-year-old Ryan Creamer, who says he started giving at least one truly terrible present every year to lighten the pressure associated with trying to give the perfect gift.

That Leah, Mae, Ryan, Carolyn, and others put so much thought into their holiday traditions contradicts the notion that their generation is too "self-centered" to care about such things.

"I think millennials have a way of saying when we think something is pointless, or being done for the wrong reason," Leah wrote. "And so I think a lot of the traditions that older generations may have held onto are being questioned, but I don't think it's because we don't respect tradition. I'd like to think our age group upholds fewer traditions, but the ones that we uphold have great value."

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

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via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

via Pixabay

The show must go on… and more power to her.

There are few things that feel more awful than being stranded at the altar by your spouse-to-be. That’s why people are cheering on Kayley Stead, 27, from the U.K. for turning a day of extreme disappointment into a party for her friends, family and most importantly, herself.

According to a report in The Metro, on Thursday, September 15, Stead woke up in an Airbnb with her bridemaids, having no idea that her fiance, Kallum Norton, 24, had run off early that morning. The word got to Stead’s bridesmaids at around 7 a.m. the day of the wedding.

“[A groomsman] called one of the maids of honor to explain that the groom had ‘gone.’ We were told he had left the caravan they were staying at in Oxwich Bay (the venue) at 12:30 a.m. to visit his family, who were staying in another caravan nearby and hadn’t returned. When they woke in the morning, he was not there and his car had gone,” Jordie Cullen wrote on a GoFundMe page.

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Pop Culture

14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

Here are 14 timeless pleasures to make you feel like a kid again:

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