His mom took care of him when he was a sick child. Now he's paying her back big time.
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Old Navy Cozy Socks

Dashawn Hightower was only 3 years old when doctors discovered he had a tumor wrapped around his kidney.

He went through two years of intensive treatments that included having a needle stuck under his chest to make sure his kidney was still working.

Eventually, he made it out the other side cancer free but sans one kidney.


"Every day, I just think I’m lucky to be here," Dashawn says.

Dashawn Hightower. All photos via Dashawn Hightower, used with permission.

However, the experience wasn't only hard on him — his mother and two younger sisters were seriously affected as well.

Dashawn's mother became extremely overprotective of him, even after he was declared healthy again.

"She didn’t want me to do anything," Dashawn recalls. "No sports. No after school activities."

His mother raised him and his sisters on her own, and it was always difficult to make ends meet. So when Dashawn got into his teens, he decided to find a way to lift some of the burden off of her, even if it meant worrying her a little bit in the beginning.

It began with him attending a 6 a.m. meeting at his school about a student-focused career-building program.

When he reached high school, he joined This Way Ahead — an internship program designed to help teens get a leg up on their future.

An intern working at Old Navy.

The internship program is one of the efforts under Old Navy's cause platform ONward!. The brand is actually expanding the program through a trigger donation this Black Friday. You can buy their cozy socks for $1, and each purchase will result in a $1 donation to Boys & Girls Clubs, up to $1 million. The money will go to creating an employment program for Boys & Girls Club youth, offering them career coaching and a first job at Old Navy stores.  

It's all about giving kids the skills they need to succeed in the workplace.

Every day, the program focused on a different job-based subject — what questions to ask at an interview, how to write a great resume, customer conflicts, etc. Slowly but surely, Dashawn felt his confidence building. He knew he could be a great business leader.

"It taught me responsibility," Dashawn says. "I own all my actions."

As a result, Dashawn started taking care of his sisters more. He'd help them with their homework and get ready for school. And soon, he landed his first job.

Dashawn with his mom at his Old Navy job.

"[The program] helped me to have the upper hand when I interviewed for a position at Old Navy," Dashawn recalls.

Not surprisingly, he aced the interview and was brought onboard as a paid intern in 2014. Last year in November, he was hired as a full-time staff employee, and today, he's a business and training operations specialist at Old Navy's Herald Square location in New York City.

He's finally getting to lift some of the financial strain off his mom, and she could not be happier with how far he's come.

She even remembers the first time he bought her a pair of shoes. She had the receipt framed.

Today, Dashawn takes every opportunity that comes his way to make life better because he knows he might not have had a life at all.

Dashawn with interns in the TWA program.

"I could’ve died when I was 3," Dashawn says. "So I’m going after everything I can, the most I can. I’m hungry."

He tries to instill the same go-getter attitude in his associates and the interns he now manages. Many of them come directly from Old Navy's first jobs program, so they're already at the top of their game. But they still come to him sometimes with questions or concerns about their next steps. Since he's been in their shoes, he shares the same advice he's given himself in the past.

"No matter what you do, you always show your best," he says. "And every time you complete a certain chapter, it’s just a chapter. You have the whole book to complete. You have the whole journey to look forward to."

Several years ago, you wouldn't have known what QAnon was unless you spent a lot of time reading through comments on Twitter or frequented internet chat rooms. Now, with prominent Q adherents making headlines for storming the U.S. Capitol and elements of the QAnon worldview spilling into mainstream politics, the conspiracy theory/doomsday cult has become a household topic of conversation.

Many of us have watched helplessly as friends and family members fall down the rabbit hole, spewing strange ideas about Democrats and celebrities being pedophiles who torture children while Donald Trump leads a behind-the-scenes roundup of these evil Deep State actors. Perfectly intelligent people can be susceptible to conspiracy theories, no matter how insane, which makes it all the more frustrating.

A person who was a true believer in QAnon mythology (which you can read more about here) recently participated in an "Ask Me Anything" thread on Reddit, and what they shared about their experiences was eye-opening. The writer's Reddit handle is "diceblue," but for simplicity's sake we'll call them "DB."

DB explained that they weren't new to conspiracy theories when QAnon came on the scene. "I had been DEEP into conspiracy for about 8 years," they wrote. "Had very recently been down the ufo paranormal rabbit hole so when Q really took off midterm for trump I 'did my research' and fell right into it."

DB says they were a true believer until a couple of years ago when they had an experience that snapped them out of it:

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

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Two weeks ago, we watched a pro-Trump mob storm the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overthrow the results of a U.S. election and keep Donald Trump in power. And among those insurrectionists were well-known adherents of QAnon, nearly every image of the crowd shows people wearing Q gear or carrying Q flags, and some of the more frightening elements we saw tie directly into QAnon beliefs.

Since hints of it first started showing up in social media comments several years ago, I've been intrigued—and endlessly frustrated—by the phenomenon of QAnon. At first, it was just a few fringey whacko conspiracy theorists I could easily roll my eyes at and ignore, but as I started seeing elements of it show up more and more frequently from more and more people, alarm bells started ringing.

Holy crap, there are a lot of people who actually believe this stuff.

Eventually, it got personal. A QAnon adherent on Twitter kept commenting on my tweets, pushing bizarro Q ideas on many of my posts. The account didn't use a real name, but the profile was classic QAnon, complete with the #WWG1WGA. ("Where we go one, we go all"—a QAnon rallying cry.) I thought it might be a bot, so I blocked them. Later, I discovered that it was actually one of my own extended family members.

Holy crap, I actually know people who actually believe this stuff.

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Images via Canva and Unsplash

If there's one thing that everyone can agree on, it's that being in a pandemic sucks.

However, we seem to be on different pages as to what sucks most about it. Many of us are struggling with being separated from our friends and loved ones for so long. Some of us have lost friends and family to the virus, while others are dealing with ongoing health effects of their own illness. Millions are struggling with job loss and financial stress due to businesses being closed. Parents are drowning, dealing with their kids' online schooling and lack of in-person social interactions on top of their own work logistics. Most of us hate wearing masks (even if we do so diligently), and the vast majority of us are just tired of having to think about and deal with everything the pandemic entails.

Much has been made of the mental health impact of the pandemic, which is a good thing. We need to have more open conversations about mental health in general, and with everything so upside down, it's more important now than ever. However, it feels like pandemic mental health conversations have been dominated by people who want to justify anti-lockdown arguments. "We can't let the cure be worse than the disease," people say. Kids' mental health is cited as a reason to open schools, the mental health challenges of financial despair as a reason to keep businesses open, and the mental health impact of social isolation as a reason to ditch social distancing measures.

It's not that those mental health challenges aren't real. They most definitely are. But when we focus exclusively on the mental health impact of lockdowns, we miss the fact that there are also significant mental health struggles on the other side of those arguments.

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