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upworthy
Joy

Woman who gave $100 to two refugee sisters on a plane is reunited with them 23 years later

Little did she know how life changing that act of kindness would be.

woman finds stranger she gave $100 to 23 years ago
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Who knows where kindness may lead?

Often, we have little awareness of how our actions might affect the lives of others. Our kindness simply goes into the ether, maybe to return as good karma, who knows? And most of the time that’s fine, considering that the act was probably done to help someone else, not for recognition. But still, have you ever done something kind for a stranger, and wondered, whatever happened to that person?

In 1999, two sisters boarded a plane from Amsterdam to the United States, fleeing their home in the former Yugoslavia. The Republic of Yugoslavia had been continuously bombed by NATO for three months during the Kosovo War, in an attempt to thwart widespread ethnic cleansing of Albanian civilians. The sisters didn’t have a penny to their name—they left behind everything they knew. Only one of them could speak English.

A woman sat next to them on the plan, and, reminded of her own daughters, was moved by their frightening plight. She reached into her purse and pulled out an envelope. Inside she placed dangly earrings, a $100 bill and a handwritten note, which read:

“I am so sorry that the bombing of your country has caused your family any problems. I hope your stay in America will be a safe and happy one for you–Welcome to America–please use this to help you here. A friend from the plane–Tracy.”

The word “safe” had been underlined. For the refugee sisters Ayda Zugay and Vanja Contino, that had meant everything.


Zugay recalled to CNN, "It was the first time that I felt, like, relief. This is a safe place, and we can build a future here. We went from this drastic horror into this beautiful act of kindness." Zugay’s CNN interview would later help her and her sister reunite with Tracy 23 years later, and let Tracy know just how life-changing her gift was.

The search for Tracy had been a passion project years in the making.

For Zugay, Tracy’s note became a “diamond in the dark” as she navigated through her new life in America, facing prejudice toward immigrants. The impact it made was so great that every year as Memorial Day and Thanksgiving approached, Zugay would renew her search.

Over the years, Zugay had enlisted the help of airlines, hotels, Reddit and several refugee organizations. In a recent video, Zugay shared what little clues she uncovered:

“Tracy, by this time, would be a middle aged or an older woman who is amazing at tennis and had traveled for it in the past. She would have flown from Paris, where she stayed at a Holiday Inn and where she played tennis, to Amsterdam, where we met on that flight. She would have flown from Amsterdam to Minnesota, and this would have been on May 31, 1999.”

Though people were moved by her story and offered information and encouragement, she mostly met dead ends. That is, until her CNN story began circulating. More than 2 million readers saw it, including one of Tracy’s close contacts.

As Zugay surmised, Tracy (whose last name we now know is Peck), was indeed a tennis enthusiast. In 1999, she got a chance to travel internationally to play and watch the French Open. Her friend Susan Allen, a tennis coach, saw Tracy’s note on social media and recognized the handwriting.

Allen was able to put Peck in touch with Zugay and Contino, who now live in Boston and Connecticut. The three were able to finally share a long awaited emotional reunion over Zoom.

The sisters gave Peck two decades worth of stories: how they were able to survive the entire summer off of that $100 bill by eating pancake mix and Coca-Cola, how Zugay was able to graduate from Boston University and work with a nonprofit and how Contino became happily married with two children, instilled with Peck’s inclination to pay it forward. As they shared the untold chapters of their story, Zugay wore the dangly earrings given by Peck all those years ago.

We might never know where our goods deeds lead. But one thing is for certain: kindness is powerful. That next act of generosity toward a stranger could be the very saving grace they needed to change their life forever.

Pop Culture

SNL sketch about George Washington's dream for America hailed an 'instant classic'

"People will be referencing it as one of the all time best SNL skits for years.”

Saturday Night Live/Youtube

Seriously, what were our forefathers thinking with our measuring system?

Ever stop to think how bizarre it is that the United States is one of the only countries to not use the metric system? Or how it uses the word “football” to describe a sport that, unlike fútbol, barely uses the feet at all?

What must our forefathers have been thinking as they were creating this brave new world?

Wonder no further. All this and more is explored in a recent Saturday Night Live sketch that folks are hailing as an “instant classic.”

The hilarious clip takes place during the American Revolution, where George Washington rallies his troops with an impassioned speech about his future hopes for their fledgling country…all the while poking fun at America’s nonsensical measurements and language rules.

Like seriously, liters and milliliters for soda, wine and alcohol but gallons, pints, and quarters for milk and paint? And no “u” after “o” in words like “armor” and “color” but “glamour” is okay?

The inherent humor in the scene is only amplified by comedian and host Nate Bargatze’s understated, deadpan delivery of Washington. Bargatze had quite a few hits during his hosting stint—including an opening monologue that acted as a mini comedy set—but this performance takes the cake.

Watch:

All in all, people have been applauding the sketch, noting that it harkened back to what “SNL” does best, having fun with the simple things.

Here’s what folks are saying:

“This skit is an instant classic. I think people will be referencing it as one of the all time best SNL skits for years.”

“Dear SNL, whoever wrote this sketch, PLEASE let them write many many MANY more!”

“Instantly one of my favorite SNL sketches of all time!!!”

“I’m not lying when I say I have watched this sketch about 10 times and laughed just as hard every time.”

“This may be my favorite sketch ever. This is absolutely brilliant.”


There’s more where that came from. Catch even more of Bargatze’s “SNL” episode here.


This article originally appeared on 10.30.23

Photo from Pixaba7

Having the courage to report to the police when things appear off.

When you see or hear an Amber Alert, what do you usually do?

Sometimes it's the middle of the night, and the buzz of your cell phone stirs you out of a deep sleep before you can silence it. Other times, the alert interrupts your favorite song on the radio. Maybe you wait patiently for it to end. Maybe you change the station.


After all, who hasn't wondered, "What are the odds?"

Sure, the alerts are heartbreaking, but what are the odds you'll bump into the missing kid? What are the odds you'll see the getaway car? What are the odds you'll be able to do anything about it? Turns out, better than you think.

Here are five stories of people who suddenly found themselves face to face with a kidnapped child ... and rose to the occasion.

High intensity situations require calm nerves and quick thinking. Kudos to these people for noticing the Amber Alerts at the right time and, in some cases, for having the courage to act right then and there.

1) 2-year-old Ronnie Tran was found when his baby sitter, John Tuong, saw an Amber Alert ... for Ronnie.

John Tuong had no idea he was baby-sitting a missing kid.

Ronnie was kidnapped by his 65-year-old maternal grandmother, who, along with an accomplice, had attacked and restrained his mother. She left Ronnie with a family friend, John Tuong, who merely thought he was baby-sitting his sister's boyfriend's son.

Tuong saw an Amber Alert on his phone the next morning and realized the kid in the alert was actually asleep in the next room. John called the police immediately and Ronnie made it home safe.

2) 6-year-old Kloe was taken from her bed on February 21, 2015. Thanks to a gas station employee, she was back home on February 22.

Kloe was abducted in the middle of the night by a family friend. After she was reported missing, an Amber Alert went out, which, luckily, was seen by a clerk at a local gas station. The clerk recognized Kloe from the alert and tipped off police that he had seen the girl, the man who had taken her, and the van he was driving.

The clerk's account helped police narrow their search, and Carlin was eventually stopped on the interstate by a trooper, some 300 miles from Kloe's home, and taken into custody.

Kloe made it home to her family safe and sound the next day.

3) Leah and Jordan's kidnappers' RV broke down. The cops that pulled over to help had just seen the Amber Alert.

Amber Alerts aren't just for bystanders, they're for law enforcement too.

After 3-year-old Leah and 4-year-old Jordan were taken by relatives of their mother, the kidnapper's RV broke down on the side of the highway. Two deputies stopped by the vehicle to try to help them get back on the road. Luckily, the deputies had seen the Amber Alert and recognized the kids inside the vehicle.

Both made it back home safely the next day, but who knows what might have happened had the RV not broken down or if the cops weren't on the lookout for the missing kids.

4) A stranger stole a car with 3-year-old Bella inside. Later, a quick-thinking bystander physically pulled her to safety.

Leslie and Bella pose inside her bakery, Mini Cupcakes. Photo courtesy of Leslie Fiet, used with permission.

A strange woman asked to bum a cigarette from Bella's father as he walked into the 7-Eleven convenience store. He gave it to her. Then, the woman jumped in the car, with Bella still inside, and drove off.

Later on, the owner of a local cupcake bakery, Leslie Fiet, spotted the car after seeing the Amber Alert and she heroically pulled Bella from the backseat.

"My initial thought was to call 911 (when I discovered the car) but then I looked closer and saw Bella was in a tremendous amount of stress, hyperventilating and crying," Fiet told ABC News. "I just dropped my phone and ran out the door."

She locked Bella, and herself, inside the bakery until Bella's parents and police could arrive.

5) A pizza shop employee on her break spotted 7-year-old Nicolas and followed his kidnapper until police could arrive.

Courtney was brave to follow the kidnapper; and it paid off. Photo courtesy of KRIS TV.

Courtney Best, who was working at a small pizza shop in Corpus Christi, Texas, saw an Amber Alert on her phone while on her smoke break. She looked up and just happened to see the vehicle in question, a white Dodge Avenger, sitting in the parking lot in front of her with a child inside.

She followed the car, while on the phone with police, as it drove away.

"Cause, what are the odds? What are the odds of me looking at my phone?" Courtney told KrisTV. "And I usually don't even look at Amber Alerts, as bad as that sounds. I look at them and I don't really pay attention."

Thanks to her quick thinking, the police were able to recover Nicolas and return him safely to his family.

According to Robert Hoever of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, about 95% of Amber Alerts are resolved within 72 hours.

Robert, who is Director of Special Programs at the NCEMC, told Upworthy, "You can definitely see a huge change in how fast children are recovered today. The technology out there today helps."

In addition to wireless alerts, his organization also partners to issue alerts via Internet service providers, search engines, Internet ad exchanges, and even digital billboards.

And, Robert adds, if you ever find yourself in a situation like this, with any sort of information about a missing child, call 911 before you do anything. Emergency personnel will be able to help you navigate the situation.

We see a lot of Amber Alerts go viral, which is great, but we don't often get to see the happy endings.

Sadly, not every Amber Alert ends with a reunion. But the more we share these alerts with our networks, the more people they reach and the more likely they are to be seen by the right people.

In the meantime, it's comforting to know that most of these kids eventually make it home safely.


This article originally appeared on 08.10.15

A woman is shocked to learn that her name means something totally different in Australia.

Devyn Hales, 22, from California, recently moved to Sydney, Australia, on a one-year working visa and quickly learned that her name wouldn’t work Down Under. It all started when a group of men made fun of her on St. Patrick’s Day.

After she introduced herself as Devyn, the men laughed at her. "They burst out laughing, and when I asked them why, they told me devon is processed lunch meat,” she told The Daily Mail. It's similar to baloney, so I introduce myself as Dev now,” she said in a viral TikTok video with over 1.7 million views.

For those who have never been to Australia, Devon is a processed meat product usually cut into slices and served on sandwiches. It is usually made up of pork, basic spices and a binder. Devon is affordable because people buy it in bulk and it’s often fed to children. Australians also enjoy eating it fried, like spam. It is also known by other names such as fritz, circle meat, Berlina and polony, depending on where one lives on the continent. It's like in America, where people refer to cola as pop, soda, or Coke, depending on where they live in the country.


So, one can easily see why a young woman wouldn’t want to refer to herself as a processed meat product that can be likened to boloney or spam. "Wow, love that for us," another woman named Devyn wrote in the comments. “Tell me the name thing isn't true,” a woman called Devon added.

@dhalesss

#fypシ #australia #americaninaustralia #sydney #aussie

Besides changing her name, Dev shared some other differences between living in Australia and her home country.

“So everyone wears slides. I feel like I'm the only one with 'thongs'—flip-flops—that have the little thing in the middle of your big toe. Everyone wears slides,” she said. Everyone wears shorts that go down to your knees and that's a big thing here.”

Dev also noted that there are a lot of guys in Australia named Lachlan, Felix and Jack.

She was also thrown off by the sound of the plentiful magpies in Australia. According to Dev, they sound a lot like crying children with throat infections. “The birds threw me off,” she said before making an impression that many people in the comments thought was close to perfect. "The birds is so spot on," Jess wrote. "The birds, I will truly never get used to it," Marissa added.

One issue that many Americans face when moving to Australia is that it is more expensive than the United States. However, many Americans who move to Australia love the work-life balance. Brooke Laven, a brand strategist in the fitness industry who moved there from the U.S., says that Aussies have the “perfect work-life balance” and that they are “hard-working” but “know where to draw the line.”

Despite the initial cultural shocks, Devyn is embracing her new life in Australia with a positive outlook. “The coffee is a lot better in Australia, too,” she added with a smile, inspiring others to see the bright side of cultural differences.

Science

A study reveals the cheapest time to buy airfare

The average flyer misses the best deal by 15 days.

Taking a trip on the airline.

Everyone seems to have a theory on the best time to purchase airfare to save the most money. Some say it's right before take-off. Others will swear that prices are lowest six months before the flight. Well, now we have the truth. A scientific study was conducted by Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Commission that found the best times to buy flight tickets to get the best deal possible.

When we actually buy...


DOMESTIC: 32 DAYS IN ADVANCE

INTERNATIONAL: 59 DAYS IN ADVANCE

When we should buy...

cheap deals, Expedia, ticket prices, domestic flights

Get your boarding pass ready.

Photo from Pixabay.

DOMESTIC: 57 DAYS IN ADVANCE

The ideal advance-purchase time for domestic flight to snag the lowest average airfare is 57 with prices climbing most rapidly in the 20 days leading up to the flight. On a flight that averages $496, it will cost $401 57 days before the flight and around $650 the day of departure.

INTERNATIONAL: 171 DAYS IN ADVANCE
For a ticket that averages $1,368, the lowest average of $1,004 happens around 171 days before take-off. On the day of, the price will be around $1875. Ticket prices begin to dramatically escalate 75 days leading up to departure.

(H/T Conde Nast Traveler)


This article originally appeared on 10.14.15

John Arthur Greene (left) and his brother Kevin


A childhood game can go very wrong in the blink of an eye.

"You'll never get me!"

“Freeze! Put your hands up."

If you've ever played cops and robbers, you know how the game goes.


John Arthur Greene was 8 and he was playing that game with his older brother Kevin. Only the two brothers played with real guns. Living on a farm, they were both old hands at handling firearms by their ages.

The blast from the gun must have startled them both.

firearms, family, children

John Arthur Greene (left) and his brother Kevin.

Image from "American Idol"/YouTube.

“We were always extremely safe. They were never loaded," John said.

Except this time it was. And John's brother died in his arms while he watched.

It happens more often than you would ever want to imagine.

In federal data from 2007 to 2011, which is likely under-reported, an average of 62 children were accidentally killed by firearms per year.

Here's a chilling example from Everytown for Gun Safety:

"In Asheboro, North Carolina, a 26-year-old mother was cleaning her home when she heard a gunshot. Rushing into the living room, she discovered that her three-year-old son had accidentally shot her boyfriend's three-year-old daughter with a .22-caliber rifle the parents had left in the room, loaded and unlocked."

And the numbers may actually be getting worse.

With an increase in unfettered access to guns and philosophical opposition to gun regulations, the numbers seem to be on the rise. Here's how many accidental shootings happened at the hands of children in 2015 alone, by age:

gun safety, laws, research data on gun deaths

Unintentional Firearm Injuries & Deaths, 2015.

From January 19-26 of 2016 — just one week — at least seven kids were accidentally shot by another kid.

American Idol, guilt and sorrow, accidental shootings

Accidental shootings of kids in one week, January 2016.

If the pace holds up for the rest of the year, America would be looking at over 300 accidental shootings of children, in many cases by children, for the year. That's far too many cases of children either carrying the guilt and pain of having shot a loved one or hurting or killing themselves by accident.

John Arthur Greene has been able to manage his feelings of guilt and sorrow through music and by sharing his story for others to hear.

He told his story during an audition for the final season of "American Idol." He says music has helped him keep his brother's memory alive:

"Right now I lift him up every day and he holds me up. Music is how I coped with everything."

It's a powerful reminder. No matter how we each feel about gun safety laws, guns should always be locked away unloaded and kept separately from ammunition.

Our babies are too precious to leave it to chance.

Watch John Arthur Greene's audition for "American Idol" here:

This article originally appeared on 03.07.16