As far as years go, 2016 could use some good PR.
It seemed like we lost every celebrity we’d ever loved. We slogged through a divisive and bitter campaign season. And just when cellphones seemed like our only solace in the madness, they started literally exploding in our hands.
Needless to say, people are ready to throw in the towel on this one.
But some really good stuff happened in 2016, too.
Lots of people worked to make the world a kinder, safer, and happier place this year. They helped lend a hand, spread joy, and support people in need. And hearing about these people gives me hope that we’re all gonna be OK.
Today, I want to highlight and remember the stories of these people. I want to give 2016 the positive press it needs before its relegated to the dustbin of history.
Here are 15 stories about 2016’s bright spots. With helpers like this, it’s clear we’re headed in the right direction.
1. J.K. Rowling found out her books helped save this baby’s life and did the most J.K. Rowling thing ever.
After Kelley Benham French’s daughter Juniper was born prematurely, she and her husband started reading the Harry Potter series to Juniper in the hospital. The books (and top-notch medical care) helped the baby get through her time in the NICU. And when J.K. Rowling heard about young Juniper five years later, she kept the good going.
2. This school replaced detention with meditation, and it completely turned things around.
Robert W. Coleman Elementary School had zero suspensions last school year and they’re on track to do it again. Way to go, kids (and forward-thinking teachers)!
3. Politicians took a break from arguing to unite against racism.
Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton disagreed on a few things, but they were a united front against bigotry, at least on social media. And it was a pretty great day.
4. Even after the election, complete strangers rallied together to support one another.
5. This amazing mom took care of people’s babies while they made huge parenting decisions.
Interim parents like Ann Lapin provide a vital service for new parents and these sweet babies.
6. This man studied photography while in prison, and his photos showed a side of humanity we don’t often see.
Since his release in 2011, Donato Di Camillo has captured portraits of people who are mentally ill and homeless and larger than life characters he meets while exploring New York. “These people walk around, and they’re faceless,” he said. “I feel that everybody deserves a face.”
7. Michelle Obama wore a gorgeous gown that had an equally remarkable story.
The stunning rose gold gown by Donatella Versace was a symbol of female strength and empowerment.
8. When this woman’s wife came out as transgender at her office, she was nervous. But her colleagues surprised her with a party.
There were cupcakes, hugs, and lots of happy tears. That’s the positive power of 2016.
Not only did he finally take home the statuette, he reminded us why we fell in love with his work and activism in the first place.
10. Even when terrible things happened, good people stood up and said, “Not today, 2016,” like this woman in a local restaurant.
She overheard a table full of homophobes and decided to kill ’em with kindness.
11. Two awesome tweens kicked butt in their Halloween costumes and taught us all an important lesson.
It’s hard to hate on a year that gave us the Juslims, the Jewish and Muslim superhero team created by these amazing girls.
12. Stephen Colbert and Killer Mike got real about race relations.
Sometimes, representing your entire race actually works. (But just this once.)
13. Yes, there were natural disasters, but in the wake of devastation, people were there for each other.
When a massive wildfire broke out in Canada, people like Les Wiley stopped what they were doing to lend a hand.
14. Even on the world stage, kindness and courage were never outpaced by the thrill of victory.
When Olympic athletes Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand and Abbey D’Agostino of the U.S. collided on the track, they helped each other up and finished together.
15. People dug in and fought for what they believed in this year, like the water protectors at Standing Rock and the thousands of allies supporting them.
There will be tear-jerking triumphs and bitter defeats every year. We’ll lose leaders and loved ones every year. We’ll celebrate new babies and make lasting friendships every year. That’s because life continues in a wobbly, perfectly imperfect circle.
As this year ends, I hope you can keep an eye on the good things too. It won’t make the bad things go away or change them. But it will help us remember something important: Many people are good. Many people will stand up for what’s right. And when we fall down, many of us help each other up. No flip of the calendar can change that.