He carved 6,000 steps
In Gaotan, China, in 1942, Liu Guojiang came upon a woman and one of her daughters who had tumbled into a river while washing clothes. Liu rescued themâand promptly fell in love with the woman, Xu Chaoqing. She considered Liu a hero, but some community members didnât approve of the coupleâs ten-year age difference. So Xu and Liu eloped, and they and Xuâs four children retreated to an abandoned straw hut in the mountains of Chongqing. Worried that his wife would get injured on the small, steep trail between the hut and the town below, Liu spent 57 yearsâand broke 36 steel chiselsâcarving 6,000 steps by hand into the mountainside to ensure that his wife could ascend and descend without trouble. Liu maintained the stone staircase until his death, in 2007, at the age of 72. Xu passed away on October 30, 2012. The two are buried on the same mountain where theyâd built their lives together. âAlison Caporimo
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He tracked down a kidney
Ken Ruinard/Independent Mail
When doctors told Larry Swilling, 77, that his wife â¨Jimmie Sueâs only kidney was failing, he knew he had â¨to do something quickly. Larry couldnât donate to his wife of 57 years, and Jimmie Sue, 76, was too sick to wait three years or more for an anonymous kidney donation. So Larry took to the streets of the coupleâs town of Anderson, South Carolina, wearing a homemade sign that read Need Kidney 4 Wife in big red letters. Larry got some strange looks as he hung around busy street corners, but âI donât care what people think,â he told CBS News. âShe looks after me, and I look after her.â After the local news covered the story, Larryâs act of love went viral, inspiring more than 100 strangers to get tested to donate to Jimmie Sue. Nearly a year after Larry began his unconventional search, the couple found a match, and Jimmie Sue underwent surgery to receive a kidney from Kelly Weaverling, a 41-year-old retired Navy lieutenant commander from Virginia. Says Kelly, âI just had a feeling that it was the right thing to do.â âA. J.
They got him down the aisle
Courtesy of University Hospitals Case Medical Center (Cleveland, OH)
Last October, ICU nurses at the University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center in Cleveland gave patient Scott Nagy special assistance. They carefully buttoned a crisp white shirt over his breathing tube, helped him into a black sport jacket, and pinned a red rose to his lapel. Diagnosed two months earlier with terminal urethral cancer, Nagy was determined to attend his daughter Sarahâs wedding. âScott is the most courageous person Iâve ever met,â says nurse-practitioner Jacky Uljanic. âHeâd say, âNo matter what, Iâm going to make it to the wedding.ââ Twelve medical professionals made it happen. Some helped load the 56-year-old into an ambulance, while others monitored his ventilator. Two nurses even wheeled him down the aisle in his hospital bed as he held hands with Sarah. Says Jacky of Scott, who passed away less than a month later, â[He] allowed us to look outside the box of traditional medical care. I was honored to help him.â âD. B.
She gave her girls sight
Miller Mobley/Redux for Reader’s Digest
Monique Zimmerman-Stein, already blind in her right eye from a rare genetic disorder, began to lose sight in her left eye in 2007. Her doctor informed her about injections of Avastin that might help treat her condition, but they were terribly expensive. Monique and her husband, Gary, had used up most of their savings, but they decided to put the cash toward eye treatments for their daughters Aliyah, â¨now 14, and Davida, 17, who also have the disorder. â¨(Moniqueâs eldest daughter, Ariel, 26, doesnât have the condition.) âIâll give up anything to make sure that my girls have what they need,â says Monique, 53, who is now completely without sight and is an advocate for the blind. Says Aliyah, âMom taught me that you have to do whatâs right for the people you love.â Despite Moniqueâs efforts, there is still a good chance that her daughters will lose their sight eventually. So she encourages the girls to help their neighbors and to look closely and carefully at the world, then close their eyes and tell her what they see. Says Monique, âI want them to see everything they can until they canât.â âA. C.
He caught a homecoming
Courtesy of the Mississippi Braves
Darla Harlow had been selected to throw out the first pitch at a home game of the Mississippi Braves, a minor-league baseball team outside Jackson, Mississippi. Without her husband, Michael, thereâhe was on duty in Afghanistan as an Army majorâshe was excited to pitch in front of her two daughters, Casey and Molly Carol. Darla stood on the pitcherâs mound and launched a baseball toward the catcher at home plate. Oddly, he let the ball fall. In one quick move, he snapped off his mask. It was Michael. âI couldnât think,â Darla told a local news organization. âI had no clue what was happening.â Michael had spent months planning the surprise with his daughters and the Braves. He told reporters, âThis is something weâll never forget.â âAlyssa Jung
He wrote to Santa
Miller Mobley/Redux for Reader’s Digest
Eight-year-old Ryan Suffern didnât ask for toys or gadgets in his letter to Santa last year. Instead, he made a simple plea for his twin sister, Amber. âI wanted a remote control car and helicopter, but I donât anymore,â Ryan wrote. âKids at school are still picking on Amber. I prayed that they [would] stop, but God is busy and needs your help.â CNN got wind of the letter after the twinsâ mother, Karen, shared the story on Facebook, and the media attention sparked an outpouring of support. Nickelodeon star Stephen Kramer Glickman sent a video message to the twins, and strangers have donated gifts to the family. When Ryan and Amber went back to their Rocky Mount Prep school in North Carolina after their holiday break, the bullying had ceased. âI have new friends,â Ryan told his mother. âThey are going to look out for Amber too.â âDamon Beres
They created an imaginary night world
Courtesy Refe Tuma
Refe and Susan Tuma of Kansas City, Missouri, were in desperate need of shut-eye. Their childrenâAdeia, six; Alethea, five; and Leif, twoârarely slept through the night, and it was taking a toll on the family. âWe found ourselves putting the kids in front of the TV [instead of] engaging with them,â says Refe. Surprisingly, a solution came in the form of plastic toy dinosaurs. For 30 nights in âDinovember,â Refe and Susan posed the figures to depict scenes of mayhem and mischiefâa raucous recording session, a dish-washing disaster, the interrogation of a Ninja Turtle. Now the kids canât wait to go to bed as they eagerly await the results of the nightly shenanigans. The Tumas urge other parents to try this at home. âPlastic dinosaurs are something every child has,â says Refe. âBut no one ever thinks about [using them] like this.â âBeth Dreher
She just makes Jell-o
Miller Mobley/Redux for Reader’s Digest
While my 89-year-old grandmother, Donna, doesnât bother to remember minor details like who I am or why Iâm at her house, she vividly recalls conversations we may or may not have had many years ago. Apparently, while making awkward small talk over dinner, I once said, âThis Jell-O is good.â She took that to mean, âThis is my favorite food of all time, and if you donât continue to make it, â¨I will burn down your house.â The next time I visited, she had a bowl of orange Jell-O with mandarin oranges in it just for me. I had to be polite, so I ate it all. She took that to mean I didnât think there was enough, so the next time, she made even more. For each visit since then, sheâs made progressively larger quantities of the semisolid foodstuff. Noticing my predicament, the rest of my family stopped eating any of it because they are jerks and think itâs funny to watch me jam a cubic yard of gelatin down my throat. They wonât be laughing when I die from a fatal overdose of the stuff. Actually, they probably will, especially when my grandma makes a bathtubful of Jell-O for the funeral potluck. âJames Breakwell