23 Good News Stories That Came Out of 2020
This roundup of great and inspiring news stories will give you the warm-and-fuzzies. Never forget all the positivity and good news out there in the world!
Bright spots in 2020
Headlines can sometimes be gloomy and tough to read—and it seems like this year has taken it to totally new levels. And while much of this year’s hard-to-swallow news about the coronavirus pandemic, racial inequities, attempts to undermine democracy, and more have been incredibly urgent and understandably, justifiably prominent, the seemingly constant wave of grim news has weighed on us all. So we’ve collected some of the most inspiring and uplifting news stories from 2020 for you to enjoy, to help remind you that great things and good news are still happening. More good news? Reader’s Digest‘s Nicest Place in America for 2020 is fighting the coronavirus pandemic and racial injustice.
Nurse reunited with rescuer after 37 years
When the coronavirus pandemic broke out, Virginia nurse Deidre Taylor made the trek to help out on the frontlines in a New York City hospital. But Taylor’s connection to New York City goes way back to when she was four years old and rescued from a burning apartment building in the city by a local firefighter.
Now, some 37 years later, Taylor was reunited with the firefighter, Eugene Pugliese, while on duty. After holding onto the newspaper clipping with his picture since the rescue, Taylor reached out to the local firefighters who alerted Pugliese.
The two got a chance to chat on the phone about the daring rescue all those years ago. Back on that December day in 1983, Pugliese received the call and, despite being not fully in firefighting gear, took no time crawling on his belly through the smoke to find the young girl after saving her mother.
They hope to meet up in person soon, with Pugliese stating that “he would love to meet her two children and go to a Yankees game together.” These uplifting quotes will stay with you.
Virtual theater classes for students with autism
While quarantine is tough on everyone, families with children and adults with special needs are facing unprecedented challenges. These realities were seen by Eliane Hall, the artistic director and founder of The Miracle Project, who set out to create a “fully inclusive theater, film, and socialization program.”
The Miracle Project aims to provide socialization, video exposure, and support for families and students with autism. The project is staffed by theater students, volunteers, and parents who participate in theater games, physical exercises, and classes. These activities aim to help students build confidence and learn to write, sing, engage, and perform.
The project brings together people of all backgrounds and meets the ever-growing need for human connection, learning, and fun in a safe environment. One group class rehearses a full musical each year and they are hoping to perform live or via zoom soon. Check out these happy pictures to take your mind off things.
Fast protein synthesis technology
In a revolutionary breakthrough, chemists at MIT have found a way to drastically reduce the time needed to generate artificial and synthetic proteins. These proteins are used in the fight against diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and other diseases and are required in large quantities.
The team has designed a tabletop automated flow synthesis machine that will assist in the speed, creation, and design of new drugs. Further, the machine will allow chemists to create new artificial proteins with amino acids that don’t naturally occur in cells, opening up a whole new world of biomedical and chemical technology.
The machine, nicknamed the “Amidator” by the research team, has increased accuracy and the potential length of protein created. This will allow drug development and testing to occur at a much faster rate. According to Thomas Nielson, head of research chemistry at Novo Nordisk and co-author of the study, “this is paving the way for a new field of protein medicinal chemistry…this technology really complements what is available to the pharmaceutical industry.” Speaking of medical breakthroughs, here’s why one mother will take the coronavirus vaccine as soon as it’s available.
Abandoned home is renovated for homeless veteran
Even before the pandemic arrived full force in the United States and inspired lots of outreach and good deeds, people were helping their neighbors in need. Case in point: In February, the organization “Operation Victory” gathered more than 50 community organizations and unions to give a Kentucky veteran the surprise of a lifetime. A few years after returning from service with the Marines in 1981, Torre Harris was injured in a car accident and had trouble finding steady work as a contractor. He spent 15 years in and out of homelessness—until last year when Operation Victory volunteers stepped up. One hundred volunteers spent six months transforming a boarded-up house in Louisville, Kentucky, into a beautiful home that Harris could call his own. And in a time when hugs and big gatherings are on hold, the images of Harris hugging volunteers at the unveiling are enough to make you emotional! Here are some simple but powerful ways you can support veterans.
Officer rescues baby ducklings
Massachusetts State Trooper Jim Maloney is being hailed as a hero after saving eight ducklings from a storm drain. While on patrol, Maloney noticed eight ducklings that had fallen through a grate in a parking lot near Boston as one duckling and concerned mother duck looked on.
Maloney called the Department of Conservation and Recreation. With the help of the Lynn Animal Control and Nahant Department of Public Works, the gate was pried open and the ducklings fished out. Maloney warmed the ducklings up in his car while he waited for the mother duckling to come and claim the saved babies. The reunited family then walked back into the grass.
“Sometimes those in danger can not speak for themselves. And sometimes they are a different species,” said the Massachusetts State Police. “A small act amid the enormity of the ongoing health crisis, perhaps, but for one mother duck and her tiny babies, it made all the difference in the world.” As cute as that is, I bet we can get you to say “aww” again with these incredibly adorable animal pictures.
Generous tip for local restaurant
As the United States reopened after coronavirus lockdowns, many local restaurants were struggling to provide dine-in service. For one North Austin sushi restaurant, the opening days held a surprise at the end of a customer’s bill.
Steve Raid, of Tomodachi Sushi in Austin Texas, stated that customers have been leaving above-average tips to help support their small restaurant in this trying time. One such customer left a $1,000 tip on top of a $124 check.
“[An] unbelievable gesture like this stays deep inside your heart and gives us extra motivation to GO ON,” said Raid. “On behalf of the Tomo family, I want to thank you all who’ve been there for us [these] last two months, giving us all those kinds words, generosity, online posts, and support. It means more than you know.”
In this time of limited capacity, amped up sanitation requirements, and lessened customer flows, gestures like this prove to the small business owners that the people love and appreciate their service and efforts. Amazing things are happening everywhere—don’t miss the nicest places in every state that will keep that smile on your face.
The blue bee returns from near-extinction
The rare species of blue calamintha bee that was once thought to be extinct has been found in Florida in May of 2020, nearly four years after it was last spotted. After being discovered in 2011, these rare blue bees made headlines for their specific habitat needs, foraging strategies, and beautiful indigo coloring.
The bees’ reemergence has been confirmed by Chase Kimmel of the Florida Museum of Natural History, who said: “It was a great feeling; those first few nights were hard to sleep due to the anxiousness and excitement.”
The exceedingly rare blue bee collects pollen by bobbing its head against the flowers to dislodge pollen, a practice unlike any other type of bee that visits the Ashe’s calamint plant, the blue bee’s namesake.
The researchers aim to continue observing and collecting information on the bee and its numbers to gain “critically imperiled” status and get the species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Here are more incredible animals that came back from the brink of extinction.
Rise in pet adoptions and fostering
In the wake of quarantines and stay-at-home orders, U.S. citizens are finding new and creative ways to occupy their time and enjoy their families. One way is through the adoption and fostering of furry friends to spread the love.
Animal shelters across the United States are reporting increased rates of adoption and more foster applications than ever before. Many people who were previously worried about not being home enough for new pets are now jumping at the chance to bring a new pet into their home. Pets offer companionship and emotional support in what many feel are isolated and trying times.
Katy Hansen, the spokeswoman for the Animal Care Shelters of NYC, stated that “I think it is a combination of feeling lonely and having the time.”
Some shelters are reporting over 200 percent increase in applications or even empty shelters. These dogs, cats, birds, and other animals are finally finding a good home and their owners now have a buddy with which to weather the storm. Here are our favorite sweet stories of pets finding homes during the pandemic.
Bald eagles found in a cactus nest
After an initial report in 1937 that lacked photographic evidence, a pair of bald eagle parents were photographed nesting in a saguaro cactus. The bald eagle, once on the list of endangered species, makes the largest nests of any bird in North America.
The nest was photographed by a raptor management coordinator, Kenneth Jacobson, who was able to gather stunning aerial photos to prove the rare sighting.
The photos serve as a good omen for the flourishing bald eagle population as well as the specific eagle count in Arizona. Johnson warned the potential risks of too many visitors startling the patriotic birds but is bolstered by the discovery: “Then you have a bald eagle in the desert in a saguaro. I don’t know how much Arizona you can get than that.” These images of nature rebounding during the coronavirus will give you hope.
Thirteen-year-old graduates from college
Jack Rico of California graduated from Fullerton College in May 2020 at only 13 years old. Rico is not only the youngest student to ever graduate from Fullerton, but managed to graduate with a 4.0 and four separate associates degrees in social behavior, social science, human expression, and history.
“I just love learning new stuff…I love knowing more about the world and all the different things we could study,” Rico told CNN. He is described as “wise beyond his years” and a lover of video games.
He completed the amazing feat in only two years, thanks to what he calls “good old time management and listening to [his] instructors.” Next up, Rico plans to attend the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, on a full-ride scholarship to study history.
While his in-person graduation was canceled due to the coronavirus, Rico’s family has arranged a drive-by graduation to honor the talented graduate. Here’s why one college graduate is happy her graduation was all virtual.
Reversing stroke damage
At the Lund University in Sweden, researchers have made promising progress in partially restoring mobility and sensation in stroke-afflicted rats. By using reprogrammed human skin cells transplanted into the brain, researchers proved that the cells can correctly and efficiently build connections and pathways in the brain.
“Six months after the transplantation, we could see how the new cells had repaired the damage that a stroke had caused…” said one researcher. Another researcher, Professor Zaal Kokaia, stated, “we have been able to see that the fibers from the transplanted cells have grown to the other side of the brain, the side where we did not transplant any cells, and created connections. No previous study has shown this.”
These results are promising in the ongoing fight to help stroke-afflicted victims: “The study kindles hope that in the future it could be possible to replace dead nerve cells with healthy new cells also in stroke patients.”
Comic book highlights heroic essential workers
While comic books are usually filled with flying, masked crusaders with supernatural superpowers, one comic book creator looked instead to honor everyday heroes. Héctor Rodríguez, a Mexican-American comic book creator, decided to focus on the real-life superheroes we see every day: essential workers.
In order to highlight the heroic efforts of the often invisible and neglected workers, Rodríguez created a special edition of his comic book “El Peso Hero.” In the comic, our hero reliably saves the day by fighting against injustice, racism, and inequality across and around the Mexico-U.S. border.
In a spring “pandemic” issue, “El Peso Hero” decides instead to highlight the work of nurses, frontline healthcare workers, undocumented immigrants, agricultural workers, and other often-overlooked essential workers. Those fighting the good fight are not just those flying heroes in capes; they are your neighbors, friends, and family that save the day in a different type of mask. The point is clear: These are the real-life heroes and they deserve to not only be seen but to be honored and thanked. Here are 14 meaningful ways people are saying thank you to essential workers.
Man receives football medal after 74 years
An 88-year-old man received his long-overdue football medal 74 years after it was initially earned. The medal recipient is John Zelly of Burnley. Zelly was only 14 when his school won the 1946 Keighley Cup. The 2-1 victory was historic as it was the first match to be played on the Burnely FC home turf at the conclusion of World War II.
Zelly is thought to have never received his medal due to a metal shortage at the end of the war. He reached out to the mayor, who reached out to the council leader, who finally contacted the Lancashire football league. The medal was then presented in May of 2020, a mere 74 years late.
“I have often thought of that missing medal and it means so much to me to get it after all these years, for me to be able to hold it and eventually pass it on to my son to whom I know it would mean the world,” said Zelly, upon receiving the medal from councilors Charlie Briggs and Anne Kelly.
Seven-year-old holds prom for babysitter
With high schools closed all across the country, one North Carolina high schooler can say that she still had the cutest prom date in the state. Seven-year-old Curtis Rodgers of Raleigh decided to throw his babysitter a mini-prom to show how much he cared about her.
“He was very excited and wanted to make sure everything was just right and get his suit on and pick out his bow tie that matched her dress,” said Elissa, Curtis’ mother.
The babysitter, Rachel, was greeted with a very well-dressed young date, music, flowers, and a table with their favorite snacks. The two posed for some adorable, socially-distanced prom photos. It’s impossible not to smile at those photos, and we can tell you why smiling is really so contagious.
New bionic eye could provide sight to millions
A paper published in May holds promise for a new bionic eye that could restore sight to over 280 million blind people. In as little as five years’ time, the robotic eye could give back sight to those suffering from retina damage.
The device, the EC-EYE (ElectroChemical EYE) was developed by engineers in Hong Kong and the United States. The delicate material of the photoreceptive retina cells was thought impossible to replicate with artificial materials, but researchers have developed a “high-density array of photoreceptors placed inside pores of aluminum oxide” that could improve sight beyond the human eye’s natural capabilities.
Teens and seniors join to create dog toys
In search of something to unite teenage students and seniors, the Aurora community decided on “dog stick libraries.” Is there any shared goal stronger than a love of dogs?
Fourteen students from Regis Jesuit High School and residents from the Chelsea Place memory care facility joined together to not only engage in meaningful conversation and engagement, but create dog toys and “stick libraries” to give to the local canine community.
The sticks were sanded and toys collected to be put in dog parks throughout Aurora, Colorado. The two-week project allowed the students to connect with the residents on a deeper level. They chatted and worked alongside one another in pairs and small groups. The makeshift woodshop offered opportunities for the many residents with dementia to get active while the students could learn the stories and lives of their elders. Dogs bring us all together. One dog-lover to another—you can’t miss these 50 funny dog photos.
Man makes how-to videos “from Dad”
On a new youtube channel, Rob Kenny launched the video series “Dad, How Do I?” to provide how-to videos for young adults (or adults) on everyday tasks. The videos aim to provide instructions for people who may never have learned the ropes from their own fathers.
Kenny draws from his own background of a father walking out of his life when he was young and provides short, easy videos on topics such as “changing a tire on a car, how to unclog a sink, and how to iron a dress shirt.”
The videos provide not only direction but fatherly love and support. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and he continues to make a new video every week. Get a look at the most moving photos of kindness in the time of coronavirus.
Maine girl makes heroic swim to save family
Though the capsizing of their small aluminum boat could have spelled disaster, one girl swam to shore to help save her family. Kiana French, of Skowhegan, swam six football lengths to reach the shore and get help after the boat tipped over on Parlin Pond.
When the boat first began to take on water, the two sisters and father tried to bail it out. As the boat tipped over, Kiana raced to put on her lifejacket and collect the other jackets floating away from her family. She then realized that shore was not in sight, and battled the waves to get help for her sister and father who were not as physically able as she was. She yelled until Maine Game Warden, Kris MacCabe, heard her calls and rescued the father after the sister had been picked up by another nearby boat.
The family was met with warm blankets and fierce hugs. When asked about her endurance, Kiana credited the love of her family as her source of strength. To keep the positivity train going, try these positive affirmations that happy people say every day.
Elderly Welsh woman speaks in native tongue
In a bid to help slow his mother’s memory loss, Keith McDermott sought out a companion to speak Welsh with his mother, Ray. Though Ray had been in the United States for over 70 years, Keith was determined that speaking her native language would bring her some comfort and joy.
He made an appeal on social media and was met with a myriad of kind responses from those reminiscing about their childhood in Wales. All had good stories to share that he read to his mother.
One such commenter was Melisa Annis, a New York-based playwright, who had a phone conversation in Welsh with Ray.
“I didn’t think I would get to speak Welsh again…I don’t cry very often. It was lovely, it really was,” said Ray. Learn about 15 of the most endangered languages in the world.
Dogs track and save koalas
In the gloom of the Australian bushfires of early 2020, many koalas struggled to survive in their damaged habitat. Much of the media coverage and focus was shifted away from the fires as the year progressed despite the risk for the furry animals increasing by the day.
To the rescue came Bear, an Australian Koolie dog. Once an abandoned puppy, Bear has now been trained to detect and find koalas that are in the burned brush so that they can be rescued and relocated. Bear is a cute and lovable hero to injured, sick, or otherwise at risk koalas. He has saved over 100 koalas since January and continues to save lives each day. It may seem utterly unbelievable that those terrible Australian wildfires were this year. Here’s how many koalas are left in the world.
DACA recipient receives prestigious scholarship
In November, the Rhodes Trust based at Oxford University announced the 2021 winners of its Rhodes Scholarship, the oldest international scholarship in the world. One of the recipients was Santiago Potes, a graduate of Columbia University who immigrated to the United States from Colombia with his family at four years old. He is the first-ever Latino DACA recipient to receive the scholarship, and he’ll be on his way to Oxford in the fall of 2021. To make matters even better, he immediately credited one of his elementary school teachers—Marina Esteva, who came to the United States as a refugee herself—for believing in him and enabling his achievements. Find out 11 ways teachers are going above and beyond during coronavirus.
Indigenous-owned solar farm helps reduce pollution
In November 2020, Canada’s largest-ever remote solar farm opened in northeastern Alberta. The farm, which comprises 5,760 solar panels, is entirely Indigenous-owned and will supply the approximately 1,000 residents of the nearby hamlet of Fort Chipewyan with about 25 percent of their energy. Furthermore, it will drastically reduce pollution production, replacing a full 210,000 gallons of diesel a year and eliminating over five million pounds of carbon emissions. The venture that produced the farm, Three Nations Energy, is currently working on other renewable projects like wood fuel heating and sustainable hydroponics food production.
Formerly homeless family donates meals, school supplies
One family in Oklahoma City was harshly affected by the pandemic and still committed to giving back what they could.
The Handy family was homeless in 2018 before being assisted by the Positive Tomorrows organization. The family now owns a house and is stable, though they remember the feelings, struggles, and judgment they had once faced.
To give back, the family has cooked and distributed meals for over 300 people, donated blankets, and planned to fill over 500 bags of school supplies. Rachel Handy, the mother, aims to teach her children to be selfless and give back to others who are less fortunate. If that inspired you to get up and help, read these uplifting stories of neighbors helping each other during coronavirus to give you some ideas.
- Sunny Skyz: “Nurse Reunites With NYC Firefighter Who Rescued Her From A Burning Building 37 Years Ago”
- Today: “Virtual theater classes bring joy to students with autism during quarantine”
- MIT News: “New technology enables fast protein synthesis”
- Insider: “An abandoned house was completely renovated for a homeless veteran, and his reaction to the surprise will warm your heart”
- ABC News: “Officer rescues 8 ducklings from storm drain as worried mother looks on”
- KVUE ABC: “‘Unbelievable gesture’ | Customer leaves generous tip at North Austin sushi restaurant”
- Smithsonian Magazine: “Blue Bee Feared to Be Extinct Is Found in Florida”
- The New York Times: “Foster Pets Are Finding Homes With Quarantined Americans”
- Smithsonian Magazine: “Bald Eagles Found Nesting in Arizona Saguaro Cactus for First Time in Decades”
- CNN: “Meet the 13-year-old who graduated from college with four associate’s degrees”
- Good News Network: “Neurobiologists Actually Managed to Reverse Stroke Damage Using Human Skin Cells”
- Lund University: “Researchers successfully repair stroke-damaged rat brains”
- NBC News: “Latino comic book pays tribute to the real superheroes—essential workers”
- BBC News: “Burnley man, 88, receives football medal after 74 years”
- Sunny Skyz: “‘She’s One Of The Best People I’ve Known’: 7-Year-Old Hosts Prom For His Nanny”
- Good News Network: “Bionic Eye, As Sensitive as the Human Retina, May Give Sight to Millions”
- The Denver Post: “Dog stick libraries make a fetching project for Aurora teens, seniors with dementia”
- Sunny Skyz: “Man Whose Dad Walked Out On Him As A Child Makes ‘How To’ Videos For People Without Dads”
- CentralMaine.com: “Skowhegan girl, 16, helps rescue father and sister after boat capsizes”
- Sunny Skyz: “96-Year-Old Woman Brought To Tears, Speaks Welsh For The First Time In 40 Years”
- BBC News: “Australia Fires: Rescue dog Bear saves scores of koalas”
- CNN: “This student just became the first Latino DACA recipient to win the Rhodes Scholarship. He says it’s all because of his elementary school teacher”
- CBC: “Indigenous-owned solar farm opens in remote northern Alberta community”
- Three Nations Energy: “Three Nations Energy: Indigenous-Owned, Community-Driven, Clean Energy Projects”
- Today: “Formerly homeless family gives back during COVID-19 pandemic”