These Inspiring People Make Our World Feel Like Less of a Dumpster Fire

Between hurricanes, earthquakes, playground shouting matches between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, the world often seems like a dark place. When good people perform random acts of kindness, it shows the rest of us humanity still has a heart. Some go under the radar and others become books and Broadway shows. Read on for some serious feels.

Grandfather hands toddler $20 at Target, and hearts melt

Owen Hacker at grocery store
An elderly man gave this baby $20 in Target. The reason will break your heart. | Alyssa Hacker/Facebook

When strange men approach our children in public, most of us get a little nervous. So did a mom shopping in Target recently, Yahoo reported. Alyssa Hacker of Coweta, Okla. wrote in a Facebook post that her son Owen struck up a conversation with an elderly man.

The little boy was in the midst of trying to choose a toy dinosaur when he called out to the man. He turned around, said, “hey sweet boy,” and began playing with the child. Hacker got a bit nervous initially, until the man pulled out his wallet.

“The man got his wallet out and pulled a $20 out, he put it in Owen’s pocket on his shirt and said ‘I just lost my 2-year-old grandson last week. You take this money and buy this boy all three dinosaurs’ and rubbed Owen’s back, wiped his tears and walked off,” she wrote.

The next story uses music to affect change.

Viral music campaign hopes to benefit gun violence victims

handgun from the scene of Ferguson
Stop Handgun Violence hopes to create a viral campaign to stamp out violence with music. | St. Louis County Police Department/Getty Images

The second annual Concerts Across America to End Gun Violence works to raise awareness through song. Activists from Stop Handgun Violence have organized concerts in more than 180 cities through Sept. 24, raising awareness about gun violence in the U.S. And this year, they want to go viral.

“It’s important to recognize the devastating impact gun violence has on our communities,” Donna Dees, the movement’s national co-chair, told People. “Music helps put it into context.” This year, organizers asked people to record themselves singing “Nothing More” by The Alternate Routes, and post it on social media, tagged #ConcertAcrossAmerica.

One of the band’s founders, Eric Donnelly, wrote the song after losing his parents to gun violence in 2005.  John Rosenthal, national co-chair, said in a statement, “Gun violence … affects all communities, and everyone should have an opportunity to work towards a solution. By sharing a message of love and kindness to end gun violence, we can remember and honor lost loved ones.”

Next, something good came out of Hurricane Harvey.

Human kindness prevails over Hurricane Harvey

flood evacuees at the George Brown Convention Center
Flood evacuees share a light moment at the George Brown Convention Center. | Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

While Hurricane Harvey dumped tons of water and displaced thousands of residents, some good came out of the disaster. USA Today rounded up heartwarming stories about the hurricane, and R.J. Ellis’ story really got to us. The 29-year-old lost his job two months ago, and lived under a bridge when Harvey hit Texas.

Ellis and 3,000 others made their way to the George R. Brown Convention Center downtown, seeking shelter. He carried his belongings in a small trash bag, and his feet squelched in wet, dirty socks and sandals, when he joined the clothing line. All he wanted was a pair of socks. Red Cross volunteer Tina Jamieson found a pair for him, cautioning “they may be too small.” Ellis made them fit.

“I’m so happy,” he said. “This is so much better.”

The next do-gooder took to the streets to seek humanity. 

Former logger pounds the pavement looking for love

The bottom of a hiking shoe on a rope bridge
Randy Montgomery decided to walk the perimeter of the U.S. to spread kindness. | Philipp Guelland/Getty Images

Three years ago, Randy Montgomery, 65, hit the road looking for connection. WABI Maine reported Montgomery set out to walk the country on July 1, 2014, and has not encountered one bad person along the way.

“My walk is not how fast I can go,” he explained. “It’s how many people I can talk to. Everyone has been so friendly towards me, unbelievable. People ask me what’s the bad things that have happened to you. Huh? 4,400 miles. Not one thing.”

After reading The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson, Montgomery found the inspiration to walk around the perimeter of the U.S. to “create something good in society.” He said the rewards come from the kindness of people. So far, Montgomery has walked 5,000 miles carrying 75 pounds of gear. The man called his “the most incredible life. You don’t gotta put a backpack on to walk, just every day walk out of your house with the thought of greeting everyone you see.”

The next story shows kindness comes in all denominations.

Sometimes, money can buy happiness

Natalie Gunderson instagram post
A man gave all his fellow passengers $2 bills to honor his late father. | Natalie Gunderson/Instagram

Even a small gesture may make someone’s day. In August, Natalie Gunderson flew to North Carolina on a flight where a mystery passenger handed out $2 bills to every passenger. Lonely Planet shared that he did so in honor of his late father. He explained that, when he was 16, his dad gave him a $2 bill and said as long as he had it, he would never be broke. The man started handing out the bills to put smiles on people’s faces. Gunderson took a photo of the passengers holding up the money and the post went viral. It just goes to show that people still love to see a little love in the world.

Maybe air travel doesn’t always suck so badly, after all. The next story proves how much small gestures can mean.

I scream, you scream, we all scream for random acts of kindness

tubs of ice cream
A stranger paying for his ice cream made this man’s circumstances just a bit better. | David Paul Morris/Getty Images

Rob Manker of the Chicago Tribune had lost his job and felt a little down in the dumps when a stranger saved the day. He and his elder son went to get ice cream for the family, and when they got to the register, Maker discovered someone already covered his bill. He remembered a young man who had been standing nearby, gesturing at the line, who had paid for several people’s treats.

Later that day, Manker wrote the following message on Facebook. “To Random Act of Kindness Guy who unbeknownst to me paid for my family’s entire order tonight and got away before I could thank you … You did nothing less than restore my faith in humanity. Thank you.”

The father vowed to pay it forward, after he returned to work. When he did, he returned to the ice cream parlor and met that same man. He thanked him, and paid for someone else’s ice cream too, to bring it all full-circle.
Next, strangers find beautiful ways to honor deceased infants. 

12 kindnesses honor May 12 babies

Bunch of heart-shaped balloons
Sharing balloons and flowers, among other kind gestures, honored twins gone too soon. | Pierre Verdy/AFP/Getty Images

After Liz and Chris Kawulok of Firestone, Colo. lost their twin boys after just six months, they decided to turn their grief into something good. Brothers Liam and Luke died of a rare brain disorder called lissencephaly, said ABC News.
“Devastating was for sure the right word,” Kawulok said. “Every day, our hearts would break because we knew we wouldn’t have them forever, but we enjoyed every single moment.”

To honor those moments, they started a social media campaign called #forLandL, asking participants to do 12 good deeds on their sons’ May 12 birthday. Families around the area started doing kind acts, and it soon spread beyond their immediate circle. The Kawulok’s said seeing it has helped them find peace.

“Seeing [the kind acts] showed me that you don’t have to be mad at the world,” she said. “It’s easy to be bitter, but you can make good things happen. It is such a positive thing for us.”

The next couple took “pay it forward” literally, with heartwarming results.

Stranger picks up the tab for ill mother

Man paying another with a credit card
An anonymous man made a woman’s cancer treatment a little easier. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Cancer often isolates its sufferers, but a random act of kindness made Jerina Edwards, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, feel less alone. The breast cancer patient told ABC News a complete stranger picked up her bill at a restaurant, leaving an anonymous note. The woman, her husband, and their three children dined at East China Buffet in a nearby town, and asked for the check when they finished. When it came, the waitress brought an anonymous note with it. The note read: “I lost my wife to cancer five years ago. I know how tough it can be going through this. Your meal is on me. Merry Christmas.”

In an effort to thank the man, Edwards shared a photo of it on Facebook, which then went viral. Her anonymous benefactor reached out to her after seeing it.

“[The man] called and said that his wife died on St. Patrick’s Day, 2012, of a pretty rare bone cancer,” Edwards said. “He also has three children … who were about the same age [as my children] when their mother died. He said, ‘I know how it is. It invades your whole life, especially around the holidays.'”

“The whole family felt good about the kindness of strangers, the mom said. My 15-year-old stepdaughter said, ‘this is stuff you see on the internet. That doesn’t happen in real life.’ And there we were.” The last example of people being awesome later became a Broadway musical. 

Town of 10,000 shelters and feeds 7,000

Come from Away doors
The small town of Gander, found itself playing host to 7,000 passengers and 38 diverted commercial airplanes on 9/11. | Thomas Urbain/AFP/Getty Images

The people of Gander, Newfoundland knew almost 7,000 strangers needed help so they banded together to get it done. USA Today shared the story of the small town that helped 9/11 passengers in a big way. When the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks hit New York and Washington, 38 planes landed on the small island.

After figuring out where to put all the planes, officials spent the next day unloading people and luggage. Pharmacists worked around the clock to get passengers prescriptions they had left in checked luggage, and got cigarettes for smokers on board. Regular citizens banded together to take care of their massive number of guests. Volunteers turned schools, gyms, community centers, churches, and camps into emergency shelters.

Donations poured in for the passengers, who weren’t allowed to access checked luggage for security reasons. Grocery shelves went bare as the residents began cooking, filling the local hockey rink into an emergency refrigerator.

“That whole community is the poster child for how hospitality should be,” said one passenger. “It just absolutely floored me.” Today, the town serves as an example of how to treat everyone, regardless of origin, race, gender, or identity.  The story became a book, Channel of Peace: Stranded in Gander on 9/11. A movement called Pay It Forward 9/11 encourages acts of kindness every year. And the Broadway musical, Come From Away, grew out of their story.

Random acts of kindness show that good still exists everywhere, despite constant news reports to the contrary. Through concerts, $2 bills, socks, and a whole slew of casseroles, these stories prove we’ve got it in us to be good. And that’s worth a lot these days, no matter what else happens.

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