Buckle up and let me tell you about a recent moment of completely unexpected, unwarranted kindness: Last weekend, I ran a few races at Walt Disney World in Florida. The races are massive, and in order to get to the start line on time you need to be up and on a bus to Disney's Epcot park by 4:00 am. As I plopped down on a mostly empty bus at 4:05 (punctuality is not my strong suit), a chill ran through me. I had forgotten my race number.
Runners out there will know the horror: There was absolutely no way I could have run without it, and the bus was already driving away from my hotel. I quietly began to panic. The half a dozen other ladies on the bus asked me if I was OK, and when I sheepishly admitted what was wrong, they did something that absolutely floored me. They insisted the bus turn around.
Life at Disney World, of course, is a well-oiled machine, and any disruptions to the schedule are very, very frowned upon. You don't just turn buses around! However, this wonderful group of women (and a very amenable bus driver) braved early morning race traffic and a lot of backtracking just to ensure my forgetful self could run, even if it brought the very real risk of being late themselves. We all made it. And if that isn't a little magical, I don't know what is.
Our favorites this week
Get going with some of our most popular good news stories of the week
A mile on his wheels
Alex Johnson, a 14-year-old from Tennessee, wants to help people understand what it's like to live life on wheels. The eighth grader has used a wheelchair for years, and when he was in 5th grade, he had an idea to start a 'Spend a Day in My Wheels' challenge to help his classmates understand things from his perspective. Recently, the idea went all the way to the top of the Tennessee government. A group of bipartisan lawmakers met with Alex and spent a workday in loaned wheelchairs to get an idea of the freedom and frustrations — like opening refrigerator doors — that wheelchair mobility brings. The group agreed the experience was eye-opening, and Alex hopes it will help leaders see the world with an eye toward accessibility. 'I could talk to you for hours and hours about the difficulties people in wheelchairs face on a daily basis,' Alex said in a speech. 'Until you actually sit in a chair, you'll never fully understand.'
The greatest of these
Somehow, through the hardest of times, love finds a way. Gus Jiménez of Delaware was diagnosed with a rare and inoperable cancer in August. This January, he was admitted to the hospital for dehydration and he and his now-wife Rachel Jiménez realized he may never go home again. On February 15, Jiménez proposed to Rachel from his hospital bed. He was in pain, and the couple didn't know how much longer he had, but Rachel says they didn't care. They wanted to be together. A week later, the staff at the Wilmington Hospital decorated the building's atrium with flowers. Jiménez's caregivers brought a cake and refreshments. The groom was decked out in a fitted tux, the bride in a perfect wedding dress, and they were married. 'The perfect definition is 'just bittersweet,'' Rachel said. 'We're still living in the moment, and that's basically what we're doing every day. I still want to be his wife no matter what.'
An outer space oath
If Buzz Lightyear were a person, he might be a little like Col. Andrew Morgan. Why? This week, Col. Morgan gave a nationwide enlistment oath to 1,000 new US Army recruits while in space! The US Army Recruiting Command partnered with Space Center Houston to host the ceremony, and future soldiers in more than 150 places across the country tuned in to hear Morgan lead it from his position 250 miles above Earth on the International Space Station. 'I made the decision when I was 18 years old to raise my right hand just like you're about to,' Morgan said during the broadcast. 'I am still a soldier. I'm just serving in space on the ultimate high ground.' Military astronauts have participated in enlistment ceremonies before, but not on this scale — and perhaps not with such flair.
Raise a glass to...
Gina Domingo, a registered nurse at the brain trauma unit at Hackensack Meridian Health JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute. Domingo cared for comedian Tracy Morgan (above) after a 2014 car crash left him with devastating brain trauma, and he recently honored her impact on his life with the Tracy Morgan Award for Excellence in Rehabilitation Nursing. 'She said, 'Everything's going to be all right,'' Morgan recalled of Domingo's encouragement. 'She would take me outside and read and let me be outside in the air. I was so angry, I was so scared.' The rehabilitation center shared photos of Morgan embracing Domingo and presenting her with the award after one of his comedy shows.
A bright idea
The Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has found a meaningful way to make its exhibits come alive — and add critical context to its collection. The museum runs a 'Global Guides' program, in which immigrants from around the world take guests on scheduled tours and talk specifically about artifacts from their home regions, breathing meaning into everything from royal Sumerian jewels to ancient African instruments. Clay Katongo, who lived in Congo and Angola before coming to the United States to escape violence in the region, says he believes each object embodies a spirituality of sorts, and speaking of them keeps the history alive. 'There is a saying, when African ancestors die, there is an entire library that is burned,' he says. 'It's burning with all the knowledge. Just by seeing the object, it connects the present to the past.'
You gotta see this
There's more to this little cheetah cub than an adorable face and the ominous beginnings of some deadly canines. It is one of a pair of cheetah siblings born from in vitro fertilization to a surrogate mother at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC. Experts are hailing the birth as a huge scientific breakthrough, especially since cheetahs are an extremely vulnerable species. There are only about 7,500 cheetahs remaining in the wild, and they've gone extinct in several countries due to habitat destruction and hunting. This is the first time an IVF procedure on a cheetah has produced cubs, which means conservationists may have more options to bolster cheetah numbers in the future. It's okay to give a little 'aww,' you know, for science.
Heroes among us
Kwane Stewart is a practicing veterinarian, but his most important work isn't done in an exam room or a clinic. The 49-year-old spends his free time driving around California and offering free medical care to pets of homeless citizens. His life as 'The Street Vet' started when he saw how hard the Great Recession hit the homeless population in the Modesto area. In 2011, he set up a table at a local soup kitchen and offered to give people's pets a checkup. He felt drawn to the work and started seeking out patients on his own. Yes, pet health is the biggest part of the job, but Stewart also wants to eradicate a harmful and false stereotype: That homeless people aren't capable or loving pet owners.
Wanna get away?
We would like nothing better than to crawl into this picture of Strawberry Park Hot Springs in Colorado, slip a few cucumber slices over our eyes and become one with the snow and steam. The main spring in the Aspen-lined enclave comes up at a sizzling 150 degrees Fahrenheit, but there are other, more temperate pools to enjoy as well. One catch? Clothing is optional after dark. Whether that makes you more or less relaxed is certainly your business.
I don't have a feeling of inferiority. Never had. I'm as good as anybody, but no better.
- NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, who was one of the first African American women to work as a NASA scientist. Her calculations helped send the first American into space and were essential in launching Space Shuttle program. Johnson passed away this week at the age of 101.
Playing outside doesn't just give kids the opportunity to burn off some youthful energy. A new study claims nature actually makes children happier! In fact, researchers posited feeling more emotionally connected with the natural environment is, in and of itself, the reason for such increased happiness. Furthermore, children who were more in tune with nature tended to help other people and engage in Earth-friendly activities like recycling. Oh, and kids aren't the only ones who get a boost from birdsong and long arboreal strolls: It's a well-established fact that spending time in nature boosts overall health, no matter how old you are.
Impact your world
As Natalie Reilly helped nurse her mother through her 19th round of chemotherapy in 2016, she felt an overwhelming need to channel the grief she felt into something good. Together, she and her mother began writing thank you notes to veterans and first responders. The project lifted her mother's spirits, and when she eventually passed, she made Reilly promise to keep up the practice they had started together. Over time, other people learned of Reilly's project and were inspired to write their own. Now, Reilly and like-minded scribes label their letters with the hashtag #NothingButLoveNotes. She estimates at least 20,000 notes have been handed out by her community of writers to veterans, first responders, nurses, teachers and other people making a difference.
Shameless animal video
There's always time for cute animal videos. That time is now.
What, exactly, is an aardvark? Technically speaking, these burrowing, medium-sized mammals are native to Africa and are closely related to manatees, elephants and golden moles. Non-technically speaking, they're wiggly naked little snuffle snouts. Now you know. (Click here to view)