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Hands & Words & What They Can Do

The other day I was thinking about hands.

So often we look down at our hands, sometimes nervously, sometimes mindlessly, sometimes in shock or amazement. I recently painted a bookshelf and each day as I was cleaning up I would look down at my hands, covered in white paint, and be proud of the work I accomplished—and ­annoyed at how long it was going to take me to get my hands clean.

Hands can build. And we’ve seen them build. They create things from the ground up and we look at them, amazed that what we see before us came from these hands.

In the same way, hands can hurt. And we’ve seen them hurt. In movies, it’s common to see heroes and villains alike look down at their hands, wondering how—how could these hands have done such a thing? 

Hands leave their mark, good or bad, building or destroying, often stopping us in our tracks to look at the wake of their work.

But the same isn’t always true for words.

When we speak, when we talk or scream or whisper or mention or mumble or demand or inquire or refuse or agree, we use our words. But we don’t always see what our words do. Oftentimes our words leave our mouths and we never know where they land or how far they reach.  We don’t know if they fall on deaf ears or vulnerable ones. We don’t know if they are quickly forgotten or remembered forever.

Our words can build. They can inspire people. They can stay with people. They can shape people. In the same way, our words can hurt. They can tear people down. They can send people into darkness. They can shape people.

Our words leave marks, but oftentimes we don’t see them, especially when so many of our words are spoken online these days. We text and tweet and caption and comment and share and shout into the void of the internet and social media, assuming no one can hear us. We post and repost, sometimes solely to protect ourselves from judgment, and often without regard for those who might be hurt by what we say. We forget that people are people, even people that are different from us, even people who disagree with us. We forget that our words can build twice as high as our hands and can cut twice as fast.

I’m not here to tell you what to say, how to say it, or to infringe at all upon your right to say it. I just think we all could use a reminder that words matter. Our words matter. Whether we have one follower or millions. And what we say can change the world, for better or for worse. In this moment and in the infinity to follow. So let’s take our time. Let’s think about what we say and how we’re saying it. Let’s focus on echoing the good in what we’re fighting for rather than the hate for those we feel we’re fighting against. Let’s use our words (and our hands) to build and then watch as a new world takes shape.

31 Good Things that Happened in August

Hello and welcome back to another edition of All the Good Things, a monthly series where I highlight all the good things (get it?) that happen in each 30-day (or so) span. I hope it can be a reminder that amongst all the well known bad, there is a lot of undercover good happening in our world.

Let’s dive right in.

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1) This miner in Tanzania sold a gem for over $2 million and announced plans to use the money to build a school and health facility in his community

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2) This:

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3) People working from home gave their office chairs an upgrade

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4) This dog visited hard working firefighters

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5) Three men were rescued after writing SOS in the sand

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6) Olympian Katie Ledecky swam across the pool with a glass of chocolate milk on her head

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7) This 7 year old sewed and sold masks to raise money for her local Boys & Girls club

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8) This man posted a hilarious review of what appeared to be a very strange dish

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9) This family rescued a dog they found swimming 4 miles offshore in Lake Michigan

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10) This man showed off his garden haul picked for his wife

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11) Actor Dennis Quaid adopted a rescue cat named Dennis Quaid

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12) Andrew McCutchen had fun with the (cardboard) fans

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13) This Chihuahua was reunited with its owner after saving his life

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14) This rookie was put to work

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15) This Australian man saved his wife by punching a shark

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16) These moose went for a stroll

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17) This restaurant owner gave out free meals to storm victims

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18) This woman was found alive at a funeral home hours after being pronounced dead

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19) These twins went viral for hearing Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” for the first time

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20) And then quickly (and rightly) went viral again with this video of their reaction to hearing “Jolene” for the first time

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21) Wolverines were found in Mt. Rainier Park for the first time in over 100 years

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22) This girl landed a trick

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23) LEGO announced it is launching a line of braille bricks

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24) This unsold beer was turned into renewable energy

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25) These zookeepers showed a penguin Pingu to help him feel less lonely

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26) This brother was willing to risk it all

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27) Africa was declared free of polio

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28) These 2,000 year old redwoods survived the Northern California wildfires

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29) This man in Ohio built a “nut bar” for the neighborhood squirrels

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30) Dave Grohl had a remote drum battle with a 10 year old

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31) And finally, this girl got a new pair of glasses

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Wanna know the best part? There is SO much I didn’t include.

I can’t wait to see what September brings!

You can view the last edition of this series here.

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31 Good Things that Happened in July

Hello and welcome back to another edition of All the Good Things, a monthly series where I highlight all the good things (get it?) that happen in each 30-day (or so) span. I hope it can be a reminder that amongst all the well known bad, there is a lot of undercover good happening in our world.

Let’s dive right in.

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1) After raising millions of pounds for the NHS in April, Captain Sir Tom Moore was knighted by the Queen of England.

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2) This owner of this arcade helped out a loyal customer.

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3) This designer created wetsuits that look exactly like tuxedos.

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4) This girl visited the nurse that cared for her in the hospital.

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5) Two girls joined at the skull were successfully separated in an 18-hour operation

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6) Over 250 million trees were planted in India

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7) This father’s gift came full circle

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8) This kayaker rescued a deer from drowning

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9) This glove translated sign language into speech

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10) This:

https://twitter.com/totallypeachy_/status/1283859646810333196

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11) This family bought a street vendor’s entire stock

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12) Plans for a floating movie theater were announced in Paris

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13) This paramedic shared a way he’s been able to better communicate with hard of hearing patients

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14) Sean Penn’s nonprofit helped relieve firefighters of running COVID testing sites

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15) Zappos announced it will sell single shoes and mixed shoe sizes to be more accommodating to those with different sized feet or prosthetics.

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16) This dad matched his mask to his tie

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17) Alyssa Nakken made history as the first woman to coach on the field of an MLB game…

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18)…which only added to the good news that baseball came back!

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19) This girl shared a trick she learned in therapy

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20) This man invented a bicycle that washes your clothes while you pedal

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21) Iceland set up a website to help people scream out their frustrations

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22) The Daily Meal released this list of the best ice cream shop in every state

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23) This video revealed how Hostess treats are made

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24) Residents and carers at this facility recreated famous album covers

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25) This boy saved his sister from an attacking dog and then got well deserved praise from some of his favorite superheroes

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26) Astronaut Colonel Dough Hurley shared this picture from space

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27) This medical student created a booklet that can help physicians better identify symptoms on darker skin tones

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28) This rhino enjoyed a bath

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29) These two brothers were saved from an apartment fire by jumping into a crowd.

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30) A news anchor revealed that an email from a viewer regarding a lump on her neck may have saved her life.

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31) And finally, these alpacas got married

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Wanna know the best part? There is SO much I didn’t include.

I can’t wait to see what August brings!

You can view the last edition of this series here.

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30 Good Things that Happened in June

Hello and welcome back to another edition of All the Good Things, a monthly series where I highlight all the good things (get it?) that happen in each 30-day (or so) span. I hope it can be a reminder that amongst all the well known bad, there is a lot of undercover good happening in our world.

Let’s dive right in.

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1) This boy with cerebral palsy completed a marathon, one half mile at a time.

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2) Shutterfly brought these illustrations done by kids to thank essential workers to Times Square.

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3) The winners of the International Photography Awards were announced.

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4) This girl shared an emotional story from a day at work:

@kaykosplay

and THAT is on why cosplay is important #wonderwoman

♬ original sound – kaykosplay

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5) This pair found a safe way to salsa dance:

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6) This man built a hummingbird feeder helmet.

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7) The MLB reached an agreement with the players to officially start the 2020 season:

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8) A group of strangers worked together to lift a van off a woman injured in a car crash.

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9) This girl gave her step dad an incredible gift:

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10) This man built a drive in theater to visit with friends.

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11) This man turned clouds into animals:

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12) This group of girls raised over $100,000 to support local black owned businesses by selling friendship bracelets.

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13) This boy help a woman up the stairs:

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14) This woman donated a kidney to a man who already has her late husband’s pancreas.

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15) This dog apologized:

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16) This girl showed off her incredible talent.

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17) Dolly Parton & Nina West launched a charity collection to benefit LGBTQ+ youth and children’s literacy.

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18) This family rescued a bear cub that had a jar stuck on its head.

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19) This guy proved himself right

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20) 8 years after being shot for going to school, Malala Yousafzai graduated from Oxford University.

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21) Father’s Day:

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22) These garbage men were surprised with a ‘thank you’ party by members of their community.

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23) After a picture of this 11 year old aspiring rapper went viral, kind strangers from around the world started hooking him up with equipment to help his dream become a reality.

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24) This teacher took a student to lunch and bought him a car after no one showed up to celebrate his graduation.

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25) This girl was unexpectedly joined in her singing of the national anthem:

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26) This girl won 1st prize for a video she made to inspire the class of 2020.

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27) This article highlight eight good habits people have learned while in quarantine.

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28) This boy got a big surprise.

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29) This deaf dog’s “pack” acted as his “protection ears”.

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30) And finally, this girl cleared up some political questions:

@chevy2funnyy

Political questions ft @arielle_brii 🤕😂

♬ original sound – chevy2funnyy

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Wanna know the best part? There is SO much I didn’t include.

I can’t wait to see what July brings!

You can view the last edition of this series here.

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Hate Will Never be a Prize

In a standard marathon, there are thousands of participants, from thousands of backgrounds, with thousands of stories to tell. In the early mornings of race day, they gather at the starting line, grouped together by their approximate pace, each person stretching, praying, pacing, dancing—anything that will prepare them for the journey they are about to embark on.

When I ran my marathon last year, I was surprised by the immediate kinship I felt with everyone around me at the starting line, even though we didn’t talk to one another, or even make more than a few seconds of eye contact. I felt bonded to them, like we were going into battle—because in a way, we were—and it’s easy to feel connected to people when you are working toward the same goal, and headed toward the same finish line.

The same cannot be said in every day life.

Oftentimes when you come into contact with someone in the day to day, you don’t know the path they are on, where they’ve come from, what they’ve experienced, or where they are hoping to go. For some, this is inviting, it’s an opportunity to meet someone new. For others this is intimidating, and a reason to feel self-conscious. And for too many, this is an excuse to jump to conclusions, pass judgment, and, ultimately, hate.

In a marathon setting, if your initial reaction towards one of your fellow runners was hate, it could keep you from making an ally that could inspire you, motivate you, and help you when things got hard. It could slow your progress, steal your focus, weaken your performance, and ultimately, ruin your race. And in real life, it will do the exact same thing.

We are not all running the same race, on the same course, at the same pace, with the same finish line, but we are all trying our best to keep moving. And when we hate, we give unwarranted obstacles not only to ourselves, but our fellow runners. We slow the progress of everyone when we decide we are more important, more valuable, or more worthy of getting to where we want to go than our fellow runners. We slow the progress of everyone when we don’t recognize our fellow runners as fellow individuals, fellow personalities, and fellow human beings, rather than a prejudged series of colors, shapes, sizes, uniforms or beliefs.

Running a marathon takes patience. Living a life takes patience. Forming relationships takes patience. And the quickest way to derail all of these is leaning into the ignorant and lazy habit of impatience. Of believing you already know what an experience will give you before you experience it, of assuming you know all that life has to offer before you live it, and of deciding you know who a person is before they have time to show you.

Be patient.

Be open.

Be helpful.

Be kind.

Romans 12:9-10 in the Bible says, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”

So let us honor each individual. Let us love them for who they are and all they can offer the world. Let us hate what is wrong, but not mistake hate as a prize. For the goal is not to hate the quickest, the loudest, or the strongest, the goal is to right the wrong and starve hate all together. The goal is to not only hold tightly to the good that we know, but to reach out for the good we are working towards. The goal is for love and respect to be more prevalent and powerful than doubt and bias. The goal is for every runner to believe whole-heartedly that they deserve a place at the starting line and have the opportunity to reach their finish line. The goal is for a person to be a person, at first glance, at first instinct, no matter what, and for that person to know they are loved.

An Ode to Tuna Noodles

Dear Tuna Noodles,

Thank you, for being you. Thank you for your egg noodles. Thank you for your tuna. Thank you for your cream of mushroom soup. But most of all, thank you for your 100% not organic or diet friendly or doctor recommended Velveeta cheese.

Thank you for all of the evenings that you cooked in the oven at my grandparents’ house, in my childhood homes, and in friends’ kitchens. Thank you for your heaping portions on the plastic plates that my cousins and I decorated and my grandparents kept on a shelf just for us; and for those on the spring pallet glass plates that my parents still have in their cupboard to this day; and even for those in deep set bowls that somehow still managed to encourage a second and third helping.

Thank you for being easy to make, for giving me something I could cook with my grandma and my mom, and by myself when I studied abroad and wanted a taste of home. Thank you for the memories you unlock with every bite—be it a weeknight conversation at my grandparent’s long, padded dinner table, a lazy Friday night sat on my parents’ kitchen stool with the broken leg, or a living room crowded with family, pets, and TV trays set up in front of a Dodger game.

Thank you for teaching me what comfort food is, and for giving me a recipe to share at every bridal shower I will ever attend. Thank you for giving me something to fall back on and to build up from. I’ve come a long way in my cooking, and I can only hope I have a long way to go, but you will always be my first love. So thank you for all the love. And again, for the Velveeta.

A Little Prayer for You (And Me)

Praying has never been my strong suit.

Ever since I was little I have been taught the value, importance, and power in praying, but I have never been a “good” (eloquent, confident, etc.) prayer, especially out loud or in front of other people.

But lately I have been feeling like I want to pray, for those who have faith, for those who don’t, for those who have a different faith or any degree of spirituality, anyone and everyone who might be reading this, or even those who aren’t.

Ironically, after starting this post about a week ago and then getting too nervous to post it, the pastor of my church gave a sermon all about praying. I was caught off guard listening to him, noting how some points he made seemed to directly address the fears I was having, but I was also encouraged to take a step out of my comfort zone, which brings me here today. So, if you, or anyone you know might need prayer, this is for you, and for me, and for all of us trying to find our way through this trying time.

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Dear God,

I know these last few months have been difficult for most of us, some of us more than others. And I know that I am among so many when I say that I am not just scared of what is happening now, but what could happen, tomorrow or the next day or the next—all the days ahead of us that seem so scary and unknown. There is still so much we have to learn, so far we have to go until we can regain a sense of normalcy, and the imposed limitations have begun to feel suffocating. And so, I pray that we can find a sense of peace. A calmness that doesn’t blind us or numb us to the challenges ahead, but keeps us encouraged to work through them and help one another along the way.

I pray for a peace that abides on the frontlines, bringing confidence and endurance to our nurses, doctors, and frontline workers, helping them find strength and encouragement in their work.

I pray for a peace that reaches those struggling with anxiety, depression, addiction, or any number of mental health struggles that may be exacerbated by this pandemic and its side effects.

I pray for a peace that can overshadow the panic and fears associated with losing a job or being unable to do one’s job efficiently, and can provide courage to those who need to ask for help.

I pray for a peace that can heal the hearts of those who have lost a loved one or who don’t get to see their loved ones for fear of putting them at risk.

I pray for a peace that can keep us united, even as we step further into the unknown. And I pray that we can find compassion and strength alongside each other rather than at odds with one another.

I pray for a peace that can illuminate good moments of mundane days. Whether it be a phone call, a successful pastry bake in the kitchen, a sunset, a smile, or a cool breeze.

I pray for a peace that can give us each a long, deep breath, and encourage us to keep going, along with a confidence that there is not only goodness to be found up ahead, but even right here, where we are.

Amen.

30 Good Things that Happened in April

Hello and welcome back to another edition of All the Good Things, a monthly series where I highlight all the good things (get it?) that happen in each 30-day (or so) span. I hope it can be a reminder that amongst all the well known bad, there is a lot of undercover good happening in our world.

Let’s dive right in

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1) Author James Patterson set up a fund to help Indie bookstores.

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2) This house had fun:

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3) This woman accidentally turned herself into a potato during a zoom call.

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4) This man survived the coronavirus and then celebrated his 104th birthday.

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5) This dad brought a birthday tradition home.

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6) The Getty asked people to recreate paintings with household items and they delivered.

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7) This Australian family simulated the 15 hour flight they would have taken for their planned vacation.

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8) This grandson organized a parade for his grandpa’s 100th birthday.

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9) After supplying over 20 million facemasks, Apple went to work on producing and delivering facemasks.

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10) This dad built a ramp to help ducklings out of his pool.

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11) This man made his last run of ski season from inside his home.

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12) Matthew McConaughey hosted a virtual bingo night for a senior citizen home.

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13) This:

View this post on Instagram

5 nuggets costs 1 smile.

A post shared by Good News (@tanksgoodnews) on

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14) This man played the trumpet for a woman on her 104th birthday.

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15) This man made art with food.

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16) People in Australia started dressing up in crazy outfits to take their trash barrels out.

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17) This bar owner took over $3000 worth off bills of the wall to pay her unemployed staff.

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18) This man went to get a coffee:

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19) This 99 year old veteran raised $9 million dollars for UK’s National Health Service by walking.

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20) This life hack was revealed:

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21) This delivery driver sanitized a package for an at risk girl.

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22) Coffee chain, Dutch Bros donated 100% of their April profits to first responders.

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23) Ashton Kutcher & Mila Kunis released a quarantine wine and 100% of the profits will be donated.

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24) This dog played volleyball:

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25) This 10 year old donated 200 gift cards to his local police officers.

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26) This boy 3D printed ear guards for medical masks.

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27) This boy said, “Good morning!”

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28) This couple got married in the middle of their street.

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29) This girl was sad about missing her prom, so her dad asked for a dance.

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30) And finally, if you haven’t already, please check out John Krasinki’s Some Good News.

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Wanna know the best part? There is SO much I didn’t include.

I can’t wait to see what May brings!

You can view the last edition of this series here.

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Meet Jimmy June, My Tin Can Robot

When I was 10 years old, my family and I drove to Arkansas to visit my great aunt. About ten years later, my mom, sister and I flew out to visit again, and then when my cousin and her husband moved out there, we tried to make our visits more regular.

Four or five years ago, my great aunt was moved into an assisted living facility where she would live for the remainder of her life, and so when we went to visit, we could no longer stay at her house. As a result, we often stayed with Jim and June, close friends of both my great aunt and my late grandparents—who we called Grammie and Papa.

When my great aunt got sick and eventually reached a point where she didn’t recognize us, and would often sleep through most of our visits, Jim and June (and my cousins! 😊) were the reason that our trips were still full of light and laughter. They are the reason why, when people ask about my favorite places in the world, I immediately think of their living room, curled up in one of their chairs, watching the sun set off the front porch. I think of simple drives to the store, or sitting down at one of their favorite restaurants, always giggling and talking and feeling happy and relaxed for what always seemed like the first time in a long time.

On one trip, while walking into a restaurant just before the sun started to set, I saw this tin can robot hanging on a hook and I immediately fell in love with it.

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“Do you think I could make this?” I asked my sister as I snapped a picture of it.

She and my mom agreed that I could try, and we decided to start saving cans as soon as we got home.

In the first or second week of this quarantine, I found that stack of cans, patiently waiting to be upcycled.  It was almost 11:00 p.m. but I couldn’t help it, I sat down, spread them out, and got to work. While the state of the world would prevent us from traveling anywhere anyway, we had recently found out that Jim and June moved to Texas to be closer to their family. It was the right move, a move that we supported and encouraged in our last few visits, but it made me sad to think that I would no longer find myself in that Arkansas house, walking around their property on a humid summer afternoon to go see the neighbor’s horses, or continually trying to photograph the house in a way that would show people the way it made me feel. And so, I decided it was about time I made my robot—to re-find that feeling.

While the original is screwed together with nuts and bolts, I worked with what I had (and avoided any trips to the hospital due to possible clumsiness with the drill) and I hot-glued him together. I also found some washers I could use for eyes, and an extra allen wrench to give him a smile.

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Call me crazy, but I have now fallen in love with two tin can robots in my life.

One is probably still hanging outside that restaurant we visited on almost every trip, where the five of us always ordered the same thing and talked about what we were going to have for dessert before we even finished our meal. And one is now sitting, smiling, in my house, reminding me about every time we pulled into that driveway, primed to hear stories about the neighborhood cats, and every time we pulled out of that driveway, praying there would be a next time.

I still hope there will be. Maybe this time in Texas.

Until then, I have this robot, who I named “Jimmy June” to remind me of who I consider to be my third set of grandparents, and of all the times we spent sitting on the couch, watching the sky go purple in a thunderstorm, and drinking margaritas until all hours of the night, giggling and plotting what mischief we could get into the next day.

31 Good Things that Happened in March

Well, hello there.

It seems things are a bit different since the last time I made one of these posts.

But that hasn’t stopped the world from showing unmatched kindness, compassion and love to those who need it most. This was actually one of the easiest “good things” posts to put together, which makes me so proud. Let’s keep that good coming, y’all. heavy-black-heart_2764

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1) Adam Driver, who plays Kylo Ren in the Star Wars films, helped save the day for Ben Affleck on his son’s birthday.

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2) The people of New York applauded first responders and health care professionals.

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3) This little girl with alopecia was thrilled to meet a bald model.

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4) This boy dressed up as his school security guard for “Dress As Your Favorite Person Day”.

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5) A malfunction at this Italian winery caused wine to leak through the towns pipes and faucets.

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6) This man brought the internet a taste of sports:

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7) As did this man:

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8) Hallmark gave away 1 million cards to help connect loved ones separated by the Coronavirus.

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9) This boy, who was bullied for his love of reading, started a book review account and got over 100,000 followers.

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10) This girl got an R2-D2 prosthetic arm and was called a hero by Luke Skywalker himself

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11) This girl’s family found a way to spend time with her even though she was in quarantine.

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12) This New York pizza company put pictures of dogs on their pizza boxes to help them get adopted.

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13) This woman launched a makeup line that is specifically designed to help those with Parkinson’s apply makeup more easily.

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14) The people of Italy sang together during quarantine.

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15) These YouTubers gave away toilet paper for free.

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16) Netflix launched “Netflix Party”, a way to stream the service with friends online.

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17) This woman found beans

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18) Meals meant for a cancelled Ohio Sports Festival were donated to tornado victims and first responders in Nashville.

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19) Animals devastated by the Australian bushfires found a new home.

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20) This girl caught a fish.

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21) This customer left an extremely generous tip to help restaurant staff during the Coronavirus shutdown .

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22) This car dealership offered a safe place for people living in their cars to sleep.

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23) Chick-fil-a began selling their sauces in stores to raise money for their employee scholarship program.

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24) Distilleries made hand sanitizer from their in-house alcohol and gave it out for free.

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25) This man donated COVID-19 test kits to 54 countries in Africa.

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26) These two friends snuggled.

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27) This woman in North Carolina—who is now working from home—started shopping for her elderly neighbors during her lunch break.

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28) This school district in Cleveland provided two free meals every day for anyone under the age of 18.

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29) This:

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30) This Italian hospital started 3D-printing respirator valves for free

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31) And John Krasinski started a news network dedicated to good news

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Wanna know the best part? There is seriously SO much I didn’t include.

Check out Good News Network and Tank’s Good News for more good stuff, and also check out Good Good Good, which not only sends email newsletters, but also “Good Newspapers” which I just opted into start receiving in the mail.

There are lots of good things happening y’all. Let’s do our part to keep them coming.

You can view the last edition of this series here.

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