The only appropriate way to describe 2016 in a nutshell would be a long, drawn-out sigh.
Yet despite all the devastating moments, a handful of news stories showed that humanity still has a lot of heart.
So, if this past year gave you a serious case of the blues, here are some true silver linings. And believe us, they’re pretty damn good:
When a man was panicking on a train, a woman calmed him by holding his hand
A tiny bit of compassion can have a huge effect.
Ehab Taha, a 26-year-old from Canada, was riding public transit in Vancouver when a large man he described on Facebook as “suffering from drug abuse and\or mental health issues” became aggressive in his train car.
The man was alarming fellow passengers “with erratic movements, cursing, shouting” until a 70-year-old woman decided to help him by reaching out her hand and grabbing his.
The man eventually sank to his knees, completely calm. Stunned, Taha snapped a picture of the sweet moment.
“At the end, he said, ‘Thanks, Grandma,’ and walked away,” Taha told HuffPost Canada.
When 300 plumbers poured into Flint to install water filters for free
More than 300 union plumbers from all over Michigan flooded Flint to install free filters for residents in February.
In one day, plumbers replaced faucets and filters in 800 homes.
“We did not cause this American tragedy in Flint,” Harold Harrington, an official from Flint’s local plumbers union, told the crowd. “But we certainly can help correct the damage that has been done!”
When folks in Orlando wore giant angel wings to block anti-LGBTQ protesters
The Orlando Shakespeare Theater built angel wings that would block protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church from disrupting the funeral processions for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shootings.
When an animal shelter enlisted “Pokemon Go” players to walk dogs
Muncie Animal Shelter in Indiana recruited “Pokemon Go” players to walk the dogs there.
Phil Peckinpaugh, the shelter’s director, told The Huffington Post that he got the idea after noticing “droves” of people all over the city walking around and hunting Pokemon with their phones.
“It would be great if every one of those individuals had one of our dogs with them,” he told HuffPost.
After promoting the idea online, the shelter got plenty of help IRL.
When police made an elderly couple a pasta dinner after finding them crying from loneliness
After someone reported hearing crying and shouting from an apartment in Rome, four policemen were surprised to find an elderly couple alone in their home.
The man and woman, who had been together for almost 70 years, were the ones crying, but not because they were in any physical peril. Heartbreakingly, they’d been suffering from an “incurable loneliness.”
The officers proceeded to make the couple a pasta dinner and spend the evening chatting with them.
When a couple cooked barbecue for an entire shelter of Louisiana flood victims
Christian and Amanda Dornhorst spent $1,840 of their own money buying and cooking barbecue for people who were affected by summer flooding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, that killed at least 13 people and damaged about 40,000 homes.
The couple cooked for people at the Celtic Media Centre, which was used as a shelter for those evacuated and displaced because of flooding.
“When you hand someone a serving tray of food, it’s like handing them a hug, a smile and handshake all at once,” Christian Dornhorst told HuffPost. “It’s a way to say, ‘I’ve been there before’ and ‘We’re gonna make it through this’ without saying a word.”
When two Olympic runners crashed together, then willed each other to finish the race
When Abbey D’Agostino of Team USA and New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin tumbled to the ground during Round 1 of the women’s 5,000-meter race during the Rio Olympics, they willed each other to finish.
“Get up, get up! We have to finish!” D’Agostino told her competitor, according to ESPN. “This is the Olympic Games. We have to finish this.”
Both women finished. Although they didn’t win the bronze, silver or gold, the International Fair Play Committee granted the athletes the Fair Play Award for sportsmanship. The extremely rare award has been given to only 17 other Olympic athletes.
When a diner bought an anti-gay family’s dinner as a surprise act of love
Natalie Woods, of Denton, Texas, was dining at Snuffer’s Restaurant and Bar in Addison, Texas, in November when she overheard a Christian family at a nearby table.
One of the three family members was discussing how “disgusted” he was after learning their “liberal” nephew had come out as gay.
Once the other members of the group said they would “pray” for Jesus to “cure” their nephew, Woods decided to “actually act like the Jesus I grew up learning about.” Inspired by first lady Michelle Obama’s famous “when they go low, we go high” suggestion at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, she paid for their meal and left a handwritten note about acceptance.
“It’s time myself and the people of this country defend each other, defend minorities, defend people of all races and religions,” she said. “Sometimes it starts with small acts of love, sometimes it’s protesting in the streets, voting, lobbying, or running for a local office.” Ultimately, she hopes her story will inspire others to “continue the message of love.”
When a teen made an app to help students find lunch buddies
The Sit With Us app helps students who have difficulty finding a place to sit in the cafeteria locate a welcoming group.
Natalie Hampton ― a 16-year-old from Sherman Oaks, California, who designed the app ― was inspired to create it after she ate alone her entire seventh grade year. The situation left Hampton feeling vulnerable and made her a target for bullying.
Hampton told Audie Cornish on NPR’s “All Things Considered” that she felt an app like this was necessary because it prevents kids from being publicly rejected and being considered social outcasts by their peers.
“This way it’s very private. It’s through the phone. No one else has to know,” she explained to Cornish. “And you know that you’re not going to be rejected once you get to the table.”
When New Zealand’s native people showed support for Standing Rock in a powerful way
The Māori, the native people of New Zealand, showed their support of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which has been protesting the creation of the Dakota Access Pipeline, via Facebook.
They created a page called “Haka with Standing Rock” on which they posted tons of hakas, a traditional war dance that the Māori would perform on the battlefield.
The Facebook group, which has almost 50,000 members, boasts moving videos like the one above.
When Canadians decided to riff on “Make America Great Again” by tweeting how America is already great
The Garden, a creative agency, launched the most Canadian social media campaign ever with its #TellAmericaItsGreat campaign. The intent of the campaign was to cheer up the U.S. during our particularly tough ― and sometimes discouraging ― election season.
“As their closest friends and neighbors, we thought it was important for us to do something to cut through the negativity and help remind them that no matter how bad things might seem, there are a lot of reasons to believe that America is still pretty great,” the agency, which also released a video about the campaign, wrote in a blog.
When a kid with cerebral palsy met the president after being ejected from a Trump rally
J.J. Holmes, a 12-year-old boy who has cerebral palsy, wanted to protest Donald Trump’s treatment of people with disabilities during the presidential race. His mother, Alison, drove him to a Trump rally in Tampa, Florida, where J.J. and his mother held up a Hillary Clinton placard and chanted for the Democratic nominee.
Trump quickly ordered them out of the rally.
His supporters responded by “chanting ‘U-S-A’ and pushing [J.J.’s] wheelchair,” Alison told The Washington Post.
A reporter who witnessed the situation called Valentina Pereda, the Clinton campaign’s press secretary in Florida. Pereda escorted J.J. and his mother to a Clinton rally in Kissimmee, Florida, where President Barack Obama was scheduled to speak.
It was there that J.J. got to meet the president — less than 24 hours after he was booted form the Trump rally.
When Patagonia made $10 million in Black Friday sales and donated it all to saving the planet
Before the largest sales day of the year, Patagonia, the high-end outdoor apparel and gear retailer, announced it would donate 100 percent of its Black Friday sales to grassroots environmental groups that protect local communities’ air, water and soil. The company expected to hit $2 million in sales on Nov. 25, but ended up reaching $10 million.
As promised, every penny was donated to the environment.
When a Texas man stood outside an Islamic center with a sign that read, “You belong.”
A Texas man was photographed holding a sign on the side of a road outside the Islamic Center of Irving, near Dallas, reading: “You Belong. Stay Strong. Be Blessed. We Are One America.”
A representative for the center told The Washington Post that the man had been standing outside the mosque with his sign for days. He wanted to show support for the local Muslim community after Donald Trump, whose campaign was dominated by anti-Muslim pledges, was elected president.
When someone built a grocery store on wheels to bring produce to food deserts in St. Louis
The St. Louis MetroMarket is a full-service grocery store on wheels. The bus, dubbed “Turnip1,” is stocked with fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy and bread from local farmers and community gardens. MetroMarket also likes to promote where its food comes from and uses the overhead space on the bus, where you’d typically see ads, to tell those stories. Outside the bus, workers and volunteers offer nutritional information and food demos to show customers how they can prepare the groceries they buy.
“Entire communities in St. Louis don’t have a grocery store,” said Jeremy Goss, a Saint Louis University medical student and one of the founders of MetroMarket. “It was very frustrating to us.”
When a med student fought to allow hospitalized voters to cast ballots
A lawyer representing the Philadelphia Republican City Committee almost prevented more than a dozen of the city’s voters who were hospitalized on Election Day from participating in the democratic process. But thanks to Dorothy Charles, a 23-year-old medical student at the University of Pennsylvania, that didn’t happen.
Charles organized an effort to help voters hospitalized on Election Day complete emergency absentee ballot applications. But in a hearing less than two hours before Charles’ deadline to bring the completed absentee ballot applications back to City Hall, the lawyer representing the Philadelphia Republican City Committee, Vito Canuso, began asking detailed ― and what Charles deemed “irrelevant” ― questions about each of the 17 notarized emergency applications collected.
After more than a half-hour of objections from Democratic lawyers to Canuso’s line of questioning, Charles finally got the ballots verified and rushed over to the hospital. She got back to City Hall with 15 completed absentee ballots in hand … and just four minutes to spare.