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9 Wonderful Acts of Kindness

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Even when the news all seems to negative, it's nice to remind ourselves from time to time that there are plenty of people doing good in the world. For World Kindness Day, here are a few acts—some big, some small—that all make more than just the recipient feel the love.

1. THE SECURITY GUARD WHO MAKES KIDS FEEL EXTRA SPECIAL.

When he retired after 35 years in the German navy, Freddie Wieczorek started to go a bit stir crazy. He and his wife had moved to Florida, so he decided to get a part-time job at Walt Disney World as a security guard. But he went above and beyond making sure guests' days are safe and enjoyable: When he isn’t too busy, he asks costumed children for their autographs.

While it seems like such a small gesture, it makes the days of all the tiny princesses and pirates, many of whom think he has mistaken them for the "real" characters. "Every time I see a princess leaving from that signature or when I just tell them, 'You look so pretty,' I see them skipping. Then I know I just made their day," Wieczorek told Today in 2012. "And the pirates, the same thing. When they 'Awwwr,' it’s very special."

2. THE MAN WHO GAVE UP HIS DREAM OF WALKING TO HELP A CHILD.

Following a biking accident, Welshman Dan Black was paralyzed from the chest down at age 22. He spent four years raising £22,000 in the hopes that a future stem-cell treatment might help him walk again one day. But then his mom showed him a newspaper article on a 5-year-old boy who lived nearby with cerebral palsy whose family was trying to raise £60,000 for an operation that would let him walk unaided for the first time. Despite having what his mother called a "horrendous" quality of life, Black decided the boy, Brecon Vaughan, needed the money more than him and donated every penny. That, plus the news his generosity generated, helped them reach the goal within days. Brecon soon underwent the surgery, and within a year had ditched his walker. Within two years he was walking to school on his own and running along with his classmates.

3. THE TOWN THAT RALLIED WHEN NO ONE CAME TO A CHILD'S BIRTHDAY PARTY.

Last year, kindergartener Glenn Buratti invited all 16 of his classmates to his birthday party, and not a single one showed up. According to his mother, when Glenn realized no one was coming, he was devastated and tried to hide his tears. So like many upset moms do in that situation, Ashlee Buratti took to a community-based Facebook page. Within an hour, her son had a birthday party, all thanks to strangers.

Half a dozen families stopped by, some with presents. The sheriff’s department sent a helicopter to do a flyby. Later in the week they sent over the full arsenal: police cars, fire trucks, a SWAT van, and a canine unit. His mother said that despite having autism and some social anxiety, Glenn’s smile just kept getting bigger and bigger.

4. THE GREEK CAFE THAT HOUSES STRAY DOGS AT NIGHT.

The Hott Spott café on the island of Lesbos might be a cool hangout for humans until 3 a.m. each night, but after that it is a warm place for stray dogs to sleep. Ever since Greece was hit by their debt crisis, people have been abandoning dogs they can no longer afford. It has gotten so bad that animal charities estimated there were more than a million stray dogs in the country. Last winter, an assistant sociology professor took a photo of some dogs curled up on the café’s benches that went viral, and said that since the refugee crisis, it seemed like people had been trying to find ways to help the less fortunate, including cold puppies who might otherwise freeze on the streets.

5. THE TEENAGER WHO USED EXTREME COUPONING TO DONATE TO A HOMELESS SHELTER.

Sixteen-year-old Jordon Cox decided to try and get a huge Christmas meal for as little as possible. But not for his family: He donated it all to a homeless shelter. In the end, he managed to get £572.16 worth of food from a British supermarket … for only four pence.

Part of this was down to writing food manufacturers directly and telling them about his mission; many of them sent him vouchers. But the other part was possible thanks to his spending half an hour each day searching online and through mailers for great deals—i.e. "extreme couponing." While normally he does it to save money on his and his mom’s weekly shop, at the holidays he wanted to help those less fortunate.

6. THE STRANGERS WHO RAISED THOUSANDS FOR A MAN WHO COMMUTED 21 MILES EACH DAY—ON FOOT.

James Robertson’s Detroit neighborhood didn’t have bus services all the way to his factory job, so he found himself walking eight miles there and 13 miles home, five days a week. Some nights he would only get two hours of sleep. But when the 56-year-old's story was highlighted in the city newspaper, donations started pouring in.

Three GoFundMe campaigns raised a total of $33,000 within hours. A car dealership offered him the choice between two newer vehicles, and other people offered bikes, bus tickets, and even to drive him to work themselves. Needless to say, Robertson was completely overwhelmed by the generosity. But he still urged Detroit to consider a 24/7 bus service, because he knows he’s not the only person in that position.

7. THE WOMAN WHO TURNED HER HOME INTO A HOSPICE FOR TERMINALLY ILL CATS.

Peruvian nurse Maria Torero, not content with helping the sick at her day job, turned her eight-room home into a hospice for cats with leukemia. And not just two or three cats—for years, she has regularly had up to 175 at a time. She has stray cats tested, and will only bring home the adult ones who already have leukemia, since the disease can be spread to healthy cats. Her house is covered in food bowls and litter trays, as well as beds so they can be comfortable. Torero spends roughly $1500 a month (from donations and out of her own pocket) on food and medicine for her feline patients, and she even knits them sweaters. But she says that the best gift she can give them is love and respect during their lives.

8. THOUSANDS TURN OUT TO FULFILL CHRISTMAS WISH OF A GIRL WITH CANCER.

In 2013, 8-year-old Delaney Brown was diagnosed with leukemia in May, and by December, doctors were only giving her days to live. While she had already received donations to pay for medical expenses and a video chat with Taylor Swift, she knew what she really wanted as one last Christmas wish: to hear live carolers outside her house. So her parents posted it to social media. Instead of just a few people, an estimated 6000 to 8000 turned up, allowing Delaney to hear them sing "Frosty the Snowman" and "Jingle Bells" even though she was too sick to come to the window. She posted a picture on Facebook saying, "I can hear you now!!! Love you!"

Delaney died just a few days later, on Christmas morning.

9. THE UGANDAN WOMEN WHO DONATED TO KATRINA VICTIMS.

Despite only earning $1.20 a day, a group of women in Uganda got together and donated $900 to the relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina. Because the group had selflessly donated to the victims of the tsunami in Southeast Asia the year before, local nurse Rose Busingye didn’t want to ask them for money again, instead just asking that they pray for those affected. But to her surprise, 200 women donated money not just from their day jobs breaking rocks into gravel, but from selling things like bananas, necklaces, and chairs. The money all went to a Catholic aid organization in the United States.

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13 Fascinating Facts About Nina Simone
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Nina Simone, who would’ve celebrated her 85th birthday today, was known for using her musical platform to speak out. “I think women play a major part in opening the doors for better understanding around the world,” the “Strange Fruit” songstress once said. Though she chose to keep her personal life shrouded in secrecy, these facts grant VIP access into a life well-lived and the music that still lives on.

1. NINA SIMONE WAS HER STAGE NAME.

The singer was born as Eunice Waymon on February 21, 1933. But by age 21, the North Carolina native was going by a different name at her nightly Atlantic City gig: Nina Simone. She hoped that adopting a different name would keep her mother from finding out about her performances. “Nina” was her boyfriend’s nickname for her at the time. “Simone” was inspired by Simone Signoret, an actress that the singer admired.

2. SHE HAD HUMBLE BEGINNINGS.


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There's a reason that much of the singer's music had gospel-like sounds. Simone—the daughter of a Methodist minister and a handyman—was raised in the church and started playing the piano by ear at age 3. She got her start in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, where she played gospel hymns and classical music at Old St. Luke’s CME, the church where her mother ministered. After Simone died on April 21, 2003, she was memorialized at the same sanctuary.

3. SHE WAS BOOK SMART...

Simone, who graduated valedictorian of her high school class, studied at the prestigious Julliard School of Music for a brief period of time before applying to Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. Unfortunately, Simone was denied admission. For years, she maintained that her race was the reason behind the rejection. But a Curtis faculty member, Vladimir Sokoloff, has gone on record to say that her skin color wasn’t a factor. “It had nothing to do with her…background,” he said in 1992. But Simone ended up getting the last laugh: Two days before her death, the school awarded her an honorary degree.

4. ... WITH DEGREES TO PROVE IT.

Simone—who preferred to be called “doctor Nina Simone”—was also awarded two other honorary degrees, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Malcolm X College.

5. HER CAREER WAS ROOTED IN ACTIVISM.

A photo of Nina Simone circa 1969

Gerrit de Bruin

At the age of 12, Simone refused to play at a church revival because her parents had to sit at the back of the hall. From then on, Simone used her art to take a stand. Many of her songs in the '60s, including “Mississippi Goddamn,” “Why (The King of Love Is Dead),” and “Young, Gifted and Black,” addressed the rampant racial injustices of that era.

Unfortunately, her activism wasn't always welcome. Her popularity diminished; venues didn’t invite her to perform, and radio stations didn’t play her songs. But she pressed on—even after the Civil Rights Movement. In 1997, Simone told Interview Magazine that she addressed her songs to the third world. In her own words: “I’m a real rebel with a cause.”

6. ONE OF HER MOST FAMOUS SONGS WAS BANNED.

Mississippi Goddam,” her 1964 anthem, only took her 20 minutes to an hour to write, according to legend—but it made an impact that still stands the test of time. When she wrote it, Simone had been fed up with the country’s racial unrest. Medger Evers, a Mississippi-born civil rights activist, was assassinated in his home state in 1963. That same year, the Ku Klux Klan bombed a Birmingham Baptist church and as a result, four young black girls were killed. Simone took to her notebook and piano to express her sentiments.

“Alabama's gotten me so upset/Tennessee made me lose my rest/And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam,” she sang.

Some say that the song was banned in Southern radio stations because “goddam” was in the title. But others argue that the subject matter is what caused the stations to return the records cracked in half.

7. SHE NEVER HAD A NUMBER ONE HIT.

Nina Simone released over 40 albums during her decades-spanning career including studio albums, live versions, and compilations, and scored 15 Grammy nominations. But her highest-charting (and her first) hit, “I Loves You, Porgy,” peaked at #2 on the U.S. R&B charts in 1959. Still, her music would go on to influence legendary singers like Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin.

8. SHE USED HER STYLE TO MAKE A STATEMENT.

Head wraps, bold jewelry, and floor-skimming sheaths were all part of Simone’s stylish rotation. In 1967, she wore the same black crochet fishnet jumpsuit with flesh-colored lining for the entire year. Not only did it give off the illusion of her being naked, but “I wanted people to remember me looking a certain way,” she said. “It made it easier for me.”

9. SHE HAD MANY HOMES.

New York City, Liberia, Barbados, England, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands were all places that Simone called home. She died at her home in Southern France, and her ashes were scattered in several African countries.

10. SHE HAD A FAMOUS INNER CIRCLE.

During the late '60s, Simone and her second husband Andrew Stroud lived next to Malcolm X and his family in Mount Vernon, New York. He wasn't her only famous pal. Simone was very close with playwright Lorraine Hansberry. After Hansberry’s death, Simone penned “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” in her honor, a tribute to Hansberry's play of the same title. Simone even struck up a brief friendship with David Bowie in the mid-1970s, who called her every night for a month to offer his advice and support.

11. YOU CAN STILL VISIT SIMONE IN HER HOMETOWN.

Photo of Nina Simone
Amazing Nina Documentary Film, LLC, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, an 8-foot sculpture of Eunice Waymon was erected in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina. Her likeness stands tall in Nina Simone Plaza, where she’s seated and playing an eternal song on a keyboard that floats in midair. Her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, gave sculptor Zenos Frudakis some of Simone’s ashes to weld into the sculpture’s bronze heart. "It's not something very often done, but I thought it was part of the idea of bringing her home," Frudakis said.

12. YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD HER MUSIC IN RECENT HITS.

Rihanna sang a few verses of Simone’s “Do What You Gotta Do” on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. He’s clearly a superfan: “Blood on the Leaves” and his duet with Jay Z, “New Day,” feature Simone samples as well, along with Lil’ Wayne’s “Dontgetit,” Common’s “Misunderstood” and a host of other tracks.

13. HER MUSIC IS STILL BEING PERFORMED.

Nina Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone was released along with the Netflix documentary in 2015. On the album, Lauryn Hill, Jazmine Sullivan, Usher, Alice Smith, and more paid tribute to the legend by performing covers of 16 of her most famous tracks.

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Animals
Watch the First-Ever Footage of a Baby Dumbo Octopus
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Dumbo octopuses are named for the elephant-ear-like fins they use to navigate the deep sea, but until recently, when and how they developed those floppy appendages were a mystery. Now, for the first time, researchers have caught a newborn Dumbo octopus on tape. As reported in the journal Current Biology, they discovered that the creatures are equipped with the fins from the moment they hatch.

Study co-author Tim Shank, a researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, spotted the octopus in 2005. During a research expedition in the North Atlantic, one of the remotely operated vehicles he was working with collected several coral branches with something strange attached to them. It looked like a bunch of sandy-colored golf balls at first, but then he realized it was an egg sac.

He and his fellow researchers eventually classified the hatchling that emerged as a member of the genus Grimpoteuthis. In other words, it was a Dumbo octopus, though they couldn't determine the exact species. But you wouldn't need a biology degree to spot its resemblance to Disney's famous elephant, as you can see in the video below.

The octopus hatched with a set of functional fins that allowed it to swim around and hunt right away, and an MRI scan revealed fully-developed internal organs and a complex nervous system. As the researchers wrote in their study, Dumbo octopuses enter the world as "competent juveniles" ready to jump straight into adult life.

Grimpoteuthis spends its life in the deep ocean, which makes it difficult to study. Scientists hope the newly-reported findings will make it easier to identify Grimpoteuthis eggs and hatchlings for future research.

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