For the majority of Americans, and indeed perhaps the majority of the people across the world, 2020 was an extremely stressful year. The COVID-19 pandemic was virtually global, causing deaths at a massive scale, as well as accompanying mental health crises. Further stressful for many people were economic downturns. Due to adjustments made and restrictions required following the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses were forced to downscale or even shut down. Americans were also forced to spend much more time indoors than many were used to; even those who were able to maintain their jobs and were not subject to the same level of financial stress as others often had to work from home. The result for many was mental health crises. These affected not only those that already experienced mental illness but people who had previously not struggled with mental illness.
Mental illness does not merely affect the mind, but the body as well. More anxiety-driven illnesses might provoke panic attacks that cause physical symptoms like heightened heart rates and hyperventilation. Depression, meanwhile, can result in exhaustion, body aches, and much more. It can also affect an individual’s appetite, which can cause physical complications in the long term. For some people, the appetite can be heightened, or provoke cravings for unhealthy foods loaded with sugars and fats. An estimated 46% of people report eating unhealthily or too much due to stress, and this can certainly be connected to mental illness at times. Other people experience a lack of appetite, rapidly dropping weight and losing energy due to irregular or even nonexistent eating.
Although people can and in some cases should take prescribed medication and attend therapy sessions in order to effectively deal with their mental health concerns following COVID-19, they may also want to turn to more holistic means to brighten their moods, especially following the recent holiday season. Although 2020 presented a Christmas season unlike any other previously, it still produced stories that inspire us and hopefully prove that there are still things to look forward to in the coming year. The pandemic, the political crises, and the protests surrounding human rights may have caused an incredibly difficult year. But Christmas 2020 revealed that there are still good people in the world, and legitimate reasons to remain optimistic. Below are some of the stories that illustrate the good that will hopefully be expanded upon further in the coming year.
Preschool Director Drives Uber to Ensure That Kids Get Holiday Gifts
Those that educate children often provide some of the greatest stories that inspire us, and understandably so. For many educators, working with children is not just a job, but a passion, based on a true desire to connect with and inspire kids. Those that worth with preschool-aged children are tasked with particularly important responsibilities. Not only does this essentially involve toddler care, which means not only educating children but caring for their basic needs; it also involves shaping children from a very young age. Children learn about how to be good people in these formative years, and therefore it’s fantastic that kids in an Indianapolis preschool have Renee Dixon to look up to.
Dixon is the director of Lynhurst Baptist Church Preschool, and this past Christmas she made it her mission to ensure that all 50 of the children attending the school would receive their holiday gifts. As previously mentioned, 2020 was incredibly difficult for families on a financial level. Many parents lost their jobs and received pay cuts, seriously inhibiting their ability to provide basic care for their children and pay for their rent and mortgages, let alone offer them gifts from Santa Claus. Additionally, preschool care obviously costs money as well, meaning that the parents sending their children to Lynhurst Baptist Church Preschool were financially burdened no matter what. Dixon was obviously aware of this, and sympathetic to the plight of the children in her care, as well as that of their parents. But it would be difficult for a preschool director to provide gifts for 50 children on a single salary alone.
This is why Dixon took up a second job; and not an easy one at that. Every weekend, she logged hours as an Uber and Lyft driver, transporting passengers to destinations across Indianapolis. Although this was not the first time that Dixon worked as an Uber or Lyft driver, she took additional precautions this past year to ensure that she was following COVID-19 safety protocols. This was particularly important as her primary job involved interacting with children on a regular basis. Inevitably this process put further miles and wear and tear on Dixon’s vehicle and auto tires, but for her, it was worth the effort and sacrifice.
Dixon came from a place of sympathy and experience when working to provide children with holiday gifts. As the child of a low income single parent, she understood what it was like to go without both needs and wants. Additionally, she understood that many of the parents sending their children to Lynhurst Baptist Church Preschool were low income and below the poverty line. Aided by Eva Cheung, a coworker of her husband’s who volunteered both time and money, she visited Target with the money earned through her Uber and Lyft drives and bought gifts for all of the children attending the preschool. Indeed, Dixon was ultimately not only able to gift the children themselves, but also their siblings; additional money went to offer Christmas bonuses to the preschool’s staff. This was in part because this is among the stories that inspire us, but also among the stories that inspired Dixon’s passengers as well.
As she was driving her passengers around the area, Dixon told her story. Passengers were inspired to spread the word, with the story reaching national headlines and provoking donations from people across the country. Additionally, the story reached Pat Hurst, the general manager of Andy Mohr Nissan dealership. Upon receiving word that what Dixon wished for most for herself was a Nissan Armada that could accommodate both her kids and grandchildren, he decided to give the caring preschool director her own Christmas wish. Therefore, Dixon received a Nissan Armada of her own; it represents a hopeful end to a terrible year in which she lost three members of her family to COVID-19. People like Renee Dixon donating time, energy, and money to help those in need while being in need herself create stories that inspire us and cause us to share that kind of good with others in turn.
Invention Allows Boys to Donate Thousands to Animal Shelters
Humans are not the only ones that have suffered this year. Animal shelters have been under great stress due to financial barriers caused by COVID-19, and many shelters have received a higher number of animals than usual due to pet owners being rendered unable to provide for their animals due to economic hardship. Fortunately, two young boys were inspired by their love of animals to make an invention that will not only benefit pets directly but also in the grand scheme through funds donated to animal shelters. This creates one of the stories that inspire us most this year, proving that kindness can and should be given not only to people but to furry friends as well.
Pets are admittedly not the only ones that benefit from the invention created by 12 year old brothers Ayaan and Mickey Naqvi of Shelton, Connecticut. But cats and dogs are certainly responsible and endangered by the temptation of Christmas ornaments. The brothers were inspired after realizing how many ornaments are broken or simply lost due to curious pets, vacuum cleaners, or even toddlers. For animals, in particular, these ornaments can also present health hazards as they are shattered or swallowed, sending them to see veterinarians. After a combination of gravity and perhaps the family dog caused one of the Naqvi family’s favorite Christmas ornaments to be destroyed, they conceptualized the Ornament Anchor.
The Ornament Anchor is a new innovation in Christmas ornament and tree care, relying on a loop and toggle system in its original prototype to better secure ornaments. After the boys presented the Ornament Anchor as a part of a school project, they were inspired by its favorable reception and moved on to refine the design and patent it. They began advertising the product at a local Christmas trade show, where they made $1,000 in six hours. From there, the Ornament Anchor was highlighted on Good Morning America and QVC. Ultimately, within a year the invention was producing sales reaching $250,000. On its own, this makes this rank among the stories that inspire us coming out of Christmas 2020. But then the boys went a bit further.
Wanting to share their good fortune, the Naqvi brothers pledged 10% of their profits to local animal shelters. This was driven by their love of animals, and their desire to do good through their creations. Although the boys have experienced their own challenges in 2020, they will not let that stop them from helping others, making them truly inspirational on multiple levels.
Texas Boy Raises $6,000 to Give Christmas Gifts to Homeless Children
This year, 61 homeless children in Texas received Christmas gifts thanks, not to a big Catholic charity or massive nonprofit, but thanks to a fellow child. This created one of the stories that inspire us regarding the charity of children. At age 14, Jaxson Turner was motivated to help the kids at the Good Samaritan Inn, a local homeless shelter in his area. Through GoFundMe and social media, he ultimately raised $5,900 to provide toys, food, sneakers, socks, and coats for the holidays. Recognizing the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jaxson sought to alleviate the concerns that parents, especially mothers, might have when providing for their children over Christmas.
However, Jaxson was no stranger to providing for the Good Samaritan Inn over the holidays. This past Christmas was actually the third year in which he raised money for the shelter, operating through his own nonprofit organization called Never Too Young To Care, or N2Y2C. Jaxson began coordinating donations for the shelter on October 1, and ultimately held a big giveaway for families at the shelter in December, hosting dinner in the process.
Jaxson actually created the organization on his birthday, when realizing that what he wanted most was the ability to feed the homeless. Now, N2Y2C offers yearly Easter and Christmas dinner events, as well as a yearly domestic violence awareness event. The organization also donates toilet paper, laundry detergent, socks, and financial assistance to a local domestic violence organization. Further expanding the reach of the organization, it also holds a back to school event that raises money for backpacks, school supplies, and even haircuts for children. Stories like these are among the greatest stories that inspire us because they illustrate how much good an event a child can do.
Retirees Craft Amazing Wooden Toys for Kids in Need
Some of the best stories that inspire us to focus on merging creativity and giving. Mike and Judy Sullivan, a retired couple that has been married for 50 years, did just that this past Christmas. The two actually have a workshop in their Desert Springs, California home where they spend most of their time crafting toys for children that will ultimately be donated to local charities every holiday season.
Mike and Judy originally signed up for a local woodworking club in order to develop a hobby together. But as they gave the toys they created away during Christmas, they realized how much happiness the items inspired and decided to create a holiday tradition and mission for themselves. It’s been seven years since they began this tradition, and they show no sign of stopping.
Mike ultimately creates the toys, while Judy is in charge of both decoration and quality control. Fortunately, they have 15 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren to test out the toys and act as focus groups of a sort. Mike was inspired in part by the fact that many of the toys that he received as a child were homemade, as he was the son of a Montana miner that didn’t have much money for Christmas gifts. He and Judy were further inspired by the need for such toys post-pandemic and created animal figurines, puzzles, and trucks among other things to distribute this holiday season. Ultimately, they created almost 1,400 individual toys for kids in a local kindergarten class, Coachella Valley Rescue Mission, a food pantry, and many other charitable organizations. Even items shipped as far as Indiana and Texas were provided completely free of charge. This enhances the charitable aspect of their gifts, making this one of the greatest stories that inspire us from the holiday season.
After spending around $19,000 out of pocket on their efforts last year, the Sullivans launched fundraising efforts on new websites like GoFundMe to ensure that they could keep working on these projects for the long term. Although it may seem that stories that inspire us like this one and the ones above are few and far between, there are more than some may think available. It just takes some effort to find them.