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  1. Life & Culture

10 stories of kindness from 2020

The Associated Press, which featured glimmers of light in dark times throughout the year, found these to be their favorites.
Firefighter Elielson Silva plays his trumpet from the top of a ladder for residents at home during a lockdown in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in April.
Firefighter Elielson Silva plays his trumpet from the top of a ladder for residents at home during a lockdown in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in April. [ LEO CORREA | AP ]
Published Dec. 29, 2020

The news organization set out to find stories that were uplifting amid the sorrows of the coronavirus pandemic. These are their 10 favorite:

TRUMPETING ON HIGH

Rio de Janeiro firefighter Elielson Silva devised a novel approach to curing the coronavirus blues. Riding a fire truck’s retractable ladder as high as 200 feet, he played Brazilian tunes from that lofty perch as residents in isolation watch from their windows and applaud, flush with a restored sense of community.

THE TUTU GIRLS

Four young cancer survivors who met, became fast friends and supported each other while in treatment at a hospital in Florida four years ago didn’t let the pandemic keep them from their annual reunion. Known as the “tutu girls” for their matching outfits, the 6- and 7-year-olds held their meetup on Zoom. One of the moms got the idea for the dance costumes to raise awareness about childhood cancer, and a tradition was born.

A BIRTHDAY PARADE

A fire truck blared its sirens, police flashed lights on cruisers and dozens of families in a car parade honked horns, raised signs and yelled: “Happy birthday, Jessiah!” None of them knew 6-year-old Jessiah Lee, but they all showed up for the surprise drive-by birthday party in Arlington, Virginia, organized on social media and inspired by similar celebrations that have brought joy to many children and adults during the quarantine.

MAKING SWEET MUSIC

Members of the National Orchestra of France filmed themselves playing Ravel’s Bolero alone at home during lockdown. Then, like building a musical jigsaw puzzle, a sound engineer stitched together their individual clips into a seamless and rousing whole. Posted online, the performance helped the musicians keep in touch with each other and with the audiences they sorely missed.

Darshana Kumara Wijenarayana and bride Pawani Rasanga walk in April with packets of food to distribute in the small town of Malimbada. The Sri Lankan couple canceled a wedding party and instead shared their wedding day with some of their neediest neighbors.
Darshana Kumara Wijenarayana and bride Pawani Rasanga walk in April with packets of food to distribute in the small town of Malimbada. The Sri Lankan couple canceled a wedding party and instead shared their wedding day with some of their neediest neighbors. [ AP ]

NEWLYWEDS GIVING BACK

Darshana Kumara Wijenarayana and Pawani Rasanga spent months planning a grand wedding only to see it derailed by the pandemic. Family and friends urged the Sri Lankan couple to postpone the party, but instead they chose to celebrate their love by marrying simply and then spending the day feeding the poor.

Gerardo Ixcoy teaches 12-year-old student Paola Ximena Conoz about fractions from his mobile classroom, parked just outside the door to her home in Santa Cruz del Quiche, Guatemala, in July.
Gerardo Ixcoy teaches 12-year-old student Paola Ximena Conoz about fractions from his mobile classroom, parked just outside the door to her home in Santa Cruz del Quiche, Guatemala, in July. [ MOISES CASTILLO | AP ]

CLASSROOM ON WHEELS

When Guatemala’s schools closed in mid-March, teacher Gerardo Ixcoy invested his savings in a secondhand tricycle that he and his brother converted into a mobile classroom. Each day the 27-year-old set out pedaling among the cornfields of Santa Cruz del Quiché to bring socially distanced lessons to his sixth graders’ homes and yards.

TEENAGE SUPPLY PILOT

TJ Kim doesn’t even have his driver’s license yet, but he’s already flown across Virginia delivering medical supplies to small, rural hospitals in need. The 16-year-old turned his weekly flight lessons into relief missions carrying precious pandemic cargo like gloves, masks, gowns and other equipment.

People applaud from their homes in support of the medical staff working to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in Rivas Vaciamadrid, Spain, in July.
People applaud from their homes in support of the medical staff working to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in Rivas Vaciamadrid, Spain, in July. [ MANU FERNANDEZ | AP ]

CHEERS FOR HEROES

In hard-hit European cities, residents took a moment each night to express gratitude to doctors, nurses and other health care workers. From Athens and Amsterdam to Rome and Madrid, people stood at windows or on balconies singing, cheering and applauding those on the front lines.

TAKE MY LAND

The acreage that Kim Byung-rok bought on a quiet mountain in South Korea a few years ago was meant for farming and fresh air. But after the pandemic hit, he offered a big chunk of it to the local government, figuring it could be put to good use helping others.

TUTORING THE WORLD

A teacher at a public school in Lagos, Nigeria, helped students across the country and abroad learn math remotely during coronavirus lockdowns. Basirat Olamide Ajayi’s free online classes became a lifeline for many children who were kept away from classrooms for months.

Health care workers react as people applaud from their houses in support of the medical staff working during the COVID-19 outbreak in Barcelona, Spain, in March.
Health care workers react as people applaud from their houses in support of the medical staff working during the COVID-19 outbreak in Barcelona, Spain, in March. [ JOAN MATEU | AP ]