50 Pieces of Good News We Got in 2019
From whales returning to New York to vacationing in space, 2019 brought us some good news.
Despite what you may have thought after reading the headlines and turning on your TV, there was actually plenty of good news in 2019—you just had to fight through the constant noise and distractions to find it. If you were looking for the upbeat stories, revelations, and developments, you would've found plenty of reasons to feel inspired and grateful this past year. For example, did you know 2019 saw a decrease in cancer-related deaths? Or that the crime rate is also on the decline? And who could forgot this year's feel-good highlights, like the 95-year-old who went back to school and the kid who won a college scholarship after being bullied?
Want to know what other good news you may have missed in 2019? Here are 50 reasons we're feeling thankful for this past year.
There were 27 percent fewer deaths from cancer.
A 2019 report from the American Cancer Society found that there's been a 27-percent drop in cancer deaths in the last 25 years. To put that in perspective, that's nearly 2.6 million less people dying from cancer since 1991. While there is still a long way to go when it comes to beating cancer for good, at least it seems we're heading in the right direction.
Whales are back in New York.
Some people may be leaving New York City because of the outrageous cost of living, but there's one species that's coming back in droves—or rather, pods. There's been a 540-percent increase in whales spotted off the New York shore in just the last eight years. Humpback whales, in particular, are showing up in substantial numbers. According to the nonprofit Gotham Whales via the New York Post, only five humpbacks were identified in the waters off New York City in 2011. In 2018, there were 209 sightings. "We've had a large humpback whale one mile from Times Square," Queens College biologist John Waldman told the Post. Hey, if they can make it there, they can make it anywhere!
The crime rate is going down.
The world may not always seem like a safe place, but at least statistically, our country hasn't had such low levels of crime in decades. According to the FBI's statistics from 2019, violent crime has fallen by 51 percent since 1993. And after polling 160,000 Americans about their experiences with violent transgressions, the Bureau of Justice Statistics determined that violent crime had dropped by 71 percent over that same time period.
We still have Alex Trebek.
When a losing contestant on Jeopardy decided to use his final moment in Nov. 2019 to let Alex Trebek know how much loved he is, it wasn't just the revered game show host who got choked up. The hashtag #WeLoveYouAlex was soon trending on Twitter, further proving how much people sincerely care for the Jeopardy icon. Trebek, as you've probably heard, has been battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer. So far, he's winning the fight—and he definitely has a lot of people rooting for him.
You can manage pain by going to the park.
Instead of prescribing medication that comes in pill form, more and more doctors are trying something a little more natural. It's a new program called Park Rx, and the idea is that whatever's ailing you—be it hypertension, anxiety, or weight issues—can be treated by something that doesn't come in a little orange bottle. The directions are simply "leave the house and go to the park." If you haven't tried it yet, we highly recommend it. It's not a cure-all—you should still go to the doctor if you're dealing with a serious issue—but you might be shocked with how much better you'll feel after taking in some fresh air at your nearest green space.
After all, in 2005, researchers out of the University of Pittsburgh found that spinal surgery patients experienced less pain and stress during their recoveries if they were exposed to natural light. So there's definitely something to enjoying the great outdoors and all its benefits if you're in pain.
There was a tiny frog wearing a tiny top hat.
No, we're not talking about The WB's cartoon mascot Michael J. Frog. We mean an actual live frog in a top hat, hopping along to the Tin Pan Alley song "Hello! Ma Baby." Her name is Sweet Pea, and we dare you to look at this (the full video especially) and not crack a smile.
A hospital dressed up its newborns as Mr. Rogers for National Kindness Day.
In Nov. 2019, one Pittsburgh hospital dressed the newborns in its nursery in matching red cardigans and ties; it was in honor of both Mr. Rogers and National Kindness Day, which one Pittsburgh radio station had deemed Cardigan Day as a tribute to Rogers. It's probably the most adorable thing you'll ever see in your life. Oh, and then Joanne Rogers, the late TV show host's wife, showed up, and the emotions got cranked up yet another notch.
You can do pilates with puppies to help veterans.
That this is a thing is reason enough to get excited. (And this video from Syracuse.com will really seal the deal.) But wait, it gets even better: When you sign up to do pilates with puppies at the Precision Pilates studio in Fayetteville, New York—which only costs $25—all the proceeds go directly to a program that trains service dogs for veterans with PTSD. So basically, you get in shape while playing with adorable dogs and doing something good for our veterans. That's a trifecta of goodness!
You can actually visit "a galaxy far, far away."
Sure, it's just a Disney theme park attraction. But it's a Disney theme park attraction with a Millennium Falcon built to scale. Everything about the new Star Wars-themed "Galaxy's Edge," which opened first in Disneyland in May 2019 and then in Disney World in August, is designed to make your inner child lose its ever-loving mind. You can build your own lightsaber and droid, explore Dok-Ondar's Den of Antiquities, and stop in the intergalactic cantina for a round of alien cocktails. Oh, and have we mentioned that you can pilot the Millennium Falcon?
Earth wasn't hit with a gigantic asteroid.
We came closer to being smashed by a huge space rock this summer than any of us realized, according to The Washington Post. It happened in July, when an asteroid, estimated between 187 and 427 feet in size, passed within 45,000 miles of Earth, which is less than one-fifth of the distance to the moon—or, as Alan Duffy, lead scientist at the Royal Institution of Australia, told The Washington Post, "uncomfortably close." The giant rock was dubbed "2019 OK," which we guess is a good sign.
Keanu Reeves came back better than ever.
Keanu Reeves has been a superstar for more than a few decades now. But never has he been so incredibly delightful. Whether he's visiting fans at their home or buying ice cream just so he can give a stunned teen fan his autograph, he keeps one-upping himself as the nicest guy in Hollywood. He's truly become, as Time recently dubbed him, "The Internet's Soul Mate."
A husband declared his love for his wife on an Oklahoma billboard.
It's possible that some people who saw the "Amy, I love you more" billboard in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in Sept. 2019 assumed it was paid for by an apologetic husband trying to make up for some kind of wrongdoing. But no, the backstory here is much more pure: Josh Wilson, the 41-year-old owner of Living Water Irrigation, originally rented billboards to build his business. But after they failed to bring in new customers—and since he couldn't get out of the contract—Wilson decided to use them in a better way: to proclaim his love for his wife, Amy. "I'm not in trouble. I'm not in the doghouse," Wilson laughed during an interview with local news station Fox23. "I'm just in love with my wife."
There's now a Kindness Institute in California.
Thanks to a $20 million gift from the Bedari Foundation, UCLA opened the Bedari Kindness Institute in Sept. 2019 with the mission solely of studying and teaching kindness. The institute, which is the first of its kind (pun not intended), brings together researchers who specialize in sociology, psychology, and neurobiology under one roof to ask the important questions like, "Why are some people such sweethearts?" It may sound like a joke, but isn't it about time human kindness was treated with the same academic curiosity as other fields of study?
Ten minutes of exercise a week is enough to extend your life.
Sometimes getting to the gym can feel like the hardest thing in the world. Well, now you can stop stressing about it because a 2019 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that exercising just 10 minutes every week can lead to a longer and healthier life. If you can't spare 10 minutes a week for this, what can you spare 10 minutes for?
These two New York City toddlers reminded us of the power of friendship.
Maxwell and Finnegan are only two years old, but they're already BFFs. Even though these New York City toddlers hang out all the time, they're not bashful about greeting each other with a big, joyful bear hug, as this video from Sept. 2019 proves. "When they are away from each other, they are always asking about one another," Maxwell's father, Michael Cisneros, told ABC News. It's not just adorable; it's a reminder to appreciate the friendships we may sometimes take for granted.
Sony Walkmans are making a comeback.
It's been four decades since Sony first released its Walkman portable cassette player, which at the time was a completely groundbreaking product. While technology has since come a long way, some of us are still nostalgic for what we have unofficially dubbed the iPod of the '80s. Well, we're in luck. As part of the Walkman's 40th anniversary, Sony is releasing a new model, complete with a special cassette tape user interface and screensaver, CNN Business reports, giving it the look and feel of the old classic without having to carry around your actual cassette collection. For added retro appeal, the new Walkman has a vinyl processor to give digital tracks a sonic resemblance of an actual record.
Sesame Street turned 50.
It's kind of baffling to think that Big Bird and Bert and Ernie are now half a century old, but it's true—in Nov. 2019, the whole muppet gang gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the iconic PBS children's show. You've got to be thankful for that. After all, what else besides Sesame Street is going to show kids just how much fun learning can be?
A 95-year-old World War II vet proved it's never too late to go back to school.
If there's something you've always wanted to do but think your'e too old to do it, we'd like to direct your attention to Corporal Lewie Shaw. He left school to join the Marines in 1943 and went on to fight in Tinian, Saipan, and Iwo Jima. After World War II, he worked for a lumber company for 30 years before starting a business with his son. The only thing that he was missing was a high school diploma. So, at the age of 95, Shaw went back to school, and in Nov. 2019, he received the diploma that had eluded him for most of his life. If you ever need inspiration to pursue your dreams, look no further than this American hero. (And you can learn more about Shaw from a local NBC News affiliate here.)
Coach Rob Mendez gave a powerful speech at the ESPYs.
Rob Mendez may have been born without arms and legs, but that didn't deter him from a lifelong passion for football and an unwavering ambition more powerful than any physical limitation. Through self-belief and a lot of hard work, Mendez became the head coach of the junior varsity football team at Prospect High School in San Jose, California. When accepting the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the 2019 ESPYs in July, his speech gave the entire crowd goosebumps. "When you dedicate yourself to something and open your mind to different possibilities, you really can go places in this world," Mendez said. He also announced his intentions to reach even higher, maybe coaching varsity, college, or an NFL team someday. "I've made it this far, and who says I can't go further?" Not us, that's for sure!
100,000 teddy bears have now been airmailed to war-torn countries.
The Teddy Trust was created on the premise that there's a special healing power in teddy bears. We couldn't agree more, so when we heard that the nonprofit recently shipped its 100,000th bear overseas in June 2019, we just had to include them on this list. We can't imagine what it's like to be a child in Syria, but we're not too old or cynical to forget the healing powers of a teddy bear.
Global terrorist attacks are on the decline.
According to the 2019 Global Attack Index published by defense analysis database Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Center, terror attacks across the globe fell sharply last year, down 33 percent compared with 2017. The significant decline in attacks also helped drive down fatalities from terrorist attacks to a 10-year low.
We can now detect breast cancer five years before it shows up.
Some exciting new research was presented at the 2019 NCRI Cancer Conference. Researchers from the University of Nottingham have developed a blood test that can identify a body's immune response to substances produced by tumor cells. What does that mean? Well, we now have the capability to detect breast cancer in women up to five years before they show any signs of the disease. This is great news, as early detection can increase the chances of removal and survival.
Space tourism is closer than you think.
We've been hearing about commercial space travel for awhile now, but it's always seemed more like the plot of a sci-fi movie, or at least something that future generations will be able to enjoy, but not us. According to The Washington Post, however, the idea of average citizens boarding a spaceship like they would an airplane is "tantalizingly close to becoming a reality." And it's not just billionaires like Elon Musk and Sir Richard Branson trying to make it happen. NASA announced in June 2019 that tourists will be able to visit the International Space Station as soon as 2020. Now granted, it will cost around $35,000 per night. But hey, nobody said being an amateur astronaut was cheap!
New technology is bringing light to the blind.
Researchers at UCLA have been working on clinical trials of a new device, Orion, that gives blind people the chance to detect light. The device converts images captured from video cameras attached to a pair of sunglasses into electrical pulses that stimulate electrodes in the brain. While Orion doesn't restore a person's eyesight, it allows them to detect movement and distinguish between light and dark. For Jason Esterhuizen, who lost his sight in a horrific car accident seven year ago, the difference has been monumental. "As a person walks toward me, I might see three little dots. As they move closer to me, more and more dots light up," Esterhuizen, who is only the second person in the world to receive the device, said in a statement. "It's just amazing to have some form of functional vision again."
University of Tennessee stepped in to turn around a bullied kid's day.
Remember the Florida boy who went viral in Sept. 2019 because of his homemade University of Tennessee t-shirt? The fourth-grader wanted to participate in his school's College Colors Day but didn't own any clothing with UT branding, so he created something original from the supplies he had on hand. Though teased mercilessly by bullies at his school, the student ultimately had the last laugh. Not only was he lauded by the internet, but his shirt was also turned into an official UT design, and he was also offered a scholarship by the university! While still in elementary school, his first year of college tuition is already covered. (You can see more of his story in this local ABC News segment.)
There was a video of a dog hatching out of a watermelon.
Don't roll your eyes. We know it sounds ridiculous, and you might be right about that. But take a moment to watch this video and you might just remember what "pure joy" feels like.
Science revealed that we can drink all the coffee we want.
Although we don't recommend it, a 2019 study from Queen Mary University of London has found that drinking excessive amounts of coffee, up to 25 cups a day, isn't necessarily as dangerous for your heart or circulatory system as once believed. Again, this doesn't mean you should drink 25 cups of coffee every day, it just means that technically you can. However much you're drinking now is probably fine. While you may get the jitters, at least you don't have to feel guilty about having that third cup.
The Area 51 storming turned into a party.
It started when a college student created an event on Facebook in September called "Storm Area 51, They Can't Stop All of Us." It was supposed to be a joke, but then millions RSVP'd to show up at the secretive military test site in southern Nevada—which is rumored to hold evidence of extraterrestrials—and force their way inside. An Air Force spokeswoman told The New York Times that any attempts to breach a military installation would be "dangerous." But what could've been a disaster turned into a celebration. The crowd didn't reach into the millions, but they were festive, and the gathering soon morphed into a party atmosphere, with some even passing out free tin foil hats. "A bunch of random people in weird costumes standing outside of a government base. Why would you want to miss that?" one attendee said told Global News.
The first black woman was awarded a Michelin star.
Just when you think there aren't any more historic firsts to be made, another one occurs. Mariya Russell, the chef de cuisine at the Japanese eatery and cocktail den Kumiko & Kikkō in Chicago, became the first black woman to ever receive a Michelin star, one of the most coveted forms of recognition in the restaurant industry. Russell, however, isn't letting the honor go to her head. "I don't think it will change what we're doing," she said in an interview for the Michelin website. "We like to strive to be better and better every day, so that's something that we do all the time." Those are pretty good words to live by, if you ask us.
Jimmy Carter is beating the odds.
We know Jimmy Carter isn't going to live forever, but for the moment, the 39th president of the United States is 95 and he isn't going anywhere. After taking a tumble in his Georgia home and receiving 14 stitches to show for it in October 2019, he was back in action the very next day, building homes for Habitat for Humanity in Tennessee. Then, the former president was up and walking the day after his recent brain surgery in November. If there was ever a role model for how to grow old, it's Carter.
Sunscreen is getting better regulated.
In February 2019, the FDA proposed regulations to ensure that sunscreens are safe and effective, and that the companies that make them are truthful about the SPF levels they label their products with. When announcing the initiative, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb stated that the proposal will "improve quality, safety and efficacy of the sunscreens Americans use every day." We can all be thankful for that.
Lizzo stole the show at the VMAs.
If you're not familiar with Lizzo, this MTV Video Music Awards performance—a rallying cry for self-acceptance—is a good place to start. As she declared from the stage of the VMAs in September, while wearing a yellow bodysuit with matching eyeshadow, "It's so hard trying to love yourself in a world that doesn't love you back." And the love for Lizzo has only grown since.
This proud dad cheered along with his daughter's routine.
Earlier this fall, someone took a video of proud papa Hekili Holland following along with his daughter's cheerleading moves during a football game in Yorktown, Virginia, and the footage was, to say the least, absolutely heartwarming. The video garnered more than 4 million views, and we can only assume Holland has inspired other fathers to go above and beyond in how they show their support for their children. Holland later told Good Morning America that he was just having fun and if that "brings joy to folks, then I'm happy to be that guy."
There are too many great TV shows right now—a good problem to have.
Have you seen Fleabag yet? What about the latest seasons of Russian Doll, Black Mirror, or Stranger Things? We're truly living in a new golden age of television, with more terrific shows than there are hours in a day. That might sound overwhelming, but it shouldn't be. You're under no obligation to see it all. If anything, it should be comforting. You know that when you're ready, there's something new and amazing waiting for you to binge.
This little girl discovered mango for the first time.
If you've seen something that's made you smile wider today than this video of a Twitter user's niece trying her first mango, we'd sincerely like to hear about it.
There were tons of everyday heroes.
Have you ever heard the saying, "Not all heroes wear capes"? Well, it couldn't be more true in the case of 2019. Take the teacher who wrote a letter to the tooth fairy, vouching for a little girl who accidentally threw her newly lost tooth away at lunch. And what about the all-female Delta flight crew who brought 120 teenage girls to NASA headquarters, free of charge, to encourage women to consider a career in aviation? Or how about the hundreds of goats that saved the Ronald Reagan Library from a fire by eating all the surrounding vegetation? It's nice to know heroes are still out there.
Two friends found a fridge full of beer in a flood clean-up.
It's a story that's almost too bizarre to be believed, but it really happened. Kyle Simpson and Gayland Stouffer, two pals from Nebraska, were cleaning up a deserted field after a recent flood when one of them spotted a refrigerator. It had likely been washed there by the storm, but who owned it? And more intriguingly, what was inside? After opening it, the two thirsty friends discovered the fridge was filled with cold beer, a "gift sent from the heavens," one of them later told the Lincoln Journal Star. After posting a selfie on Facebook, Simpson and Stouffer learned that the fridge's owner lived about 3.5 miles from them. They returned the fridge "minus a few beers," Simpson said. Fun fact: The same fridge survived a fire in 2007!
Kanye West talked about changing his name to something silly.
Kanye West says a lot of out-there things, but in November, he announced his decision to change his name to Christian Genius Billionaire Kanye West. Seriously, you can't top that. Nobody can.
Chicago libraries are seeing a huge boom.
Lori Lightfoot is already making history, and not just as Chicago's first black lesbian mayor. In October, she announced a new policy that eliminates all library late fees. No longer will Chicagoans dread paying the price for overdue books or fear being tracked down by a tough-talking "library cop" like Seinfeld's Lt. Bookman. What's remarkable is that after late fees were lifted, book returns surged by a whopping 240 percent. Not only are books coming back in record numbers, but people who've avoided the library for years, maybe even decades, are coming back, too!
More states are banning plastic bags.
A positive change can take forever to catch on, but then when it does, it can do so quickly. That's what's happened in 2019 with single-use plastic bags. In 2016, California was the only U.S. state to ban these environmentally-unfriendly products. But this year, states like Vermont, Maine, Oregon, Delaware, Connecticut, and New York have all followed suit, passing bills that essentially take single-use plastic bags out of commission.
A man with colon cancer won the lottery on his last day of chemo.
Ronnie Foster, a retired DMV worker from Pink Hill, North Carolina, was on his way to the hospital for his final round of chemotherapy—he'd been diagnosed with colon cancer—when he decided to buy some lottery tickets. "I was already happy because it was my last round of chemo," Foster said in an interview. But things got so much better when he realized he had a winning ticket for $200,000. "Winning this made it my lucky day," he said.
We got our first-ever black hole photo.
Black holes are nothing if not mysterious. In fact, until recently there was no photographic evidence of their existence. And, as Harvard University astrophysicist Avi Loeb told Science News, "There is nothing better than having an image." Indirect evidence is one thing, but seeing is believing. Thanks to the Event Horizon Telescope, a black hole that's 55 million light-years from Earth and around 6.5 billion times the mass of the Sun was captured in an image for the very first time. Sure, black holes are terrifying, but they're pretty cool, too.
Lakes now have rights, too.
Lakes aren't people, obviously. But they are often at the mercy of people's poor decisions, which means that lakes are being polluted at an alarming rate. However, that's about to change in Toledo, Ohio. In February, legislation was passed granting Lake Erie—the 9,940-square-mile body of water that provides much of the drinking water for Toledo—the same rights usually only afforded to human beings. Which is to say, you can't dump garbage in the Great Lake or risk being sued!
Corona made biodegradable six-pack rings.
We've known for years that plastic six-pack rings are hazardous to marine wildlife, particularly turtles and seabirds. Now, it's nice to see that one beverage company, at least, is doing its part to put an end to the plastic problem in our oceans. Grupo Modelo, the Mexican brewery that makes Corona, has developed an environmentally-friendly, interlocking beer can design that could soon make plastic rings unnecessary. They're being tested in the United Kingdom right now, and if they catch on, they might soon become the standard worldwide.
There are some truly great bosses out there.
It's become such a cliché to complain about your boss. But some of them are not just decent human beings, they actually go the extra mile for their employees. Consider the case of Vietnam vet Albert Brigas, who thought he'd have to keep working until he paid off his mortgage in San Antonio, Texas. His boss, Rudy Quinones, thought he deserved more. "He would come into work every day even when he was sick," Quinones told a local CBS News affiliate. "Just that level of loyalty, that determination you just don't find anymore." So Quinones paid off the final $5,000 payment on Brigas' mortgage, allowing him to retire happily and spend more time with his grandkids.
The British royals got more real.
Meghan Markle may seem like she has it all. She went from being a Hallmark Channel and USA regular to the Duchess of Sussex. What could be more of a fairytale life than becoming a member of the British royal family? Well, as Markle admitted recently, it's not all it's cracked up to be. When ITV anchor Tom Bradby asked her if she was OK during an interview, she surprised everybody by admitting she wasn't. "Thank you for asking," she said, "not many people have asked if I'm OK, but it's a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes." If a duchess can admit her struggle, surely the rest of us can, too.
Greta Thunberg took a stand.
Ever since she delivered that passionate speech at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit in September, 16-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg has been the poster-child for climate change activism—literally. Offices in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, for example, have started printing up full-color photos of Thunberg, placing them next to plastic coffee cups and drink stirrers in the break room. So now, every time an employee reaches for a single-use cup rather than a ceramic coffee mug, they'll see Thunberg's face and likely imagine her scolding them, "How dare you?!"
Curb Your Enthusiasm is coming back.
The last time we were treated to new episodes of Larry David's scathingly brilliant HBO series, it was 2017 and it looked like Curb might have reached the end of the road. Thankfully that is not the case. David's co-star Jeff Garlin let it slip on Instagram that the show will be back in January for its 10th season!
A longtime custodian followed his dreams of becoming a teacher.
Kevin Knibbs was the custodian for an elementary school in Dade City, Florida, for nearly a decade. But being surrounded by students everyday inspired Knibbs to go back to college, and today he teaches third grade at Cox Elementary School. The school's principal told the Tampa Bay Times that he considers Knibbs a role model for students. "Children in our day and age need to have people in their lives who have worked through that experience, worked to achieve their goals," he said.
You're reading this.
Is that overstating the obvious? Maybe, but it's still cause for celebration. As of this moment, as you're reading this, you are alive and on this planet. It's a good idea every now and again to take a breath and feel grateful.