20 Uplifting Moments That Prove 2016 Wasn’t a Total Garbage Fire

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The general consensus is that 2016 sucked. And the internet certainly played a role in that. With a quick glance at Facebook and Twitter, we received disappointing and upsetting news over and over. But as many times as we may have wanted to throw our computers/phones out of a window in 2016, every once in a while, it brought us unbridled joy. Small acts of kindness, inspirational tales, and several cross-species friendships brought us some much needed light this year.

So as we look ahead to 2017, here are 20 uplifting moments that prove 2016 wasn’t a total garbage fire:


A Soccer Player Consoles Her Sister After a Loss

Sports can often get ugly. But it never goes too long until the next touching display of sportsmanship happens. For twin sisters Sabrina and Monica Flores, soccer can make their relationship complicated. Though they play together on Notre Dame’s soccer, they’re on opposite sides when it comes to international soccer. In November, the two played in a FIFA U-20 World Cup Match. Monica played for Mexico, and Sabrina for Team USA. When USA won 2-1, Monica broke down in tears, according to the New York Daily News. Sabrina immediately came to her side to console her twin.

The sweet moment reminded us that sports can unite us. It’s especially symbolic in a year that was bad for USA-Mexico relations.


Google Translate Started a Friendship

When Amanda Moore saw her classmate, Rafael Amaya, eating lunch on his own, she approached him and tried to strike up a conversation. She quickly learned that Rafael, who was born in Mexico, was still learning English. Instead of just moving on with her life, she typed up a letter in Google Translate telling him that she’d like to be friends. The two became inseparable and even went trick-or-treating together

With this simple act of kindness, Moore helped her classmate feel welcomed when no one else did.


A Restaurant owner Gave a Homeless Man a Second Chance

When a man named Marcus walked into Cesia Abigail Baires’ Minnesota restaurant in March asking for food, Cesia engaged him in conversation – learning that no one wanted to hire him because of his felony convictions. His honesty struck Cesia so much that she offered him a part-time job.

Since her restaurant was going through hard times, Cesia could only offer him two hours of work. But for Marcus, this meant everything. After two weeks of working with him, Cesia felt beyond inspired by Marcus. “Once I pay him, guess what he does?” she wrote on Facebook. “He buys food from my restaurant (he decides to pay) because it makes him feel good! He gets a discount!”

Nine months later – after the story picked up steam once again – Cesia let us know that Marcus has moved on to another job that’s more fitting for him, but the two still remain friends.


A Hardworking 89-Year-Old Paletero Stole the Internet's Heart

Alyssa Pointer / Chicago Tribune

At 89, you should be enjoying your golden years. But for Chicago resident Fidencio Sánchez, retirement wasn’t an option. After the death of his only daughter, he rejoined the workforce to support his wife and grandchildren. One summer day Good Samaritan Joel Cervantes Macias saw the elderly paletero struggling to push his cart in the Little Village area of Chicago, and his heart broke. After sharing the story online, commenters encouraged him to start a GoFundMe page for Fidencio, and it quickly mushroomed.

The story resonated with so many people that Joel’s GoFundMe page ended up raising almost $400,000. People from more than 52 countries opened their wallets for complete strangers. After so many expressed concern that someone could try to rip off Fidencio’s family, Joel got them in contact with lawyers to get their affairs in order.


An Undocumented Valedictorian Delivered a Moving Speech

“I am one of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows of the United States,” McKinney Boyd High School valedictorian Larissa Martínez said during graduation. For the first time, she told her classmates about her undocumented status.

Before graduation, only 10 people knew about her immigration status. But for the last four years – encouraged by one of her teachers – she knew she wanted to make an impact with her graduation speech. So she choose to draw attention to the country’s broken immigration system.

She ended delivering a poignant speech about why we’re all more alike than not. “The most important part of the debate and the part most often overlooked is the fact that immigrants, undocumented or otherwise, are people too. People with dreams, aspirations, hopes, and loved ones. People like me. People who have become a part of the American society and way of life and who yearn to help make America great without the construction of a wall built on hatred and prejudice. By sharing my story I hope to convince you all that if I was able to break every stereotype based on what I’m classified as – Mexican, female, undocumented, first-generation, low-income – then so you can you.”


Peruvian Valedictorian Made History at Her School

Peruvian-born Patricia Granda-Malaver made history at her Georgia high school. Among her graduating class of 700, Patricia became the first Latina valedictorian at Collins Hill High School in Suwannee. For her, this accomplishment meant she could dispel harmful stereotypes about the Latino community.

“I remember that someone once told me that Peruvians aren’t intelligent,” Patricia told The Atlanta Journal‑Constitution. “It was a motivation for me to keep studying to prove that just because I am a Latina doesn’t mean that I’m ignorant or dumb. They stereotype us and poke fun at Latinos. Some people just don’t understand my story and what my parents have done.”


A Man Went to Peru and Befriended Alpacas


When Dimitris Neonakis traveled to Peru, he ended up falling in love with alpacas. He had never seen them before, and he was so excited that he kept his daughter, 32-year-old Alexandria, up-to-date along the way, according to BuzzFeed.

Through a series of messages, Dimitris told Alexandria that alpacas were the “SOFTEST AND MOST HUGGABLE ANIMAL EVER.”

After he met his first alpaca, he went around befriending others.


No One Was More Excited About the First Day of School Than Kevin

On the first day of school, you can easily spot the kids who hate school and those who don’t. Fourth-grader Kevin Rodriguez adorably belongs to the latter group. And this year Fox 7’s Tania Ortega captured him excited about all that could happen during the new school year.


90-Year-Old World War II Vets Accomplish Their 70-Year-Old Dream

This graduation season we were fortunate to see so many Latinos excelling. But a trio of viejitos proved this year that it’s never too late to accomplish your dreams. Close pals Julian Lopez, Tony Romero, and Lupe Malcate – all almost in their 90s – earned their high school diplomas this year. Drafted during World War II, the three dropped out of school in 1944. But through the help of Lopez’s daughter – who contacted the school district and set the wheels in motion – they were able to fulfill their 70-year-old dream of graduating high school.

For U.S. Navy veteran Lopez, the moment filled him with butterflies. “I’m more nervous than when they drafted me!” he said.


A Pennsylvania Teen Got Himself a Deer Family

It all started when 17-year-old Kelvin Peña visited his cousin, who fed a deer named Canela. “I thought it was really cool,” he told BuzzFeed. “When I got home I saw Money [another deer] in my backyard, walked up to him, and noticed he didn’t run away, so I felt we had a connection. I went inside and grabbed an apple, and he ate it. I expected him to leave but he kept following me.”

Money kept coming back every day – bringing Canela, Bambi, Lola, and other deer with him. At first Kelvin fed the deer unhealthy foods, like powdered donuts. But after catching some flak from the online world, he started selling tees that read “Everybody Eats,” so he could buy his deer family “fire healthy food.”

Since then, he’s gone on to feed his community as well.


China's Most Famous Latin Dancer Is a Kid

Videos of dancing children is literally one of the best parts of the internet. And thanks to Shanghaiist, we learned that in China, the most famous latin dancer is a kid.


An 11-Year-Old Offered Emotional Advice

While many are just crawling out of bed on Sunday at noon, 11-year-old Ciro Ortiz has already set up a card table at the Bedford Avenue L train stop so that he can start his side hustle. For the past nine Sundays, the sixth-grader has offered five-minute counseling sessions to passersby for $2. From noon to 2 p.m., he listens to people and gives them emotional advice. “It’s a good way to give back and make money,” he told the New York Post.

It’s a little steeper than what you’d pay for Lucy’s words of wisdom, but he gives pretty sound advice.


104-Year-Old Pearl Harbor Survivor Ray Chavez Is Committed to His Gym Routine

Photo: Misael Virgen

A few years ago, Pearl Harbor survivor Ray Chavez fell. The then-91 year old couldn’t stand, could barely walk, and he had lost about 60 pounds. He lived a mostly sedentary life, and it didn’t make him happy. But after his daughter suggested that he try working out, he quickly felt and looked better. For the last few years, the 104-year-old – known as the oldest-living Pearl Harbor veteran – has hit the gym to prepare to visit Hawaii for the 75th anniversary.

In the past few decades, Chavez has traveled to Hawaii to honor those lives lost. But after his injury, he wanted to make sure he could physically handle the six-hour trip from San Diego to Hawaii once again. So he started working with personal trainer Sean Thompson three years ago – gaining 20 pounds of muscle in the process.


A Woman Trolled Her Boss With Cosplay

While letting employees express their personal style is generally considered good for morale, dress codes can sometimes be loaded with implicit racial or cultural bias. June J. Rivas learned this when her boss told her that wearing a scarf to work was inappropriate. “So my boss didn’t like me wearing my hair in a ponytail every day,” she wrote on Facebook. “‘Unprofessional. Not my hair in a scarf. ‘Unprofessional.’ Nor my hair in pigtails. ‘Unprofessional.’ So I filed a harassment complaint against her as our contract states ‘No dress code. Just be cleaned and pressed.'”

Following the harassment complaint, Rivas’ boss sent out a memo with a new dress code that explicitly banned ponytails, pigtails, straps, hats, sandals, cleavage, exposed backs, lace, and “cultural head wraps.”

Rivas, who is not one to back down, responded in the best possible way. First, she took the new memo and reported her boss to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Then, Rivas decided to show up to work in a variety of full cosplay outfits that happened to comply with the new dress code, just in a… creative way.


An Abuelo Played a Virtual Reality Game for the First Time

To celebrate his 81st birthday, Leonardo Ramallo’s grandchildren busted out the Brookhaven Experiment demo and gave him his first taste at virtual reality. In the game, Abuelo Ramallo becomes a zombie hunter. But things got a little too real. He nearly tramples the computer, he walks into furniture, and he ultimately sends his family scrambling in terror.


The Internet Helped Out an Undocumented Teen; He Turned Around and Helped Others

Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Times featured Guatemalan immigrant Gaspar Marcos in a short doc, which followed the 18-year from his high school to full-time after-school job. In those 19 hours, he showed the world how hard he worked to make his American Dream come true. The story resonated with so many people, who began to donate money to help ease this burden.

But even with an influx of cash, Gaspar kept hustling hard. And he promised to donate money to fellow unaccompanied minors, who are also struggling to make in America.


DMX Wore Timbs and Two-Stepped at His Daughter's Quinces

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#blessed Sasha's quiceañera

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A few years ago, when DMX sang “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” we thought we had reached peak DMX. But we were wrong. This year, his daughter, Sasha turned 15, and she had a traditional coming-of-age party. And DMX was there to two-step to Luther Vandross’s “Dance With My Father” in his Timbs.


A Teen Paid Tribute to Juan Gabriel During His Ice Skating Routine

Following Juan Gabriel’s death, touching tributes poured in from all over the world. One of the sweetest homage came when 16-year-old figure skater Donovan Carrillo incorporated Juanga’s music into his routine. Skating to “Hasta Que te Conocí,” the Mexican skater even mimicked El Divo de Juarez’s signature moves.

The routine went viral and people began to flood his social media with praise. Some sent him homophobic messages, but he took the time to denounce them – standing in solidarity with the LGBTQ community, according to BuzzFeed.


#LatinxsCreate Blew Up the Latinernet

On one ordinary weekend, something truly spectacular took shape on Latino Twitter. Using the hashtag #LatinxsCreate, people from Latin America (and those with connections to the LatAm) shared their art, poetry, photography or other creative works. Instead of waiting around for someone to feature their amazing talents, they carved out a space for themselves on Twitter. And people were very excited about it. Spend a little time looking through the hashtag, and you’ll see plenty of people declare that #LatinxsCreate is everything.

In 140 characters or less, each creative described themselves and their work. And we ended up getting a hashtag that’s a pure celebration of Latino talent.


A Brazilian Boy Made Himself a Marta Jersey

Because the No. 10 carries a lot of weight in fútbol – it is after all the number that greats like Messi and James Rodríguez wear – a boy was able to make a bold statement during the Rio Olympics. The young fan identified only as Bernardo attended a judo match and wore a seleção brasileira jersey that struck out Neymar Jr.’s name multiple times. Below it, printed in neat capital letters read the name Marta, with a red heart directly next to it. Essentially, he traded one of Brazil’s best athletes for another.

In a video uploaded to YouTube, Bernardo explains that he’s a fan of the women’s Brazilian team because they’re crushing it. “Marta is passionate, she likes to play soccer,” he said. “Brazil’s female [soccer] team, winning everything like they are, killing it, to me is a symbol, a symbol of feminism in Brazil. They are the best to me. I think she completely deserves it. She deserves this shirt much more than Neymar.” He flashed a smile, as someone off-camera tells him that he’s going to be an amazing grown-up.