The Brighter Side: Inspirational News to Illuminate Your Week
After another week filled with rather depressing reminders of just how grim our can be world, I think it’s important that we took the time to relish the latest edition of the Brighter Side. All around us those in power seem hell bent on driving us apart, with acts of violence and underhanded politics. However if we choose to look a little deeper beneath the surface we will find that there this still so much positivity worth holding on to. This week’s theme for the Brighter Side will be all about preservation. Rather than focusing on the news of life being taken away, let us reflect and celebrate the instances of life being cultivated and nurtured.
Stranger helps evicted 90-year-old WWII Veteran return home for the holidays — For all they do and sacrifice for us, our veterans still go through some pretty terrible situations once they return home. To begin this week’s Brighter Side news rundown, we have some inspiring stories that star some of our oldest and boldest war heroes.
90-year-old WWII veteran, Johnnie Hodges Sr. of Buffalo New York was forced out of his home after failing to make payments on his mortgage for several months. Hodges missed his payments because he was focused on caring for his ailing wife Flora who was battling Alzheimer’s at the time. Unfortunately, Flora passed away in July 2014, and Hodges was officially evicted from his home of almost 60 years on July 9, 2015.
Hodges’ daughter Robin obviously became very concerned for her elderly father, who was taken by police to the VA hospital located in Buffalo, after telling officers that they would have to cuff him in order to make him leave. Hodges’ story was the subject of an article in the local news in Buffalo and the stories heart-wrenching details sent a powerful message to Greg Elwood of Williamsville, New York.
Elwood started a crowdfunding page to restore Hodges to his home and out of the temporary apartment that he was staying in. After Yahoo Real Estate spread the emotional story on the internet, a massive outpouring of charity saw donations reach $110,000 in only five months. The original goal was $50,000 but once people heard about this wonderful story the donations just kept coming.
Elwood and Hodges’ entire family are now connected for the rest of their lives. Last month Elwood finally met the man who helped so greatly face to face for the first time at a welcome home party thrown in Johnnie’s honor. Speaking to ABC News, Hodges’ daughter Robin said “I can’t say enough about Greg. From day one he’s had a heart of gold. He just wanted to help and it touched so many people.”
Hodges is excited to be back in his beloved home for the holidays, and Robin is actually planning on spending Christmas with Greg and his family. Random acts of kindness and empathy like this one is what the Brighter Side is all about; making connections that go far beyond race, age or circumstance.
Winnipeg community program “Bike Together” provides low income kids with bikes and inmates with opportunities — In its current state, the country’s correctional system is clearly in some need of rehabilitation itself. America has the highest imprisoned population in the world, with over 2 million inmates locked up. More than 1 out of every 100 Americans, is currently behind bars (per Vice.com), and what’s even more alarming than our sheer number of inmates, is our inability to rehabilitate prisoners while they serve their sentences. Prisons seem more suited for containing prisoners outside of the public consciousness so that we as a society don’t need to take responsibility for our incarcerated population.
This system only cultivates a cycle of criminal activity, which is essentially geared to promoting the perpetuation of career criminals. Our prisoners are so far removed from society that there is no way that we can realistically see them becoming functional and beneficial members of the community without the proper opportunities.
In an uplifting story from the Canadian city of Winnipeg, we can see a viable blueprint on how prison inmates can be given the opportunity to better their communities while they serve their debt to society. The program Bike Together Winnipeg is providing a beneficial service where free refurbished bicycles and safety gear are made available to low-income, inner-city kids, while provincial inmates are also given the chance to gain valuable work experience.
Kids receive a refurbished bike, helmet and lock to go along with valuable safety lessons on how to remain alert to the rules of the road. The bikes are salvaged from Brady Landfill where their former owners can dump them. Then the various bike parts are brought to the shop at Headingley Correctional Centre, where inmates enrolled in the facilities addiction rehabilitation program can fix them and make them available for the kids to reuse.
In my opinion this is an incredibly effective program that finds a way to leave nothing but a positive impact on the community. Low income kids are provided with free forms of fun and exercise while learning valuable lessons on safety and gaining respect for sustainable sources of transportation. By promoting safe cycling and sustainability within the city, Winnipeg is raising awareness about the environment which will greatly benefit future generations. Furthermore, inmates are given tangible experience when it comes to job training, and positive qualities like punctuality, cooperation and community responsibility are all being reinforced in these individuals.
It is important for a prisoner not to feel as though they will be ostracized from the rest of the world forever. The first step to rehabilitating inmates and smoothly reintegrating them back into society, is actually including them in society, and not simply thinking of them as statistics.
Marine wildlife returning to the Thames in London — We may be the most intelligent life forms on the planet, but humans have a knack for ruining mother nature’s original plan. You needn’t look any further than the murky waters of the Hudson River to see exactly what I mean. The unmistakable brand of the human race is pollution. However, the planet Earth has survived before us and it seems that in many ways it can still thrive despite of us as well.
A rather peculiar, yet encouraging report from Zoological Society of London shows that the population of marine mammals living in the River Thames is trending upward. Over the last ten years the ZSL has recorded 2,732 animals sighted by the public in that time. Dolphins, otters, porpoises, sea turtles and even a whale, have all been reportedly spotted in the Thames. This may not be earth shattering news but it is quite interesting considering that 50 years ago, the Thames was so polluted it was declared “biologically extinct” and too dirty for anything to survive there (per BBC News).
If you’re a lover of animals like me, then this should be exciting news. One of the most polluted rivers on the planet is now supporting a vibrant marine life population once again. Proving that all the damage we have done to this planet may not be so irreversible as we initially thought.