Today, most news stories concern crime and corruption. These disturbing tales seem even more sensational due to their constant coverage on social media and mainstream media’s 24/7 news cycle.
With so much negativity in the world, it’s easy to feel jaded. Although superheroes don’t actually exist, these 10 stories show that one person’s extraordinary kindness and generosity can do an enormous amount of good for those around them.
For years, the residents of Salem, Oregon, have been hunting for the hidden $100 bills that appear all over the place. Every bill is signed “Benny,” but that isn’t the mysterious philanthropist’s real name.
Residents of Salem have discovered the Benny bills almost everywhere—hidden in baby carriages, slipped through car windows, or tucked into the sleeping bags of homeless people. Benny has given out an estimated $50,000. For many of these recipients, that $100 appeared at moments when they desperately needed the money.
This act of generosity inspired the entire town to pay it forward, with some people adopting the practice on their own. For the individuals who are lucky enough to receive a Benny when they aren’t actually in need, many citizens have given the money to charity or slipped it into someone else’s pocket. While the original donor is a mystery, the practice quickly became a town tradition that will live on for a long time.
9 Jalandhar Nayak
In a remote village in India’s state of Orissa, the schoolchildren needed to walk through 10 kilometers (6 mi) of thick brush, climbing up and down hills and boulders in each direction for three hours. It’s understandable why many of these kids gave up on their education.
But a father named Jalandhar Nayak was determined that his sons would receive an education. His boys moved closer to the school, and Nayak began to work. Armed with only a pickaxe and a crowbar, Nayak began clearing a road to the village in 2016. He pushed boulders and dug the earth so that it would be a flat surface. He worked from sunup until sundown, eight hours a day every day for two years straight.
A local news outlet heard about Nayak’s story. The government agreed that the village needed a road, so they paid him for his time and took over the construction where he left off. Once he got the media’s attention, he requested that the village get access to running water and electricity, too. After generations of this village having been so far removed from civilization, one man’s actions helped the entire community.
8 Mohamed Bzeek
Mohamed Bzeek immigrated to California from Libya with his wife, Dawn. They had big dreams and never expected their only son to be born with brittle bone disease and dwarfism. Dawn fostered a few children in their home, but tragically, she died, leaving Mohamed to care for their disabled son alone.
Mohamed knew that there were other parents who had children with disabilities, but they were given up for adoption. At any one time, there are 600 orphaned children with terminal illnesses in Los Angeles County. Most of the time, they die alone in a hospital even if their biological parents are still alive.
Mohamed Bzeek has taken it upon himself to foster as many children with terminal illnesses as he can. He wants to make sure that they are loved and get to live in a real home before they die.
When he was in his sixties, he found out that he had cancer and needed to go to the hospital for surgery. Without a wife or any family able to be there, he recovered in the hospital alone while an in-home nurse cared for the children. After his story was on the news, a GoFundMe page was created to help Mohamed and these kids. As of the time this article was written, he has received over $500,000 in donations.
7 Jim Glaub And Dylan Parker
When Jim Glaub and Dylan Parker moved into a new apartment together in Manhattan, they never expected to receive hundreds of letters addressed to Santa Claus. At first, they thought it might be a joke or a scam. As time went on, the number of letters became overwhelming.
They googled their new address but couldn’t find anything. For whatever reason, these kids thought that Santa lived in New York City. Somehow, they all knew to write to Jim and Dylan’s address. Many children wrote that their parents didn’t have enough money to buy presents. The letters were heartbreaking to read, and it would have been impossible for Jim and Dylan to make every child’s dream come true on their own.
They started a Facebook group and began handing out Santa letters to friends, family, and volunteers who were willing to sponsor a child’s Christmas wish. One of Jim and Dylan’s friends was suspicious that they were falling for some sort of scam.
So, after sending her package of Christmas presents to an address in the Bronx, she hid outside when the UPS truck arrived. Sure enough, children ran out of the house, squealing that Santa had come. Their mother was crying tears of joy. It was all real.
Today, Jim and Dylan have fully embraced this phenomenon by starting a foundation called the Miracle on 22nd Street where anyone can volunteer to answer a child’s Santa letter each Christmas. Writer and comedian Tina Fey was so moved by this story that she is already working on a movie about it.
6 Shyam Lal
In Chhattisgarh, India, a 15-year-old boy named Shyam Lal was living in a village called Saja Pahad. The villagers were constantly suffering from droughts, and they weren’t getting any assistance from the government. There was no road to connect the village to the outside world, so their only access to water was from wells that would quickly run dry. Cattle were dying, people were getting sick, and food was in short supply.
As people and animals continued to die off, Shyam Lal decided to do something about it. He picked up a shovel and started digging a hole. The other villagers laughed at him. But he didn’t listen and continued to dig every day for the next 27 years.
Today, that hole has grown into a pond that is one acre long and 5 meters (15 ft) deep. Every person in the village has benefited from the pond, and their cattle and crops are thriving.
5 Uncle Wiggly Wings
Right after World War II, Germany became a divided country. The Soviet Union was in control of East Germany, and civilians in West Berlin were starving to death. Operation Vittles was the US Air Force’s attempt to bring food and supplies into West Berlin.
In 1948, a pilot named Gail Halvorsen was flying the aircraft that was in charge of dropping necessities like food and coal. He noticed that a group of German children were watching him through a fence at the end of the airfield, so he said hello. He was touched to see how generous the kids were with one another. This inspired him to start dropping packages filled with candy from tiny parachutes.
As he flew over, he would wiggle the plane back and forth so that the children knew when the candy was coming. This earned him the nickname “Uncle Wiggly Wings.” Chocolate wasn’t going to solve the issues in their country, but witnesses say that it brought much-needed hope to children to let them know that the world had not forgotten them.
4 Gloria Campos
Most parents looking to adopt a child prefer babies. So it’s much harder for older kids to find permanent homes. Gloria Campos was a news anchor for WFAA in Dallas-Fort Worth when she featured the story of a boy named Ke’onte who was part of the Wednesday’s Child adoption program.
His first adoption didn’t go through. He had also been in foster care where they overmedicated him with drugs that turned him into a sluggish zombie. Gloria was determined to make sure that he found a good home. So she aired a second story that featured him.
That time, Carol and Scott Cook saw Ke’onte and knew that he was the son they had always wanted. As he grew older, Ke’onte realized that what had happened to him in foster care was a form of abuse. He spoke before Congress to bring attention to the conditions of children in foster care.
As a teenager, Ke’onte surprised Gloria on the news to thank her for bringing him together with his new parents. Ke’onte and Gloria had a tearful reunion on camera.
3 Ajay Munot
Ajay Munot, a rich businessman in India, set aside 80 lakhs (£93,000) for his daughter’s wedding. This may sound ludicrous to most people, but the newly rich in India have been known to spend as much as £59 million on a wedding. In a country where there is a huge amount of poverty, many have criticized these mega weddings as being in poor taste.
However, Munot decided that the money for his daughter’s wedding would be put to better use by helping those in need. He purchased two acres of land and built 90 small houses with electricity and running water. Then he found homeless people who needed a place to stay. The only requirement was that these people not be addicts.
Munot’s daughter loved the idea. She considered it to be the best wedding gift she could have received. The family was still able to have a beautiful wedding on a fraction of the budget. When his good deed was covered in the news, he encouraged other fathers to begin a new tradition of charitable donations as wedding gifts.
2 Xiong Shuihua
At 54 years old, Xiong Shuihua had more money than he would have ever imagined. He grew up in Xiongkeng village in China where everyone lived in small huts and struggled to survive. The people in the village had helped to raise him, and Shuihua wanted to return their kindness. Once he found success in the steel industry, he had everything he could ever want. So he decided to use his money for a good cause.
He spent £4 million bulldozing the village huts and replacing them with luxury apartments and paved roads, which he gave to the villagers for free. There were 18 families who helped his family the most during tough times in his childhood. Instead of apartments, they got luxury villas. All of the elderly are given three meals a day absolutely free to ensure than none of them ever go hungry again.
1 Sir Nicholas Winton
It was 1938 in Czechoslovakia. In his late twenties, Nicholas Winton was a stockbroker from England on a trip to Nazi-occupied Prague. (Although Nicholas had been baptized as a child in the Anglican Church, his parents were German Jews.)
In Prague, he noticed that the city was filled with Jewish orphans whose parents had been killed. Nicholas took it upon himself to find families who were willing to adopt these children and paid out of pocket to transport them on the train from Prague to London. He managed to find homes for 669 children.
In 1988, the BBC program That’s Life! asked to interview Nicholas about the experience. He was so humble that it took years for him to get any sort of recognition. While the cameras were rolling, the BBC gave him a big surprise. “Is there anyone in our audience tonight who owes their life to Nicholas Winton? If so, could you stand up, please?”
Several rows of people surrounding Nicholas stood up. The entire audience was filled with the people he had saved and their families. In 2003, the Queen of England knighted him, giving him the well-deserved title of Sir Nicholas Winton. He died in July 2015. He was 106 years old.
Shannon Quinn is a writer and entrepreneur from the Philadelphia area.