I don’t need to tell you about all the negative events of 2020, because we all memorized that laundry list months ago. But if you’re anything like me, you’ve had a lot of practice rattling off each doom-and-gloom item of the past year as you vent with friends and family members over Zoom.
Yet, at times, the intensity of 2020 also revealed the very best of humanity. Americans went out of their way to help one another when small businesses were burned or looted, communities gathered to pray for the nation amid social unrest, barrier-breaking records were set, and stars were born from kitchen tables as the world quarantined in their homes.
As a journalist, I’ve had the unique opportunity to report on the good, the bad, and the ugly of 2020. Each Monday, I share a “good news story” on “The Daily Signal Podcast,” and what I found over the course of the year is that adversity almost always presents an opportunity for redemption or hope.
But don’t just take my word for it. Here are seven good news stories from a year none of us will ever forget.
1. Father-Daughter Duet Rise to Fame
Father and daughter Mat and Savanna Shaw wanted to encourage their friends as family members were stuck at home at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. At the end of February, they sat down at their kitchen table and sang “The Prayer” together and uploaded the duet to social media.
The video quickly went viral, so they began recording more duets, using their closet as a studio. Each new song highlighted not only their talent, but the beauty of a loving father-daughter relationship. In a time when so many of us were separated from those we loved, the Shaws reminded millions of why we need each other.
Less than six months after posting their first song on YouTube, the Shaws announced that they were going to begin recording and producing music more professionally, and in October they released their first album, “Picture This.”
Their second album, “Merry Little Christmas,” was released less than a month after the first, and like “Picture This,” it was crowdfunded by their fans.
The Shaws wanted to use their “music in a positive way, to really help a world that was struggling,” Mat Shaw told The Daily Signal this month.
2. Restaurant Receives Outpouring of Support After Riots
Many small businesses have been destroyed by rioters in cities across America during 2020. Yet, an encouraging scenario has played out a number of times after businesses were burned or looted.
GoFundMe campaigns quickly began raising for many small businesses thousands of dollars to rebuild what was lost during the riots, as was the case for firefighter K.B. Balla and his new Minneapolis restaurant.
Rioters burned and looted Scores Sports Bar on May 27, but Balla quickly set up a fundraiser in hopes of raising enough money to begin to rebuild.
As an African American business owner with four children, Balla wrote on the campaign page that he was just “trying to pick up the pieces amidst mourning with the community” after the death of George Floyd on May 25.
Donations began pouring in to rebuild the destroyed restaurant, and in less than two weeks, more than $1.1 million was raised for the firefighter and his family to rebuild their dream.
As donations were still pouring in, Balla said he was overwhelmed by the support and added that not even a fire could “stop what plans I have to open my dream, and I cannot wait to open the doors and serve all the people who have supported us.”
3. Attempt to Cancel Goya Foods Backfires
The left-wing cancel culture went after Goya Foods in July when the company’s CEO, Robert Unanue, paid President Donald Trump a compliment while at the White House.
“We’re all truly blessed at the same time to have a leader like President Trump,” Unanue said at the signing of the Hispanic Prosperity Initiative on July 9. In response to the CEO’s comment, the progressive left called for a boycott of Goya Foods, but ultimately, the boycott turned into a “buycott.”
Casey Harper, a resident of Virginia, launched a GoFundMe campaign to support Goya Foods. He planned to use the money raised to buy Goya products, which he would in turn donate to local food banks. Harper’s fundraiser, “Stop Cancel Culture & Feed the Hungry,” ultimately raised $331,332, far surpassing his initial $10,000 goal.
Harper worked directly with Goya to purchase and distribute the food since he had to buy so much. “Turns out buying and distributing hundreds of thousands of pounds of food is not easy, but it’s a great problem to have,” Harper wrote on the GoFundMe page as donations were still flowing in.
Americans’ generosity—and their determination to stand up against the cancel culture—ultimately resulted in thousands of donations to feed the needy amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
4. Thousands Gather on National Mall to Pray for America
For many Christians and other people of faith, 2020 was a powerful reminder that prayer is the most effective response to many of life’s challenges.
Evangelist Franklin Graham, the son of the late Billy Graham and the president and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse, invited Americans to join him on the National Mall on Sept. 26 for the 2020 Washington Prayer March.
A crowd of tens of thousands, stretching down the Reflecting Pool, joined Graham and a number of other faith leaders in a time of prayer and repentance for America.
“Today, at this Washington Prayer March, you continue a great American tradition,” Vice President Mike Pence, who made a surprise visit at the march, said while standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. “Since the founding of our nation, the American people and our leaders have gone to prayer in challenging times.”
The crowd spent several hours moving from one national moment to another, stopping to pray at each and finally ending outside the U.S. Capitol to pray for local, state, and federal leaders.
“I think that things change when you pray,” Sofia Swiger, 16, told The Daily Signal at the march. “It makes a big difference to come together as Christians and agree together to pray for our country.”
5. Nonprofit Converts Parking Lot Into Tutoring Center for Online Learning
Like so many school districts across America, Los Angeles County decided to conduct the fall semester entirely online. The Dream Center, a nonprofit founded in 1994 to serve the poor in and around Los Angeles, knew that many children in its community would struggle to learn and keep their grades up without the structure and support of a classroom setting.
“It’s everything I never thought a school would be, in a parking lot with an overhang and stations set up for kids to learn,” Matthew Barnett, co-founder of the nonprofit, told The Daily Signal on a phone call just a few days after the tutoring center launched on Aug. 18.
The nonprofit staffed the parking lot tutoring site with teachers and volunteers to help children with assignments. It even provided a computer or Chromebook to children who did not have a device for online learning.
The nonprofit tried to make learning fun for the kids throughout the fall semester, giving prizes away, providing meals, and creating an atmosphere Barnett described as a “high-energy Nickelodeon TV show-meets-education.”
6. Americans Show Support for Police
Calls to defund police departments in cities across America began after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.
As riots, violent demonstrations, and looting carried on throughout the summer, and protesters held signs reading “No Justice, No Peace,” Heritage Action for America responded with a clear message: “No Police, No Peace.”
Heritage Action, the grassroots partner organization of The Heritage Foundation, put billboards up in New York City, Dallas, and Atlanta to show support for America’s police and to remind communities that peace is impossible without the men and women in blue.
“Supporting police is not partisan. It’s American,” Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage Action for America, said in a statement, adding that our “law enforcement supports us every day, and it’s time we support them back.”
7. Young Man Becomes First Down Syndrome Athlete to Complete Ironman
Completing an Ironman competition is an accomplishment for any athlete, and up until this year, no one with Down syndrome had ever done it.
On Nov. 7, Chris Nikic, 21, earned his place as a Guinness World Record holder as he crossed the finish line of an Ironman Triathlon in Panama City Beach, Florida. Nikic swam 2.4 miles, biked 122 miles, and ran 26.2 miles, finishing with about 14 minutes left in the 17-hour time frame allowed to complete the race.
Nikic crossed the finish line in a shirt reading “1% Better,” a principle he and his father developed over the months of training, committing every day to get just 1% faster and stronger.
“From the time he was born, we were told by everyone that he’d never do anything or amount to anything or be able to accomplish anything [beyond] being able to tie his own shoes,” Nikic’s father, Nik Nikic, said, according to the Orlando Sentinel newspaper.
From the experience of pushing through the pain to accomplish his dream, the athlete told The New York Times: “I learned that there are no limits. Do not put a lid on me.”