This time of year, life can look pretty bleak — little sunlight, long weeks, few holidays, calamitously extreme weather. And if the depressing onslaught of bad news — from more school shootings to our Contagion-like flu epidemic — doesn't make you want to lay in bed all day, the rude dude on your morning commute will certainly make you rethink ever leaving that happy place again. But fear not, dear cynics, because there's reason to believe there's good in this world. Check out these regular, hardworking people, from an altruistic janitor to a coffee shop customer, who will make you see the light and, perhaps, pay it forward.
1. An incredibly honest custodian
Patrick Morgan, a janitor in Florida, hit the jackpot when he found a stray iPad in the Ft. Lauderdale airport he was cleaning. Then he looked inside and found $3,000! Cha-ching! So what does he do? He hands it directly to the authorities. After the iPad owner collected his gadget, he gave Morgan a $60 reward. Then the janitor went and gave that away (he split it between a homeless person and a fellow worker). Can you believe this guy? Luckily, this Most Altruistic of Humans didn't get off without a prize of his own. Morgan was given a plaque and the monetary equivalent of a week's paid vacation. Here's hoping he keeps these well deserved earnings for himself.
2. A thief with a conscience
On Jan. 7, Vancouver couple Courtney and Harly Forbes awoke to find their tandem bike stolen from their front porch, leaving them heartbroken and stuck. Described as "developmentally delayed," the young pair live with Courtney's mom and use the two-seater bike to get around and maintain their relative independence. They received an outpouring of financial and emotional support after word of their misfortune spread. Another local couple gave them their own custom-built tandem bike. And a day later, their bike was returned by the thief himself, who had reportedly heard how affected they were by his actions. He left the bike where he found it and included a note that read: "I bring this back 2 you because I am truly sorry and hope you can forgive me. I am trying to do the right thing. — Guilty."
3. A very long line of generous customers
Just a few days before Christmas at a Tim Horton's in Winnipeg, Canada, a drive-through customer decided to pay for the next customer in line. When that customer got to the window of the Canadian coffee chain and found his breakfast surprise, he did the same, paying for the customer behind him. The trend continued until the restaurant was host to a chain of kindness 228 customers deep. The staff began to make a big show of it, calling out the numbers as they ticked higher and higher. "We don't know who started it, but that's the beauty of this act of generosity," a company spokeswoman said. "It was the start of something wonderful."
4. A really good cop
Hayden Carlo, a struggling father of two, was pulled over by a Plano, Texas, police officer this past December because of his expired registration. Carlo said he couldn't afford to update his registration because he needed to support his family. While the officer was required to give the man a ticket, he was so moved that he also snuck him a $100 bill. "You just don't find that many officers who would do this type of thing," Carlo said. "He helped me out when I needed it and I appreciate that. I'll never forget that man."
5. A hopeful romantic
There is a man named Pankaj Shah who is both fortunate and generous. He is in the habit of paying for other people's meals when he dines out himself. But he doesn't pay for just anyone's meal. Shah is a romantic. He asks the staff to find the couple who look "most in love" and he'll take care of their bill, anonymously. Over the holidays, Shah returned to a restaurant in Boston he hadn't been to in three years. He did his usual, pulled aside the trusty manager, and asked him to find a recipient for his benevolence. The manager said that the couple Shah treated to dinner last time was back that same night, and the man was proposing marriage. The manager said he asked the couple why they chose his restaurant and the guy said "they were sitting at that same table three years ago and some stranger paid for their meal and made them think about kindness and love and they've been talking about it ever since." It was such a touching memory for them that the restaurant was the only place he could have proposed.