I know, you guys, it's bad out there. Just blowfish-ugly in every direction. Terrorism and police brutality. Rising sea levels and E. coli outbreaks. The words President Trump.

Here in my dusty California hometown, we can't get the skies to rain — and yet we're drowning in bad news. We skulk away from headlines, afraid to learn of yet another calamity. The other day I attended a holiday parade and quietly wondered if the van on the street corner, the one whimsically arrayed in holiday lights, might be packed with explosives.

Enough. Refusing to hand over my seasonal smiles to dread, I begged my fantastic friends for some reasons to feel hopeful about humankind — just a few tiny toeholds to help me clamber up on top of the awful for some much-needed perspective. They delivered, as fantastic friends do. And I'm re-gifting their 20 gems to you. Happy holidays.

1. Fewer people are dying due to war than ever before. The human race is actually improving on the whole killing-each-other thing, even if our easy access to bad news makes us think otherwise.

2. "I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief." — Wendell Berry

3. When I talk to teenagers, which I do almost every day, I feel nothing but hope for the future. Somehow they see through it all and at the core they are kind and accepting. Wildly so.

4. I had dinner with a congressman the other night and I came away with hope. He was a smart, thoughtful, sensitive guy and he's not the only voice of reason out there representing us.

5. Hope Spots, dedicated to preserving places critical to the health of Earth's oceans.

6. I keep thinking how great it is that it's not the Middle Ages.

7. Last night I helped a father receive his first child into his own hands through tears and howls of joy. Amazing, miraculous things are quietly happening all the time. (Oh, and the Palmina Nebbiolo 2011 is a very nice little wine.)

8. When people do kind things — the right things — with no promise of reward. Two recent examples include an unlocked bike left untouched on a busy street, and a lost wallet returned with all the cash inside.

9. Puppies! They have the power to bring out a gentle side of humans.

10. "Let It Be," The Beatles.

11. I have found peace in the process of returning to the basics. I moved to a farm and started to learn what it really means to live connected to the earth, connected to your food and water sources. It reminds me every day where we come from, and where we are going: the dirt. And the peaceful perfection of that simple truth allows me to find happiness one moment at a time.

12. Dance class. Dancing soothes every existential ouch there is.

13. Reading Kurt Vonnegut, the master interpreter of sanity.

14. The peanut butter pie at the Deschutes Brewery pub.

15. Humans of New York.

16. My wife walks with a crutch. A few weeks ago, the wind knocked over our recycle bin and the trash was all over the sidewalk. A woman stopped her car, got out, and helped my wife put it all back in the bin. It's these acts of kindness that make me believe, despite everything I hear, that most people are inherently good.

17. The Moscow Mule (no fewer than four people swore by the curative properties of this refreshing cocktail)

18. The book I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

19. This headline: "Paris Defies Terror to Celebrate Hanukkah"

20. And my absolute favorite, this anonymous quote: You're a ghost driving a meat-coated skeleton made from stardust, riding a rock, hurtling through space. Fear nothing.