The week's good news: January 21, 2021
It wasn't all bad!
Woman celebrates her 53rd birthday by performing 53 acts of kindness
Debra Ferrell turned her birthday into a day of service, asking friends and family to suggest 53 acts of kindness she could perform in honor of her 53 years of life. Ferrell, a resident of Roanoke, Virginia, told The Associated Press it's "one of the hardest times in my history, so I figured why not make other people smile." Several friends and relatives sent Ferrell their ideas, with one pal asking her to send a gift basket to a doctor working in a COVID-19 unit, and another wondering if she would send a note of encouragement to her daughter as she navigates virtual learning. Along with her granddaughters, Ferrell also painted signs to leave in people's yards, reminding them that "The world needs your light" and they should "Let your awesome out." Ferrell told AP if "one random act of a yard sign can make someone smile at this time, then ... it's more than worth it."
This Seattle ballet dancer is breaking barriers
Ashton Edwards is changing ballet for the better. Edwards, 18, is a member of the Pacific Northwest Ballet's Professional Division in Seattle. He started studying classical ballet at 4, and after years of performing traditional male roles, became intrigued by the idea of trying something typically for women: dancing en pointe. "It took a lot of searching within myself," Edwards told NPR. "But I think my goals in life and in my career and who I saw myself as a person were much bigger than just one small box I was put in. So I decided to explore." Because ballet has such clear divisions between male and female roles, Edwards didn't know if his school would let him dance en pointe, and was thrilled when they were "open and accepting." The shoes "have their challenges," he said, but it's all worth it: "Once you're up and once you start dancing, you're floating, and it feels like flying I think. It's amazing."
After studying in secret, Illinois dad surprises family by graduating from college
When Mike Loven went back to school in 2016, he decided to keep it under wraps. Last fall, he finally revealed the secret, letting his Grand Canyon University Alumni shirt do the talking. Loven, 47, lives in Machesney Park, Illinois, and owns a staffing company. At the same time he enrolled at GCU, his daughter, Taleigh Loven, 23, was also attending the school. Loven told Good Morning America he wanted to surprise his family, and decided he'd let them know about his return to college once he graduated. They didn't suspect a thing, and during a graduation celebration for Taleigh, Loven walked into the room wearing a GCU Alumni shirt. Once they learned what he had done, his family was ecstatic. "During the time that he was working on his degree, he carried the load for us as he has for my entire life," Taleigh told GMA. "His selfless act shows a glimpse to his character."
California artist creates custom portraits to show his gratitude to frontline workers
Artist John Deckert has found a way to honor frontline workers, one portrait at a time. While working from his home in Santa Rosa, California, he started thinking about the essential workers who did not have this same luxury. Deckert got out his paint, brushes, and canvas, and first painted a deliveryman, followed by his mailman and a cashier. Now, Deckert is focused on painting the nurses at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. He asked emergency room nurse Sheila Smith for photos of her colleagues, which he uses as inspirations for each one of his portraits. Once he is finished with a painting, Deckert gives it to his subject as a gift. Smith told NBC Bay Area her portrait is "one of my most prized possessions now." Deckert said the portraits are an acknowledgment of the hard work and sacrifice shown by frontline workers. "You shared what skill you have," he said, "and I shared mine."
Rare Indian rhinoceros born at Polish zoo
A new year brought new life with the birth of an endangered Indian rhinoceros at Poland's Wroclaw Zoo. The calf, a female, was born Jan. 6 to Maruska, 7, and Manas, 11. "Maruska, a first-time mom, behaves wonderfully," Wroclaw Zoo President Radoslaw Ratajszczak said. "She looks after her daughter, allows her to nurse, and is very delicate, despite weighing more than two tons." In the 1970s, the species was almost extinct. Thanks to conservation efforts and a protection program, there are now more than 3,600 Indian rhinos, with about 170 living in zoos. The Indian rhinoceros can weigh up to 3 tons, and primarily eats grass, twigs, and leaves.