It wasn't all bad
December 4, 2020

Mahinda Dasanayaka wants all kids to have access to books, and to make this happen, he turned his motorbike into a library on two wheels.

Dasanayaka, a 32-year-old father of two, is a child protection officer for the Sri Lankan government. Three years ago, he launched a program called Book and Me, and once or twice a week he travels to about 20 villages across Kegalle, a mountainous region northeast of Sri Lanka's capital, to distribute books. He goes to villages that do not have libraries, and Dasanayaka told The Associated Press kids are "always eagerly waiting for me, always looking for new books."

He brings everything from biographies to detective stories, which he carefully packs in a steel box attached to his bike. His collection has grown to about 3,000 books — some he bought with his modest salary, others donated. Dasanayaka said there are "some kids who hadn't seen even a children's storybook until I went to their villages," and he continues the program because he wants to bring people together and "change the way kids look at society, to change their perspectives and broaden their imagination."

Dasanayaka talks to the kids about the books, and hopes to soon form reading clubs in the villages. He told AP seeing the children read brings him joy, and he is "delighted to hear the kids say that books helped them to change their lives." That, he added, is "my ultimate happiness." Catherine Garcia

December 3, 2020

After seeing a flyer about a missing golden retriever named Meadow, Brian James knew that if he used his drone to fly over the spot where the puppy was last seen, he had a chance of finding her.

Meadow became lost in the woods in Andes, New York, last month, and her owners, Gary and Debbie Morgan, quickly plastered flyers everywhere and spread the word online. That's how James learned about the search efforts and decided to get involved. "Everybody's got the capability to help," he told World News Tonight. "You never know what will come of it."

James headed to the woods and flew his drone up above the trees, looking closely at the images being captured by the device. As soon as he saw a patch of white, James zoomed in and saw that it was a dog. He ran to the area, and was greeted by Meadow, who was uninjured and thrilled to see him after 10 days on her own.

Meadow was reunited with the Morgans right before Thanksgiving, and Debbie told World News Tonight her family was "just so grateful for Brian for showing up when he did and being able to rescue her." Catherine Garcia

December 3, 2020

When Abra Shiner put out a call for help, it didn't take long for customers, friends, and complete strangers to show up.

Shiner owns the Swan Dive, a bar in Toronto's Brockton Village neighborhood. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the bar had to pivot to selling craft beer via curbside pickup and delivery, and it wasn't enough to cover all of the bills. Shiner posted on Facebook that it didn't look like the Swan Dive would be able to stay in business, but before closing, she wanted to sell as much beer as possible so it wouldn't go to waste.

Almost immediately, "people just started coming out of the woodwork," Shiner told CTV. "Customers we hadn't seen in a long time were driving in from out of town." About 25 percent of the buyers were regulars, and the rest were members of the "amazing" local community, Shiner said. The Swan Dive usually has about 35 craft beers available, with two or three cases of each one on hand, and Shiner said all but two cases were sold.

Because of the support of many, as well as Canada's emergency rent subsidy program, Shiner said she can cover the rent until March. She is looking forward to when business can return to normal, but until then, Shiner is grateful for her customers. "We've been saved," she said. Catherine Garcia

December 1, 2020

When Jeff Gerson learned how many people provided care to him while he was hospitalized with the coronavirus, the Manhattan resident knew he had to thank each and every one of them.

Gerson was admitted to NYU Langone Tisch Hospital in mid-March, when the hospital was inundated with coronavirus patients — 170 were on ventilators, and soon, so was Gerson. He was taken off the ventilator in April and able to go home in May, and after going through his hospital and insurance records, he discovered just how many people were involved in saving his life: 116 doctors, nurses, therapists, and other health care workers.

"I just wanted to thank everybody," Gerson told the New York Daily News. Over the next five months, he worked on getting contact information for everyone, and on Nov. 10, sent a three-page letter expressing his gratitude and encouraging them to "continue being the heroes you are." Dr. Luis Angel told the Daily News it was "incredible" to hear from Gerson, and he appreciated that his former patient thanked each person who had a role in his recovery. Gerson's survival, Angel said, is "a credit to everyone. Everyone did the best for him." Catherine Garcia

November 24, 2020

Elijah and Zachary Wheeler enjoy basketball so much it didn't bother them that their hoop was broken — they played despite it, due to their love of the game.

The Ohio brothers had no idea that Aubrey, a delivery driver with FedEx, saw them playing all the time and decided to surprise the family with a brand new hoop, leaving the gift, along with a basketball, on their front porch. "This was just such a blessing for her to do this, and I never ever expected it," the boys' mother, Coledo Wheeler, told Good Morning America. "It really was a total shock."

Elijah, 11, is now starting every day before school shooting hoops. The Wheeler family is looking forward to the next time Aubrey is in the neighborhood, so they can let her know in person how much her gift meant to them. "This was definitely something that was special, and it was inspiring," Coledo said. Catherine Garcia

November 19, 2020

Ana Reyes couldn't remember her first grade teacher's name, but she never forgot the kindness she showed her, coming to school early every day in order to teach Reyes English.

Reyes, 46, immigrated to Louisville, Kentucky, when she was in kindergarten, after living in Spain and Uruguay. The next year, her first grade teacher, Pat Harkleroad, noticed that Reyes was struggling due to the language barrier, and immediately set up one-on-one English lessons. "I've thought about that countless times over the years and discussed it with many friends," Reyes told People. "I know I was incredibly lucky."

With the limited information she had — Reyes knew the name of her elementary school and the year she was there for first grade — Reyes asked the Kentucky Department of Education to help her track down the teacher who changed her life. They were able to find Harkleroad, 77, and on Friday, after they both tested negative for COVID-19, Reyes and Harkleroad reconnected.

"Being able to say thank you to someone who changed my life felt so meaningful and uplifting," Reyes said. "And realizing that Mrs. Harkleroad is just as wonderful as I remembered her was very affirming. I know I will never forget the day." Harkleroad told People she "wasn't gonna let this girl fall through the cracks." Reyes, she added, was "willing to work hard" and "soaked up everything like a little sponge."

It didn't take long for Reyes to become fluent in English, and she went on to flourish in school, eventually graduating from Harvard Law and earning a master's in international public policy from Johns Hopkins University. Now a lawyer, Reyes told People that she was inspired by Harkleroad to help others, and that's one reason why her work includes representing refugees, pro bono. Catherine Garcia

November 18, 2020

Before he deployed to Afghanistan, Army Staff Sgt. Philip Gray sat down and wrote 270 messages for his daughter — one for each day he would be away.

His notes for Rosie, 7, encouraged her to do her best at school and excel in her activities and hobbies. He also added drawings, like pumpkins on messages that were to be delivered around Halloween. "He was very big on feel-good words for her and girl power," his wife, Kristen Gray, told Good Morning America. "He made sure to tell her how smart she was, and run fast in P.E., and things that would really make her happy."

Philip Gray left their Fort Drum, New York, home on Oct. 7, 2019, and while he was gone, Kristen put his notes into Rosie's lunchbox. He returned on Aug. 8, three days before Rosie's birthday, and even though he's back, Rosie still wants him to write her special messages, which he's happy to do. Gray told GMA he's never been more thrilled to be with his family, saying, "Stepping out of quarantine and getting to see the girls, that was the greatest thing." Catherine Garcia

November 17, 2020

When FedEx driver Jason Sloan saw smoke coming from a backyard along his route in Los Angeles last Wednesday, he immediately pulled over, grabbed a hose, and potentially saved several houses from burning down.

As he raced to the backyard, Sloan called out, warning neighbors about the fire. He climbed on top of two trash cans, and pointed the hose down at the flames, which were soon extinguished. The home owners, Albert and Celena Rios, were both at work, but Celena told Inside Edition their phones were soon ringing off the hook, with neighbors calling to share what had happened.

"Every single [one] was like, 'The FedEx guy is a hero, he really acted out of nowhere," Celena said. Sloan didn't stick around for long, and was gone before the Rios' returned home. A neighbor's security camera captured Sloan jumping into action, and a few days after he put out the fire, he returned to the house so Albert and Celena could thank him face to face. Sloan told Inside Edition it felt "good" to have so many people commend him, but "at the same time, I'm just happy that their house didn't burn down." Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads