After the year we’ve had, I think most people are looking forward to waving a firm goodbye to 2016 and welcoming 2017 with open arms. I mean, it can’t get any worse can it? Brexit and Trump, the war in Syria, mass shootings, terrorist attacks, the loss of Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Prince, Victoria Wood, Muhammad Ali, Elie Wiesel, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen, and then in the final few days a flurry of George Michael, Richard Adams, Carrie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds. I don’t usually swear on my blog but I think at this point it’s fair to say “2016, fuck off!”
And yet … it’s not been all bad. Ok, it’s been pretty terrible but a few good things did happen in 2016. They may have passed you by, buried beneath headlines about Brexit and the American election and nuclear weapons and Syria and the refugee crisis but they’ve been there. So I’m returning to my usual happy self and reminding you of ten happy events of 2016 to restore some faith in our planet and humankind.
10. Ebola was cleared from West Africa.
9. 200 strangers went to the funeral of a homeless World War II veteran with no family.
8. Humpback whales, grizzly bears, manatees, and giant pandas all moved (positively) up the endangered list.
7. 800 of the Boko Harem hostages were rescued and returned to their families.
6. The hole in the ozone layer has shrunk by 3.9 million square kilometres in the past ten years
5. Volunteers in India planted 50 million trees in 24 hours.
4. Scientific breakthroughs in chemotherapy are increasing survival rates.
3. The Paris climate change agreement became international law in November.
2. The worldwide charitable drive for ALS in 2014 has led to scientists isolating the gene responsible and they have begun to work on a therapy.
1. Charitable giving and acts saw a significant increase worldwide.
Of course, the last one is a subject particularly close to my heart. I doubt I can claim my own charity, SKOPE, had much to do with the increase in charity across the globe but I’m proud to have been part of it. Both in my role as SKOPE coordinator and as a happiness ambassador to More Good Deeds, I read a lot about giving to charity, philanthropy, and how to involve people in charitable works. But it seems I needn’t bother, because everywhere you look there are signs of generosity, both financial and in other ways. Giving your time, your energy, your commitment, and your money all help charities. With politics in turmoil across the globe, it is down to us, the little people, to do that work on the ground. Whether in refugee camps ladling out soup each morning, or in medical tents outside obliterated cities like Aleppo, or even my own charity, handing out library books or stationary in a school in Cambodia, it all matters. It all makes a difference. And every one of us can get involved.
So let’s end 2016 on a positive note and look forward to 2017 with hope in our hearts. After all, it can only go up from here! I hope every one of you has a great time celebrating New Year’s Eve tonight and I’ll see you on the other side.