heartwarming stories 2012
Photo: Getty Images
The Strangers Who Banded Together for Tornado Victims
Many of the 300 residents of Harveyville, Kansas, found themselves living the great American nightmare in February, when they lost their homes and worldly possessions, thanks to a tornado. But within days the town's population had nearly tripled, as volunteers from the area arrived in droves to help people pick up the pieces of their destroyed homes. Get the volunteers' version of the story in this video. It's a dramatic reminder of the happy things that can happen in otherwise sad times—and sometimes, this is the news we need most.

A Bankrupt Store's Reincarnation
Kentucky businessman Rankin Paynter was shopping at his local Kmart, which was going out of business. He happened to ask where the unsold goods would go. In a spur-of-the-moment act of generosity, he decided to buy up every last item—and donated all $200,000 of it to charity. Read Paynter's description of his action here.

The Maroon Wall
After Army Lt. Col. Roy Lin Tisdale was killed in the shooting at Fort Bragg this summer, the extremist group Westboro Baptist Church announced plans to protest his funeral. (For more on the group and why they frequently picket funerals, read the whole story at KBTX.) In response, hundreds of community members showed up to form a peaceful human wall around the perimeter, protecting the ceremony and giving us all, in the words of one of Tisdale's colleagues, "goose bumps on top of goose bumps."

The Most Triumphant Olympic Loss
The London Olympics this summer were chock-full of inspiring feats and uplifting moments. That's the Olympics' job, after all. Then there was Liu Xiang, the Chinese hurdler. When he injured his Achilles tendon during a race, he started to limp off the field—but soon, struggling through the pain, he hopped back and forced himself to complete the race. The images of fellow athletes rushing to help him are the kind of thing that make even non–sports fans see the magic of sportsmanship. There's only one way to participate in the delicious, poignant, vicarious back-bone-vibration of a moment like this, and that is, of course, animated gifs.

Next: The wounded-soldier love story
The Wounded-Soldier Love Story
We're awed by every story of returning soldiers and their struggles to fit back into their old lives, but 23-year-old Taylor Morris' injuries were particularly horrific—after stepping on a bomb in Afghanistan, he is now one of the world's few quadruple amputees. And yet in just a few months, with the help of his devoted (and bad-a**) girlfriend, Morris has learned to walk, and even dance, in a whole new way. Their tear-inducing love story went viral, capturing even the coldest of media-weary hearts. Learn more, and see a video of Taylor and Danielle dancing at a friend's wedding.

The Heroism of Pudding (Not That Kind)
Pudding is just the latest hero to overcome humble beginnings. After a few unsuccessful adoptions, this cat was spotted at a shelter by Amy Jung and her son, who were volunteering (and not planning on picking up a new pet at all). On a whim, Jung took the cat home. That very night, Jung had a seizure in her sleep, and Pudding saved her life. (Yahoo has the whole scalp-prickling story—and details on how Pudding became the first feline ever to win the grand prize in the Purina "Tales of Greatness" Story Contest.)

A Musician's Unlikely Survival
This country has had way too many stories of mass shootings this year. But hidden in the darkness, there are also reminders that sometimes life can be miraculous—as in the case of Petra Anderson, a talented musician who was shot in the head in the Aurora, Colorado, movie-theater massacre this summer. Amazingly, the bullet didn't hit any critical speech, memory or motor-processing areas. At first it was reported that Anderson had a rare brain condition that protected her from the bullet, but it turns out her only rare condition is a millimeter of fate, or luck, or whatever we want to call it. NBC recently caught up with Anderson, who is still able to play her violin and who plans to marry her boyfriend in the spring—read the whole article (with a hanky handy) for the amazing story of how she was able to say goodbye to her terminally ill mother.

A Brave Girl Paves the Way
In October, 15-year-old blogger Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban in retaliation for having written about the inequalities faced by Pakistani girls seeking education. A horrible act, to be sure—and yet, amazingly, Yousafzai survived, the attack and her plight has called even more attention to her issues. In response, Pakistan has announced plans to open "Malala schools" for poor children in areas affected by disaster or conflict. The Pakistan Tribune has more details on the ambitious plan.

Next: The man who came back to life to vote
The Man Who Came Back to Life to Vote
Registered nurse Ty Houston saw an elderly man collapse at a Detroit polling station and rushed to his aid. The man had no pulse, and Houston was sure he had died. Houston administered CPR, and when after a few minutes the man was revived, he sat up and asked, "Did I vote?" He had. Read the whole story for the detail that makes Houston's story especially shiver-inducing.

The Sandy Who Survived Sandy
Superstorm Sandy was responsible for unprecedented damage and lost lives in New York City and the surrounding areas. Then there were the hundreds of animals lost, orphaned or injured by the storm. One dog, named Sandy, of all things, went missing after the storm blew open the door of her family's home in the hard-hit Rockaways. Amazingly, two weeks later the 11-year-old Lab was reunited with her overjoyed people. Find out how a dedicated volunteer made the reunion possible here.

Sending Hugs to Sandy Hook
In the words of President Obama, "Our hearts are broken" in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. As each of us tries to find a way to deal with the senseless grief of it all, people have banded together in big-hearted and beautiful ways. (For example, this hash-tag.) One group of industrious crafters has found a unique way to reach out and to give the surviving kids an extra hug for the holidays: Their goal is to knit 600 cuddly creatures before Christmas for the children—and just possibly, as one participant put it, "a feeling of safety through the night." See the cute creatures and find out more about the organization here.


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