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During his life Abraham Lincoln said great things often, and the words out of his mouth have enabled so many of us to easily pedestal him as a hero. At this time, as viruses spring up, gun violence is more prolific than ever, and families are torn apart by war, crime, and untimely deaths that we simply cannot understand, this hero, again, has precisely appropriate words to offer us: “Next to creating a life, the finest thing a man can do is save one.”

In acknowledgment of Lincoln’s shared wisdom, this week we want to recognize people saving people. It feels as though there is more death around than each of us can bear to witness or experience on our own, so by honoring those who save lives, we are endeavoring to draw nearer to one another with the resolve to celebrate life, the finest thing a man can save — and savor.

1. Opening Ceremony of Summer Olympics and the First Refugee Olympic Team (8/5)

Why This Is Encouraging:

The Summer Olympics are off to their start today in Rio de Janeiro! This is always cause for excitement and the anticipation of new scores and times being recorded, but something entirely new will be happening this Olympic season: The first refugee Olympic team will be competing.

These athletes have uniquely astounding stories of success thus far, and their competing in the Olympics is just another testament to the strong muscles they have. Swimmer Yusra Mardini is an 18-year-old Syrian refugee who fled Germany and helped saved 20 other refugees in the water alongside her. Hers is just one story. She stated, “We don’t have the same language. We’re all from different countries. But the Olympic flag united us together, and now we are representing 60 million [people] around the world. We want to show everyone that we can do anything. Good athletes. Good people.” Even if athletics isn’t your thing, there’s grander reason to tune in to this summer’s Olympic games.

For more on this story, read here.

2. Norway Paves the Way to Ethical Treatment of Prison Inmates (8/3)

Why This Is Encouraging: 

Tom, the ‘governor’ of Bastoy prison in Norway, admitted, “Treat people like dirt, and they will be dirt. Treat them like human beings, and they will act like human beings.”

Bastoy is an ‘open prison,’ adopting a Finnish concept from the ‘30s, in which prisoners are often permitted to keep their external jobs while serving time. About a third of Norway’s prisons are open as well, and Bastoy is known as the treasure among them. Tom shared, “There’s a perception that, ‘Oh, this is the lightweight prison; you just take the nice guys for the summer-camp prison.’ But in fact, no. Our guys are into…some heavy [stuff]. Drugs and violence. And the truth is, some have been problematic in other prisons but then they come here, and we find them easy. We say, ‘Is that the same guy you called difficult?’”

Here, prisoners reside in shared cabin-like housing, and agriculture remains an essential component of inmates’ lives. The prison is based on a nature reserve, so the inmates’ access to the outdoors is known for providing a great deal of restoration and redemption from their old ways. Despite the fundamental differences between Norway’s and other country’s governments, we can glean inspiration from this prison’s stance on treating people with respect and dignity and believing in the good nature of those who are eager to improve the quality of their lives. Bastoy is a small corner of the world in which lives are being celebrated back into their fullness again.

For more on this story, read here.

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3. Texas Cop Has a Tea Party in the Park with a Little Girl  (7/17)

Why This Is Encouraging:

When sweet Bexley Norvell was 22-months-old, she swallowed a coin. Minutes later, the little girl was found unresponsive. A parent’s worst nightmare. Quick-moving Corporal Patrick Ray came to her rescue, clearing her throat and helping her breathe again. So, a year later, on July 17, 2016, this 2-year-old survivor invited her hero to a tea party and photoshoot in the park in Rowlett, Texas. He accepted without a bit of hesitation.

Tammy Norvell, Bexley’s mother, shared with the Huffington Post, “This was her first [time eating Oreos] ever and she definitely enjoyed every crumb of it.” It is not simply Ray’s rescue that impresses us, but his willingness to indulge in a little one’s dream of a picnic in the park. He’s a fantastic example of someone who celebrates life; celebration does not occur solely in the saving acts themselves, but also in the small, cookie-munching moments that follow.

For more on this story, read here.

4. Veteran Homelessness has Dropped by 50% (8/1)

Why This Is Encouraging:

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that due to partnerships and programming, veteran homelessness has been reduced to roughly half of what it was in 2010. This last January, a headcount yielded fewer than 40,000 homeless veterans according to the country’s annual Point-in-Time count, which is indicative of a 47% decrease in veterans on the streets from six years earlier.

The White House’s first plan to halt homelessness and a collaborative effort between HUD and the Department of Veteran Affairs is responsible for this tremendous success. The partnership has allowed for more than 360,000 veterans and their families to be placed in permanent homes, speedily rehoused, and prevented from potentially becoming homeless since 2010. Robert A. McDonald, VA Secretary, shared, “The dramatic decline in veteran homelessness reflects the power of partnerships in solving complex national problems on behalf of those who have served our nation. The men and women who have fought for this nation should not have to fight to keep a roof over their head.” There is undoubtedly more work for us to continue, but this particular feat in saving people is a reminder to utilize our unique skills and privileges to assist others in experiencing life to the full.

For more on this story, read here.

5. Mother Donates 131 Gallons of Milk (8/4)

Why This Is Encouraging:

Mother Demi Frandsen is a woman to look up to. She lost her ten-month-old just yesterday, and even in her sorrow, utilized the resources available to feed those in need around her. She shared the details of her loss with WOWT, “Leo was born 2 months early and he was diagnosed with gastroschisis. There was no skin to pull over his exposed organs. It was kind of a new case they had not seen before.”

She resolved to donate 131 gallons of breastmilk to other children “…for our babies that are very small, for our sickest, tiniest babies whose mothers can’t provide the milk they need,” added Tammi Martin, a Lactation Consultant with Children’s Milk Depot in Omaha. Frandsen assures us, “I pumped every single ounce for [Leo, her baby boy]. He is the reason for all of this. But if he couldn’t have it, I am so grateful that other babies like him could benefit from it. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for my Leo, and I know other moms feel that desperate love as well. I am glad I can help those moms provide for their little fighter. Other babies surviving from Leo’s milk is just another way his life has affected and bettered the lives of so many others.”

There is no greater embodiment of the fine call that Lincoln spoke of than the selflessness of this mother, who pumped religiously every three hours and gave all she had away.

For more on this story, read here.

Images via Brooke Ashley PhotographyWritten by Darling Editorial Intern Lauren Franklin

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