Something Old, Something New, Something Awesome

Weddings can bring out the worst in people, creating bridezillas, causing tension and if Don’t Tell The Bride and Say Yes To The Dress has taught me anything, no end of arguments, bickering and selfishness.
So it’s nice to hear about two folks using their wedding to do something amazingly kind.
In Turkey Fethullah Üzümcüoğlu and Esra Polat were tying the knot. Turkish tradition is for the wedding celebrations to last several days and culminate in a big feast.
However, father of the groom Ali Üzümcüoğlu, felt that this wasn’t right. Living near the Syrian border and aware of the conditions experienced by refugees fleeing the conflict, he decided that the money could be put to better use. He explained his choice by saying:

I thought that sharing a big delicious dinner with our family and friends was unnecessary, knowing that there are so many people in need living next door. So I came up with this idea and shared it with my son

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His idea was to take the money donated by loved ones for the feast and use it to feed the refugees in the area. Ali’s son and his bride-to-be got on board with the idea, and they used food trucks to feed 4,000 refugees.

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The bride and groom helping serve the food

It’s such a wonderful story, people performing a selfless, compassionate act on a day that for many is all about showiness and being the centre of attention.
These amazing people started their life together with a good deed and both talked about the good feeling it gave them and the fact that helping others in need was the right thing to do.
It’s also a great antidote to the depressing rise in hateful, unsympathetic response towards the migrants trying to get into the UK.
If I could find a hat big enough for my giant head I’d take it off to this fantastic couple. Stories like this reassure me that people can be awesome.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Wunderbar!: The Good Germans

While many would have us view migrants as being here to take our jobs or milk our welfare state, I think it’s important to remember that many are fleeing for their lives. Whether from war, persecution or being personally targeted for violence, for these people safe refuge is the ultimate goal.
Refugees like this are possibly the most vulnerable group out there, adrift in a strange land, fearing for their lives and often subject to prejudice. They are isolated in countries with a different culture and language, in many cases they can’t seek out their own community because of fear or because that group shares the beliefs they have been forced to flee. Take for example the gay and lesbian people kept at detention centres, who are locked in with people who abuse them and insult them in the same way they were trying to escape.
As anti-migrant feeling grows, fuelled by tabloid scaremongering and pandering politicians, the situation is unlikely to improve for many.
While this is all rather bleak there are glimmers of hope, with compassion, kindness and humanity’s best virtues being on show.
Take for example the German based Fluchtlinge Wilkommen (Refugees Welcome in English), which has been set up by a couple and seeks to find places for refugees needing a place to stay.

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The couple, Jonas Kakosche and Mareike Geiling, had a room going spare and decided that it would be a nice thing to give the space to a refugee, they raised some cash to cover the rent on the room and gave the room to Bakary, who had fled Mali.
Since then they’ve made 52 matches across 11 towns and cities. People with a spare room (for at least 3 months) sign up and fill in their details. The group then match them with a refugee near them needing a place, and its all sorted out that way.
Where rent needs paying the German government pitchers in, using the welfare budget it has for refugees.
It’s a great idea and reading about it made me feel really good, knowing that there are some decent folks out there who are willing to accept a stranger into their home and give a person in need a place to live.
It’s this kind of selfless compassion that reminds you that despite our numerous failings and ability to be horrible to one another, sometimes people can just be awesome. I thought I’d share it because there’s far too much bad news out there and because I found it a really inspiring, lovely thing to hear about.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Justice League Birmingham

You don’t need special powers or a fancy costume to be a hero. You just have to be a good person and help other folks out.

Of course, if you do have a cool costume, that’s a definite plus.

Take for instance the case of this dude up in Birmingham who goes around the city giving out food to homeless people. The guy buys the food himself before going out at night to hand it out, making sure that these homeless folks get something to eat, which makes a big difference to them and is, I think we’ll all agree, is a pretty cool thing to do.

The dude is already well on his way to everyday hero status, and I probably would have been warmed by the story but what gets this guy even more over with me is the fact that he does this dressed as Spider-man. The Birmingham Spider-man is out there helping folks and the costume makes it more noteworthy which will hopefully encourage others to do similar things. He’s stated that he doesn’t want donations and would rather folks just found their own way to help those less fortunate, which is pretty cool and means we may see costumed do-gooders taking to the streets of other cities.

Your friendly neighbourhood Spider-man

Your friendly neighbourhood Spider-man

If Birmingham Spider-man ever wants to do a titanic team up, as is customary for costumed heroes, he could team up with a fellow Brummie, 12 year old Josh Brown.

Like BS-m, Brown did something extremely nice recently and encouraged others to follow his lead. Brown was on train when he found an iPhone, which had been left behind by another passenger, Shaunnah Hickinbottom, 16.

When the mother of the phone’s owner called it Josh said he’d drop it off at the Selly Oak ticket office, and she asked him to leave his address so she could send him a reward. However, when she got there all that had been left was a note saying not to worry about the reward and to just do something nice for someone else.

 

Josh's note

Josh’s note

Shaunnah’s mother, Michelle, decided to go online to find the good Samaritan and when it went viral, Josh was tracked down. In true hero style, he was modest and humble about his good deed:

“My dad always says ‘What goes around comes around’ and if I lost my phone I would like to think someone would do the same to me.”

Josh and Shaunnah

Josh and Shaunnah

Of course, the “pay it forward” model of good turns isn’t anything new, it inspired an awful movie a few years back, but I think it’s a wonderful way to go through life. You have something nice done for you and then you do the same for someone else, meaning that someone else benefits and you get the satisfaction of doing the right thing. That’s an incredibly positive result for everyone and will continue a chain of good deeds to build.

So well done to Josh Brown and the Birmingham Spider-man, you guys are pretty awesome.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


An Incredible Journey

I’m a bit of a soft git at heart. I like love songs, happy endings and get choked up during the “It’s Not All Doom and Gloom” section of Russell Howard’s Good News, so the story I’m writing about today was bound to warm the cockles of my heart (an expression I’ve never really thought about before, but which seems to make no sense now that I do).

Recently a bunch of Swedish athletes took part in an adventure race, which is a race that involves hiking, orienteering and other tough things that look extremely knackering, but oddly appealing, in a way that you sit on your couch and think “that looks cool” before being distracted by the Coca-Cola trucks advert.

Anyway, these uber-fit Swedes were down in Ecuador doing their thing when they came across a stray dog. They gave it some food and the dog started following them. At first they just thought it was following a few of the teams who were bunched up, but when they all spread out a bit the dog stuck with his new Scandinavian friends.

arthur 1

The team adopted him, naming him Arthur, as a sort of mascot and took him with them, although it seems to me as though the dog adopted them as his new pack. He followed them for the duration of the race and the team became so fond of him they raised cash to get him some veterinary treatment and then to fly him all the way to Sweden where he began a new life with a new family.

arthur 2

If that doesn’t warm your heart, you must be a robot or something. And if you want to help other stray dogs why not give to one of these good causes: The Dogs Trust, Stray Aid or the RSPCA.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Stick with love

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear- Martin Luther King

When you encounter hatred or bigotry it can be easy to want to reply with anger or hate right back. But sometimes it’s better to just rise above and come back with a more positive approach. It especially helps if you can do it with a laugh or a smile on your face.

One of the most hateful groups in the Western world at the moment is the Westboro Baptist Church, a bunch of uber-right wing “Christian” nutbars who spout some of the vilest, cruelest abuse and employ classy tactics like picketing funerals and talking smack about recently deceased celebrities who have died because they are either gay or “gay enablers”.

Though small in number (thankfully there’s only around 40 or so members), they’re a loud bunch, taking to the social networks and using the media to generate attention for their bigoted outbursts. Their founder and leader Fred Phelps passed away earlier this year and I had hoped that this would lead the group to fragment. Now free of their leader I’d hoped some would examine what they spout and realize it’s not exatly what JC was all about.

Anyway, back to humour as a weapon. The WBC have faced ridicule and mockery before, with people combating their own including from Silent Bob himself, filmmaker Kevin Smith:

Kevin Smith pickets the WBC picket of his film Red State with some daft, funny signs.

Kevin Smith pickets the WBC picket of his film Red State with some daft, funny signs.

So when I recently read about a crowd funded campaign to stick it to the WBC I was amused and cheered. Started on Facebook and attempting to raise money through Indiegogo, the idea was to raise $50,000 (£31K approx) in order to raise a sign in the WBC’s hometown of Topeka, Kansas. The sign would be a response to the WBC’s infamous “God hates f**s” signs.

god loves gay sign

Fantastically the money seems to have poured in and they’ve even raised enough to raise another sign in Provo, Utah. Apparently because Provo is where Bingham Young University is there, which is a very fundamentalist Christian school, which I’ve written about before, and seems like a nightmare to study at, unless you’re into repression.

I’m not sure if there is a God, or gods, but I’d like to think that if He/She/they are out there they’re not some bigoted, hateful being because quite frankly, if they are, I’m with Desmond Tutu, and I’d rather go to hell than spend eternity in a place based on hatred.

So, I hope that they raise these signs as a sign of love and humour, and as a positive response to the negativity of the bigots.

Story here.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Crusher

I love wrestling, and I love a good heartwarming news story, so this week I had a bit of a meltdown over a truly moving story from Wrestlemania.

The big news was that the Undertaker’s unbeaten streak was finally ended after 21 years by Brock Lesnar (seriously, they gave it to Lesnar? Deep breaths, Chris, deep breaths)

reaction

 

But there was a much smaller, moving story playing out as well.

This involved 8 year old Connor Michalek, who was suffering with brain cancer and who sadly passed away recently. Connor was a massive WWE fan, in particular of current superstar Daniel Bryan, and having met several of the stars before was invited to front row seats at the event.

Connor with Daniel Bryan

Connor with Daniel Bryan

I can only imagine how happy this must have made Connor, because as a kid if I’d met Hulk Hogan and got to knock Jake the Snake Roberts to the mat I’d have been euphoric for months, and looking at the footage and pictures shows how much this meant to the lad.

The WWE went all out and while attending an earlier event the WWE had Connor come to the ring before the show, accompanied by Bryan and with his own name “Connor the Crusher” up on screen, while the wrestlers gathered at ringside and Connor got to knock down and pin Triple H.

At ‘Mania, Bryan won the main event and hugged Connor at ringside. I watched the whole video shown below the other day, and being a soft git, I got a little choked up, and I ain’t gonna lie, I got choked up again getting the clips and stuff for this post.

I know a cynic will look at this and think that it’s great publicity for the WWE, and it is, but it’s still admirable, and the wrestlers are clearly affected deeply and happy to be able to make the life of sick kids better.

Look at John Cena, who is the Make-A-Wish record holder having visited 450 fans through the foundation. I’m not a massive fan of Cena as a wrestler, but that is a classy move, and I salute him for that.

john cena

Connor passed away a few weeks after Wrestlemania, and was gone far too early, but I’m glad that the WWE stars and staff helped give him some happy days and his family a good memory of him. Rest in peace, Crusher.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Golden Oldie

So apparently the Alves thing I wrote about the other day may have been, to use a wrestling term, a work, which kinda puts a dampener on what I thought was a clever and ballsy move, but at least it’s got people talking about racism in football again, which is a good thing.

Whatever, on to the next post.

Today I saw this awesome story about an 80 year old granddad who got an equality symbol tattoo in support of his grandson.

The equality symbol is a marriage equality thing and basically an equals symbol shown to signify support for gay marriage and that all love is equal. I started seeing the symbol during the American marriage equality debates and it’s taken off as a tattoo, as evidenced by the fact that Miley Cyrus has one.

Miley's tattoo on her ring finger

Miley’s tattoo on her ring finger

The dude, Frank has apparently been nothing but respectful and supportive to his grandson Joe, who came out five years ago. I think this is a cool story, because while every grandparent and parent should support their family, that ain’t always the case and I think cases like Frank’s go a long way to showing that the stereotype of old folks as being homophobic isn’t always true (I’m sure there are plenty of homophobic fogies out there, but there’s a disappointing number of young ones too).

Frank headed out and got the symbol, matching the one Joe has had done, which is a great way of showing solidarity.

Joe and Frank's tats.

Joe and Frank’s tats.

It’s a pretty cool tattoo and I dig the message behind it. I gotta say, if I had the money I’d probably wander into the nearest tattoo parlor in Cardiff and get one done.

Anyway, here’s a video of the tattoo getting done, with Frank being really understated as he gets inked:

Good on ya, Frank.

Hopefully this doesn’t turn out to just be a clever Wurther’s Original campaign.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Good Sport: Aaron Hunt

A few years ago I read a wonderful book called It’s Not the Winning That Counts by Max Davidson, which is a collection of stories about good sportsmanship across a variety of sports. It’s an inspiring insight into the different motivations the players had for not just focusing on a win and captured the best aspects of sport, proving to be a moving and inspiring read (seriously, check it out).

winning book

Recently German footballer Aaron Hunt performed in manner which would earn him a place if Davidson ever does a second edition.

Aaron Hunt

Aaron Hunt

Hunt who plays for German club Werder Bremen broke into the box and took a tumble, prompting the referee to point to the spot.

Hunt got to his feet and rushed over to the ref, which is usually what happens when a player wants the offending defender to go in the book, but Hunt was shaking his head to tell the ref that he’d actually just lost his footing and there’d been no foul.

The penalty was overturned, and Hunt was thanked by his opponents. Luckily it didn’t bite him in the ass later on and Bremen emerged 2-0 victors.

I find it really cool that he would jump up and own up, because it seems that nowadays the vast majority of players would just take the penalty no questions asked. I’m not going to go into a massive “state of the game” rant, but diving seems to be on the increase and I always find it depressing when you see a player go to ground when he could have probably kept going. It’s lazy, cynical and unsportsmanlike.

Hunt deserves the praise that he is receiving and this is the kind of example that needs more trumpeting while diving should be cracked down even more.

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I’m writing this because the other day I watched some of the Arsenal game and there was a pretty pathetic dive from a Bayern Munich player who clutched his face like Mike Tyson had landed a right hook. I was watching it with my flatmates, one of whom is a rugby boy and has the standard distaste for the round ball game.

Personally, I’ve always found the slagging off of the other sport a bit bizarre, I mean, you can like more than one sport- I love both football and rugby, and I also have time for a bunch of other sports- MMA, cricket, American Football, snooker, darts.

Yes, rugby has better sportsmanship on the whole, but rugby fans don’t spoil that with the childish, usually sexist/homophobic attacks on football. The world don’t move to the beat of just one drum, and there’s room for both games.

Story here.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Heart of platinum

Whenever I see a homeless person I have the same thoughts- how did they end up living on the street? Is there someone somewhere wondering about what happened to them? What did they do before they lived on the streets? And how has being homeless changed them?

I always kind of assume that living on the streets might make you tougher, not just physically (having survived all weathers and rough conditions) but mentally, I can easily imagine that for many it can make them colder and less trusting. You’d need keen wits and to be pretty resourceful to get by, and it’s probably every man for himself.

But I’m constantly surprised that these adverse conditions don’t break everyone down to hard, selfish individuals, and you hear these lovely stories of compassion, kindness and bravery from people who couldn’t be blamed for having given up on their fellow man.

Take for example the recent story of an American beggar named Billy Ray Harris.

Billy Ray on the streets

Billy Ray on the streets

One day while begging in Kansas City a passer by, a woman named Sarah Darling, dug out some coins from her handbag and dropped them into Billy Ray’s cup. However, she’d accidentally dropped her engagement ring into the pot too. Seeing the jewelry and it’s diamond, Billy Ray headed for the nearest pawn shop.

You can’t blame the guy- he’s sleeping rough and the possibility for making a lot of much needed cash lands in his lap.

But at the pawn shop it was valued at $4000 (£2,600ish), at this point Billy Ray becomes a total hero and decides not to sell the ring and instead keep hold of it in case the woman returned.

Two days later, Darling returned, and was surprised to have the ring returned, saying later “It seemed like a miracle. I thought for sure there was no way I would get it back.”

billy ray 2

Harris with Darling

So impressed with Harris’ kindness, Darling and her husband decided to reward him and started an online campaign asking folks to donate cash so they could give Harris the 4k he’d turned down.

Harris and Darling share a hug.

Harris and Darling share a hug.

People heard the story and having been touched by it, reached into their pockets, and soon $185,000 (£117Kish) had been raised. This is a life changing amount and means the 55 year old Harris can get off the streets.

But as if that wasn’t heartwarming enough, Harris’ sister Robin, who he’s been estranged from for 16 years, heard of the story and realized that it was her brother. She and Billy Ray’s other two sisters have now reconnected. Billy Ray described the change in his life saying of his family: “This is a big payoff, got it all right here now”.

I f*****g love people. If this doesn’t warm your heart you’re damn robot.

I heard about this story thanks to a Tumblr page called The Smiling Anchor which is filled with these lovely, feel good stories. More info came courtesy of the Independent.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Just keep swimming

When I was in school we used to have these comprehension tests, where you’d read a piece of writing and then do some questions on it, to show that you’d understood what you’d read. One of the ones I remember was about this woman swimming the English Channel. I remember reading it and it capturing my imagination- the grueling conditions and physical effort needed. I couldn’t fathom that someone could or would swim so far.

I’ve never been a strong swimmer. I learned late, at about ten years old, and I was never the best. Swimming from England to France seemed crazy.

As I got older swimming the channel became one of those impressive yet ultimately pointless endeavors some people had completed- like climbing Everest. Sure, it was a way of showing the world you were tough, but there was no real reason to do it. Everest had been conquered years before and there are easier ways of getting to France.

I get that some people do it to raise money for charity, like David Walliams did for Sport Relief a while back.

Walliams at the end of his swim. The white stuff is to keep you warm in the water.

Walliams at the end of his swim. The white stuff is to keep you warm in the water.

For someone who had a brief panic 20 feet out in Sri Lanka because the current was stronger than they’d expected, swimming the channel seems a ridiculous and heroic thing to do.

Or it did. Because earlier this week someone came along and blew Walliams et al out of the water (unintentional pun).

I’m talking about Diana Nyad, an American long distance swimmer who at the age of 64 finally completed her mission to swim from Cuba to Florida.

Nyad emerging from the water.

Nyad emerging from the water.

That’s a distance of 110 miles. Nyad had previously attempted to make the trip four times, but had been forced to call it short each time. Her initial attempt was way back in 1978 when she was 29, and she’d tried again, twice in 2011 and once last year.

In the interim someone actually achieved it, with Aussie Susan Maroney completing it back in 1997. Maroney had used a shark cage, which makes the swim easier, and she managed the journey in 25 hours, whereas Nyad took 53, but Nyad didn’t have a shark cage.

Oh, yeah, because in the Florida Straits there are sharks. Lots of sharks.

Oh, and jellyfish, which is why Nyad’s third and fourth attempts were abandoned.

It’s clear that Nyad is something of a badass, and generous too, taking time to thank her 35 person support crew and stating “it looks like a solitary sport but it is a team”, which is pretty magnanimous considering she was the one in the drink for the whole thing, and could have just talked about how hard it had been.

Nyad in action.

Nyad in action.

Nyad’s swim is really impressive and a rather inspiring tale of dedication and commitment to achieving a goal. It takes a special kind of madness I think to attempt something like this, and especially to try again after so many set backs. Nyad had stated before the swim that whatever happened this was to be her last attempt, but I can’t help wondering if that would be true. Nyad’s ambition to do it seems to have been so great that I can imagine her keeping on.

Trying to do finish something you started 35 years ago is proof that it’s been eating at you, and maybe I’ve seen too many movies, but I just imagine her refusing to give up, becoming obsessed with getting it done. The swim being her white whale or whatever.

I’ve always wanted to do something like this, or at least run a marathon. I spend hours daydreaming about taking part in some crazy scheme or daring exploit, but I don’t think I have the guts or admirable lunacy to actually have a proper go. I guess it takes a certain kind of person to do it, and on the evidence so far, I’m just not the type.

So, Diana Nyad, I applaud you as you take your place in the ranks of those marvelously daft heroes.

More info.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.