Merriam-Webster, widely known to be my dictionary of choice, defines nostalgia as “a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition.” Or more simply, “the state of being homesick.”1

This time of year—the “holiday season”­­—brings about a nearly nauseating degree of nostalgia. For when we were kids, for our hometowns, for traditions our grandparents started or upheld. That kind of nostalgia.

This time of year also brings about a lot of warm and fuzzy feelings. You know, those happy, positive feelings. Mushy stuff. #Love kind of stuff. All of that makes some people extraordinarily happy. Others may react with some of the same characteristics of some notoriously negative characters—the ones who say “bah humbug” and try to destroy holiday cheer. It all depends on who you ask.

This time of year can also be hard for many people, including me, but something that helps is going out of my way to find some good stories. Like the fluffy year-in-review pieces filled with the happy things that are out there. And fortunately, for me, there are quite a few.

In the world of disaster response and recovery, there are a lot of sad stories—like families losing loved ones or their homes, and entire communities being wiped away. 

But, there are also heartwarming stories—reports of communities coming together, celebrities pitching in to help, families and even beloved pets surviving storms despite nearly insurmountable odds.

Often, stories of strength and compassion arise out of a disaster, and the holidays are a great time to reflect on just a few of them.

Here are some of my favorites and some favorites from the rest of #TeamDigital.

Back in August, parts of southeast Louisiana faced historic flooding. One of the most encouraging stories from that event included one of the most famous college sports teams in the nation: the Louisiana State University Tigers football team. Players from the team visited children in shelters in Baton Rouge, bringing them plenty of smiles and encouragement. Read more via Sports Illustrated.

Social media has played a larger and larger role in disasters. As long as I’ve worked here, there have never been this many instances of social media actually making a difference in actual response efforts. One story, from Hurricane Matthew, describes an instance where social media led a rescue team to save a veteran in North Carolina. Read more via Raleigh’s ABC affiliate, WTVD.

This is one of the most recent ones and one of the best if you ask me. As Gatlinburg, Tennessee faced an intense wildfire, communities nearby have seen some of the most generous giving this year. Dolly Parton, whose ties to Gatlinburg and the surrounding area in Pigeon Forge run deep through Dollywood, will work to help those who are recovering. Read more via USA Today.

After disasters, police and fire departments are often overwhelmed with calls. When one Nebraska man had not heard from his grandmother who was living in the path of Hurricane Matthew, he tried to reach the police and fire departments—to no avail. He was, however, able to order a pizza from a local chain. The delivery instructions section of an online order was never used so effectively. Read more via CNN.

Pizza-related stories are apparently a common theme. This is my favorite story of 2016. One young boy in Louisiana was about to celebrate his ninth birthday when the August flooding happened. Instead of asking for the latest toy or a fancy new device, he wanted to do something nice for the first responders who were working very hard. He wanted to get them lunch. Through social media and the kindness of friends, family, and even strangers, one kid’s birthday made a big difference—and led to a lot of pizzas. Read more at The Advertiser.

Of course, these aren’t all the positive stories this year. Not even close. This doesn’t even begin to cover them all. But, these are just some of the highlights that can lead to some great warm and fuzzy feelings.



  1. Merriam-Webster Definition: nostalgia