We love compiling happy stories from around the world for our Positively Newsworthy section. Focusing on all that is good in the world is a sure-fire way to raise our spirits. Enjoy the Autumn 2020 edition of Positively Newsworthy below.
Nurturing the art of conversation
by Aisling Cronin
The art of conversation may seem to be fading, but one Barcelona resident is helping to turn the tide. In the words of 26-year-old Adrià Ballester, “it’s often easier to send a message to someone from another country than to say good morning to our neighbours.” He was inspired to change this by setting up the Free Conversations Movement.
In front of Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf, he regularly sets up two foldaway chairs, inviting passersby to stop, sit and chat with him in Spanish, English or Catalan about anything they like. “The idea is just to talk freely for a while,” Adrià explains.
Adrià confesses that he feels like a therapist at times. “You hear good, positive stories and really tough ones, too. A lot of people will tell you about a tricky episode in their life, maybe heartbreak or a job loss. There’s a bit of everything,” he says. A 70-year-old Lithuanian woman once spoke with him about the years she spent in a Russian concentration camp.
He uses Facebook (Free Conversations Movement) and Instagram (@freeconversations) to promote this extraordinary project, with the consent of those who take part. He posts photos of himself and the people who stop and chat, along with their stories and reflections.
When physical distancing measures began in recent months, Adrià decided to take the conversation online. He set up a site called randompenpals.com, which invites users to “get a quarantine PenPal in 10 seconds”. He plans to publish a manifesto very soon, with the aim of spreading his human connection initiative to other major cities around the world.
The Friendship Bond
A life-changing pact
by Aisling Cronin
In 1992, two friends living in Wisconsin, USA, settled a deal with a handshake. Neither of them knew it at the time, but that deal would one day transform their lives.
Lifelong buddies Tom Cook and Joe Feeney made this promise to one another: if either of them ever won the Powerball lottery, they would share the winnings, regardless of who purchased the ticket.
On 10 June 2020, Cook bought a Powerball ticket … and was shocked to learn that he had won the $22 million jackpot. He knew what he had to do.
When Feeney picked up the phone and heard the news, he initially refused to believe it. is As an avid fisherman, his first response was “are you jerking my bobber?” However, Cook eventually convinced him of the astonishing truth.
Cook and Feeney each received about $5.7 Million, after federal and state taxes were subtracted from the overall amount. Cook handed in his two weeks’ notice at work, then retired when he realised he no longer required a 401-k pension. Feeney was a previous retiree, having worked in the local fire department for many years.
Neither man has extravagant plans for the winnings, but they are both looking forward to enjoying more travel and time with their families. “We can pursue what we feel comfortable with. I can’t think of a better way to retire,” Feeney remarked.
Wisconsin Lottery Director Cindy Polzin added, “Congratulations to Tom, Joe and their families. The power of friendship and a handshake has paid off. I’m thrilled for them. Their lucky day has arrived.”
Faith and Family
by Alison McEvoy
Faith and family ties run deep. At times such as this, when our other links to the world are bearing thin, or downright taken away, we can see those ties all the more clearly.
Juan Manuel, an Argentinian living of the Portuguese Island of Porto Santo, when faced with the prospect of a lockdown that would separate him from his family, and his 90 year old father in particular, made a bold decision direct from the heart. He sailed 9,000km across the Atlantic Ocean and landed in Argentina, after eighty five days at sea.
His wine ran out. He was turned away from Cape Verde where he’d hoped to restock his food supply. His fuel ran low and the wind stopped for ten days. His spirits dwindled. Yet, at night, the whole universe lay above his eyes and he started praying. Dolphins turned up to keep him company for a long stretch of the journey and, slowly, faith filled up the space in his weary heart and carried him home:
“Mission accomplished. Faith lets you cross oceans.”
The words that he shared after his odyssey carry a certain weight, born as they are from such a perilous adventure. He wants people to know that “Everybody can do whatever they want – if you really want to. If you do it with your heart, it’s even better…. Believe in yourself. Believe in God. Don’t give up.”