When considering all the horrors that mankind subject each other to, especially in light of the recent wave of terrorist attacks across the globe, it's all too easy to write off the human race as hopelessly dreadful. We can cast a look at our neighbor, their teeth bared and spittled hatred on their lips and conclude that the whole species are nothing but meat puppets with haircuts and shoes, twerking and jerking on the end of Satan's own marionette strings as we take selfies and rage helplessly against the dying of the light. It doesn't have to be this way.
Humanity is still capable of acts of great beauty and breathtaking kindness towards each other. For every act that threatens to plunge us into darkness, there is another that provides a spark that, should we let our eyes become uncaged, can lead us back into the light. Here, we shall look at 15 examples of the indomitable human spirit that were forever captured on camera for posterity. Such actions promise to heal your battered and bruised faith in humanity and remind us all that the world is filled with ordinary people who are capable of extraordinary things.
We hope that the stories behind this selection of photos, which include selfless acts of altruism by those who can least afford it and people who made the ultimate sacrifice to lessen the suffering of others, will help to remind you that life doesn't always have to be as hard as it frequently seems. Though the world has teeth and can bite without warning, there is enough inherent good in people to make all our loads just that little but easier to bear.
15 Teen Track Star Carries Her Rival Over The Line
17-year old Ohio high school runner had already won the 1,600 meter event earlier in the day when she found herself flagging during the 3,200 meter run at the Athletic Association state track meet in Columbus, in 2012. Pegged back in last place, she noticed that the girl directly in front of her was starting to black in and out of consciousness. Where most competitors would have simply ran past their competitor to avoid finishing in last place, Vogel didn't hesitate for a second. Throwing her rival's arm over her shoulder, she carried 16-year old Arden McMath for 30 meters and pushed her over the line to ensure that she finished the race, before crossing the line herself. While Vogel's unbelievable act of sportsmanship won neither girl any points, she was showered with praise afterwards for her generosity.
14 Redditors Write To Dying Man
In 2012, the uncle of Reddit user Sean O'Connor, became terminally ill with liver disease. Scott Widak, a 47-year old down syndrome sufferer was living with his 85-year old mother and living out the last of his days in discomfort and unhappiness. O'Connor hit upon an idea to cheer him up and add some joy to what remained of his life. Explaining that his uncle liked nothing more than to open mail, he appealed to other Redditors to reach out to his uncle and maybe send a card or letter if they had the time. Within hours, the post had attracted 1,300 comments. The Reddit community then began an amazing campaign of kindness, with hundreds of users sending Scott letters, gifts and artwork and supplies so that the keen artist could spend time indulging in his favourite hobby.
13 Egyptian Christians Protect Praying Muslims
In January 2011, Islamic radicals were blamed for a suicide bombing in Alexandria, Egypt, killing 23 Christians as they prayed. Tensions were already running high in the region following the uprisings in the area following the Arab Spring and there were fears that Egypt's diverse religious communities could turn against each other. This was soon proven not to be the case as Egyptians celebrated the fact that our similarities are greater than our differences. Christians were pictured in the February of that year forming a circle around Muslims praying in protest of the atrocity, holding hands and looking outwards as they protected the vulnerable prayers from attacks. Muslim communities reciprocated and stood guard outside of churches to safeguard Christians worshiping within.
12 Texas Students' Silent Vigil
The Westboro Baptist church is infamous in the USA for what critics describe as a homophobic and anti-Semitic stance which leads to members staging protests across the country. They have often targeted military funerals, as they have been said to believe that God punishes soldiers for the "sins" of the LGBT community. After the death of Texas A&M alumni Lt. Col. Roy Tisdale, former student Ryan Slezia, organized a silent vigil to ensure that any protesters would be kept from Tisdale's family. He explained in a Facebook post, "In response to their signs of hate, we will wear maroon. In response to their mob anger, we will form a line, arm in arm. This is a silent vigil. A manifestation of our solidarity". The protesters failed to show, beaten away by a barricade made by humans, but inspired by humanity.
11 Paralyzed Man Donates His Treatment Fund To Stranger
When 27-year old Welshman Dan Black was left in a wheelchair after a cycling accident in 2009, he gave up any hope of walking again - until he found out about a revolutionary stem cell treatment that could help him get back on his feet. Black spent four years raising £20,000 for the treatment; it was then that he heard about the plight of 5-year old Brecon Vaughan. The youngster had been born with cerebral palsy and his parents, who live in the same town as Black, were attempting to raise the £60,000 necessary for the operation that could help their son to walk unaided for the first time. The selfless Black promptly deduced that Brecon stood a far better chance of walking again than he did and immediately donated every penny of the money he had raised to Brecon's parents. Dan said of his unbelievable generosity, "I wanted to help someone whose life could get better. If I can help someone to walk, I will. Brecon can walk if he has the surgery.”
10 Man Risks Floods And Arrest To Save Kangaroo
Father of five Ray Cole, didn't bat an eyelid when he saw a baby kangaroo being swept along in floodwaters during the Queensland floods of 2012. The joey had been hit by a log in the fast-flowing torrent and was starting to sink beneath the water. Cole, originally of Melbourne, leapt into the water and grabbed the animal by the scruff of the neck before dragging it to safety. Irate policemen standing on the bridge overhead had threatened to arrest Cole, accusing him of foolishly risking his life for an animal that can swim, but Cole remained unrepentant, saying that he couldn't watch an emblem of Australia drown. In front of cheering onlookers, he told press as the kangaroo was swaddled in a blanket, "When I was growing up on the streets of Preston we learned and lived by the motto that you reach out and help others."
9 Flower Girl's Gift To Soldier
The two Gulf wars between 1991 and 2004 unleashed destruction for the residents of Iraq. After Saddam Hussein was toppled during Gulf War II, the country has been torn apart by insurgency and civil war. Despite the misery and instability that Iraqis have lived through, one little girl proved that innocence and beauty can survive in even the darkest of avenues. Spotting a soldier resting in the shade with his automatic weapon on his lap, she ran up to deliver a present to him - a flower she had just plucked from the nearby earth. The actions of the adorable youngster prove that war and bloodshed can never truly eradicate the beauty that we find all around us.
8 Terminally Ill Man Hugs Best Friend
In times of great physical and emotional pain, sometimes a hug from somebody you love can make all the difference. When 57-year old Kevin McClain from Cedar Rapids was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, he was forced to enter a hospice for his final weeks. Living rough and without any family, his dying wish was simple: he wanted to see his dog, Yurtie, one last time. His paramedic, Jan Erceg happened to volunteer at the shelter that Yurtie had been taken to and reunited the best friends at McClain's hospice for one last hug. Erceg told reporters, “The moment he opened those eyes and saw that dog there was instant recognition and with Yurtie, she licked his arms, she licked his face.”
7 Fathers Unite For Daughter's Wedding
Ohio resident Brittany Peck, faced a dilemma at her wedding; Though she wanted her biological father, Todd Bachman to walk her down the aisle, she also didn't want her step-father, Todd Cendrosky to feel left out. Bachman had the perfect solution to the problem; he stopped the procession, grabbed Cendrosky by the hand and led him to Peck so that they could walk their daughter down the aisle together. Shocked guests shed tears at the touching moment, none more so than the bride herself. Bachman commented afterwards that it was only right that Cendrosky played a part in the proceedings, saying, "He has been as much a part of her life as I have." The photos have since went viral, with Bachman widely praised for his selfless and sensitive attitude.
6 Villager Makes Sure Kittens Survive Flood
The region surrounding Cuttack City in India, is frequently hit by heavy rainwater and flooding, which causes devastation to the surrounding villages. While such damage can play havoc with the lives of the human populace, the water can also prove problematic to the animals who live there, too. During the most recent heavy flooding in 2013, an animal-loving resident of the city's poorest area was photographed going out of his way to help his four-legged friends. Carrying a staff to support himself, he was spotted wading through chest-high waters with a basket of kittens on his head. He navigated the treacherous currents do deliver his furry cargo to safety on dry land, as the mother cat swam along behind him.
5 Dry Cleaners Help Out Jobseekers
The global recession of 2008 hit small businesses in the USA very hard. As the economy sank into the toilet, many businesses folded and others struggled to pay their staff, leading to mass levels of redundancies. Plaza Cleaners in Portland, Oregon, were quick to offer their support to those who found themselves suddenly out of work. The owners decided to offer free dry cleaning to any customer who was attending a job interview but couldn't afford to have their business dress cleaned; Plaza estimated that they helped over 2,000 unemployed workers during this period. Such staggering generosity from businessmen who were suffering as much as any others didn't come cheaply - the owner estimated that his selflessness cost his company somewhere in the region of $32,000.
4 The Homeless Hairdresser
Celebrity stylist Mark Bustos, isn't content with merely giving haircuts to stars such as Norah Jones at the trendy Manhattan salon he works at during the week. The 30-year old Philippine took a trip back home to his native islands in 2012, where he began giving haircuts to underprivileged children he met in the streets. This gave Bustos the idea of giving something back to the city of New York and he has since spent his Sundays walking the streets for hours to find homeless people that he can help out by giving them a haircut. Bustos cuts their hair in public so that he can inspire others to do good deeds and says, "I do believe people with a proper, professional haircut receive more respect than those who do not have a proper haircut. Having a proper haircut also gives the recipient much more confidence." His Instagram account contains the tagline: #BeAwesomeToSomebody.
3 Homeless Man Gains Family For Christmas
Christmas is traditionally a time best spent with family and loved ones. For homeless man George Cunningham, it seemed that this wish was a million miles away; he'd lost touch with his family and the most he wanted for Christmas was a hot Turkey dinner. He told his story to a photographer, Lee, who was writing about George for his 'Humans of Ireland' Facebook account. Lee shared his story about George's desperation for a B&B that could offer him shelter and a meal for December 25th, which promptly went viral. What happened next is like something from a fairytale. Lee was contacted by George's estranged sister, who hadn't seen him for 12 years. After arranging a reunion between the pair, Lee ensured that not only would George be getting turkey and all the trimmings for Christmas, he'd be spending it with the family whom he never thought he'd see again.
2 Fundraisers Buy Crime Victim New House
When disabled pensioner Alan Barnes was knocked to the ground by a mugger outside his home in Gateshead, North East England, the local community reacted with anger. The frail pensioner, who stood at 4'6" and suffered from impaired vision, is a regular church-goer and a popular figure in his immediate area. Barnes was left traumatized and moved in with his sister, too scared to return to his home. His story touched the heart of Gateshead resident Katie Cutler, 21, who set up an online fundraising campaign in the hope of reaching her £500 target so that Barnes could redecorate his home when he felt ready to return. The campaign quickly went viral and the campaign soon reached an astonishing £330,000 before an overwhelmed Barnes asked people to stop donating. Instead of buying new carpets, kind-hearted users had raised enough to buy the 67-year old a new home. Cutler has since set up her own charity to aid the vulnerable.
1 The Saint Of Auschwitz
The story of Auschwitz inmate Maximilian Kolbe, has become legend in the years since his death. As Prisoner 16770, the Polish Franciscan priest made the ultimate sacrifice within the walls of the death camp. After a failed escape attempt by one prisoner, the SS guards chose ten other prisoners at random to be starved to death as punishment. When one of the ten began to weep at the thought of never again seeing his wife and children, Kolbe stepped forward and volunteered to take his place. Kolbe was executed by lethal injection after being starved for two weeks and surviving and sainted by the church for his martyrdom in the face of evil. His sacrifice was not in vain - the man whose life he spared survived the horrors of the camp and lived to the grand old age of 96.