Even when you need to #StayAtHome, we know you want to feel connected to your community. And creating empathy and understanding is vital in times of uncertainty.
That's why the Storytellers Project has put together a playlist of true, personal stories shared by your neighbors from across the country. These stories are uplifting. They showcase perseverance, family bonds, life-changing decisions, love and new beginnings as we connect over our most deeply held values. Look for it every Thursday.
Week 1 focuses on inspiring stories that restore our faith in humankind.
People in York, Pa., often say to Shaniece Holmes-Brown, "Hey, aren't you that girl?" Yeah, she's that girl. During her high school senior year, she was talking to her school's police resource officer about prom.
Then, to her surprise, that officer reached out to her peeps and got the teen a free custom prom dress, a fancy hair appointment, professional makeup artist, a handsome basketball star for a date, gorgeous flowers, a police escort and a "Coming to America"-style dance entrance into prom.
"At that moment, I didn't just feel beautiful, but I felt unbelievably loved because I thought of everybody that it took to make it possible,” she said. The next day, she was that girl in the yellow dress on the front of the newspaper.
Thirteen-year-old Jack Florez is growing up with cerebral palsy and faces daily challenges — from using a fork to eat peas to hiking with the Boy Scouts and running track at school.
He falls, literally, often, and relies on his Mormon faith to give him the courage to keep going. He looks ahead to an uncertain future as he can't drive, and he can't use his hands and legs easily. But he has one secret weapon and that’s optimism.
Michelle Rogers has been dating Jim Walsh for three years when she learns his sister needs a kidney. She encourages him to go through the testing to see if he's a match and she holds his hand through the process by also getting tested to say, "See, it's not so hard."
Several family members who are blood relatives are tested, but none is a match. But Michelle is told she’s eligible to donate. Michelle thinks about the loss of her father, husband, sister and a previous boyfriend and how she had no control over their deaths, but she does have control over saving Jim’s sister from an early death. So, she donates her kidney to Nancy Noble.
While Nancy and Michelle aren't technically related or even sisters-in-law, Nancy now refers to Michelle as her soul sister.
Erica Brumfield has bipolar disorder and experiences a psychotic break. She thinks she's famous and part of a reality show while living on the streets. Erica finally gets the help she needs after a suicide attempt.
While getting intense therapy, she starts to feel like mental illness is a death sentence. But over the next 2 1/2 years of treatment, she comes to accept her diagnosis. She discovers a new career as a teacher and that becomes her life line along with consistently taking her medication and seeing a doctor.
Sixteen years later, Erica says some days still feel like a battle, but she's living her best life.
AUDIO: Hear Erica's story here
Manny Sepulveda, a 60-something Puerto Rican immigrant, recounts what it was like to move to America and go from living in a "nice shack" to a home with multiple rooms and indoor plumbing.
He gets used to school, American traditions, television and indoor plumbing. But he struggles with learning English because, in the 1950s, bilingual education wasn’t offered.
A teacher changes his life after assigning him a project that requires him to turn in a paper each week about a classmate. And with each paper, he makes a friend, learns English and flourishes, graduating high school as the valedictorian.
Kathy Nakagawa, a Japanese-American professor, remembers how kids — the police think — set her parents' florist shop ablaze, and how the neighbors helped them rebuild. Her parents were older, and, it turns out, under-insured, so the adult children told them not to rebuild. But her parents talked to her about their obligation to the neighborhood — that we must open for the community, not just for ourselves.
She closes with a recent letter from a woman who reflected on how the florist shop had gotten her family through celebrations and funerals, and how being a good neighbor is sometimes just being open, being there.
AUDIO: Hear Kathy's full story here
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: Coronavirus: 'Uplifting Stories' to get you through this pandemic