As we say goodbye to 2021 and another year of living through a global pandemic in real time, we want to remember some of the moments in it that brought us joy or comfort when we needed it most.
Here are some of our favorite heartwarming, happy, and funny videos and stories from 2021:
A dad helped his transgender daughter and others shine
Frustrated with the limited options available and with experience in tech start-ups, Alexander decided to develop a line of swimwear that would allow transgender girls up to size 20 feel more confident wearing bikini bottoms at the beach and anywhere else they choose.
The result was Rubies, a company named for his daughter, and the bikini bottom has been such a hit that he is now developing underwear with a similar concept."I want to focus on the positive stories about these kids and normalize them," Alexander said. "They're just kids. That's how people need to see them."
New grandfathers were brought to tears (and we were, too!)
TikTok user Jessi (@thegoodwrench) shared a video of her parents and her daughters meeting her new baby boy, and her warning to "grab the tissues" is for a good reason: Jessi was able to capture the moment her mom and dad realize she and her husband have named their new baby boy Michael after her dad.
After Jessi gives her mom a hint, she sees his name and her face instantly changes.
"He's got a name," she says to Jessi's dad with a nudge.
Aaaaand... cue the tears!
After seeing several videos of new grandfathers receiving the emotional and meaningful news that their newborn grandchildren bear their names, somehow, watching a stepdad receive the same news was even more moving.
TikTok user @heathermm06 posted the video and explained, "My oldest son is telling us that our first grandson has his stepdad's name Richard for his middle name."
"As a stepdad, this is powerful," wrote one commenter. "You know you got the good one."
Two chefs went (way) out of their way to fulfill a dying customer's craving
When Brandon Jones emailed Steve Chu, one of the owners of restaurant Ekiben in Baltimore, Maryland, his biggest hope was he might be able to get the recipe for his dying mother-in-law's favorite dish, a tempura broccoli with fresh herbs, red onion and rice vinegar. He planned to make it for her at home in Vermont that weekend.
Chu, Ekiben co-owner Ephrem Abebe and colleague Joe Añonuevo arrived in Vermont that Saturday and made the 72-year-old fan a meal in a makeshift kitchen they set up in the bed of their truck in freezing conditions.
“She had always told us, ‘When I’m on my deathbed, I want to have that broccoli,’” Rina Jones, 38, told The Washington Post.
Jones said she and her mother would never forget the kindness.“To me, it was a huge honor to be able to help fulfill the family’s wishes,” Chu told the Post. “This is about her, not us. There was a lot of good, positive energy in doing this.”
Teachers went above and beyond for students over and over again
In a chaotic and disorienting year for children and educators, teachers proved time and time again that they would not let a global pandemic keep them from connecting with their students.
Kindergarten teacher Garrett Talcott lives just 10 minutes away from the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. He decided that instead of showing his class of 27 students at Ella Baker Elementary videos about animals, he would (very enthusiastically) take them to see some live — on his laptop.
Talcott taught remotely all year, and when his partner Michael Rivera-Dirks shared videos of Talcott teaching on TikTok, they went viral ... for a good reason.
“You hear these kids, (and) they’re not seeing a dark time. They’re kids,” Rivera-Dirks explained. “Knowing they are our future — it’s gonna be OK. I knew I had to put it out to the world.”
In Atlanta, two teachers went viral for their technique encouraging their fourth grade students to shout self-affirmations into a mirror while they cheer them on.
Cierra Levay Broadway, the teacher who filmed the video and shared it online, said she was moved by watching the students perform the self-confidence exercise.
"It was a really great moment," she told TODAY. "I really got chills when I saw the kids and heard what they were saying for their affirmations. For a lot of them, it was their first time ever doing that."
Tik Tok user @mommodeallday is a high school government teacher. She posted a video last May and said she read a picture book, Cleo Wade's "What the Road Said," to her seniors on their last day of class.
"I told them that they started school with teachers reading to them, so they were going to end school with their teacher reading to them," she said.
In the book, "All things grow and change. This is the magic of being alive. You too will find your wings, you too will bloom, no living is meant to stay the same," she reads from the book.
"I'm going to miss you," she said.
The COVID-19 vaccine led to sweet and moving reunion videos
It had been a long year of isolation and distance between so many family members and their loved ones, but the advent of a vaccine gave us a chance to hug again.
Teens used social media app TikTok to pay tribute to their parents
Sometimes, TikTok trends are scary. Other times, they are awesome. One 2021 trend had teens and young adults using the song "Slipping Through My Fingers" from the movie "Mamma Mia" to pay tribute to the little (and sometimes big) things their parents and grandparents do for them.
In another sweet tribute from a child to his parent, Ole Miss student and former high school baseball player Zach Kellman surprised his dad, Ross, by bringing his baseball glove with him when he moved into college and asking his dad for "one last throw" before he left. Zach posted the video on TikTok, where it went viral.
A boy's school holiday program performance brought audience members to their feet
This time of year, parents sit through a lot of winter programs at school, some more entertaining than others. But TikTok user @Jamese2010's son gave a performance that mesmerized his audience — and the internet, too.
"When you hear your son singing his heart out," James wrote in the caption of the video, which has been viewed more than 1.7 million times.
Thanks for the memories, 2021. Here's to a better year ahead.