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The Year in Good News

In a bleak year, our listeners offer some brightness — from all over the world.

transcript

The Year in Good News

Hosted by Michael Barbaro; produced by Luke Vander Ploeg, Asthaa Chaturvedi, Hans Buetow, Bianca Giaever and Sydney Harper; with help from Rachelle Bonja; and edited by Wendy Dorr

In a bleak year, our listeners offer some brightness — from all over the world.

Hi. Hi. Hi. Hi. Hi, Daily team.

From The New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is The Daily.

You know, I don’t have to be the first one to say that 2020 was rough, but — 2020 has been a really crazy year for everybody. There’s been a lot of really, really hard moments. But there’s been a lot of really beautiful ones, too. You asked if anything good has happened throughout 2020.

Today, some good news from 2020 from Daily listeners all over the world.

And I squealed when I heard that you’re looking for people to talk about something good that happened to them during the pandemic. Here’s one.

It’s Wednesday, December 23.

This is Beth from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My very small 2020 win is that I finally allotted some of my graduate school budget to buy a vacuum cleaner so I wouldn’t have to keep lint rolling my floors.

I got a job teaching English in Bali, which is pretty sick. I don’t think I had a lot of competition because it’s hard to get into the country right now. But I’m pretty excited. I have been knitting a scarf on and off for five years. I finally got to finish it this year after I graduated from college this summer and was waiting around in New York City to start grad school. This year during the COVID-19 pandemic, I decided to take up the trumpet. [TRUMPET MUSIC]

Hi, this is Katie. This year I went from working from home at a job I had for three and 1/2 years to my dream job working as a contact tracer for the Department of Health.

My name’s Ty. I’m from Arkansas. And during quarantine, I’ve been making art. Not sure if anyone else likes it, but I’m having fun.

My name is Mario Albertini and I’m from San Juan, Puerto Rico. I have a luxury menswear shop and custom clothing store. In March, we had to go into a complete shutdown, and it really seemed like this was it for us. But in an unprecedented turn of events, all of my competition is gone. And the multinational chains like Brooks Brothers and Nordstrom’s, they left the island, and they have basically created a void, which we have been able to fill.

This quarantine, I can’t lie. I got really good at poaching eggs. So now it’s just recording, and then we’ll just cut the part that’s only you talking.

OK. Hi, this is Jim Shuler. I’m a 76-year-old grandpa from Peoria, Arizona. The good thing that happened to me this year because of the quarantine is that I was able to ride my bicycle almost every day. I’m closing in on 8,000 miles for this year.

If I did have to pick out something that I’m particularly proud about, it’s battling, and I think emerging victorious from an eating disorder that’s gripped me for nearly a year by now. It’s been pretty difficult to try going back to a normal state, but I found support and love from so many people that I didn’t expect before.

A year after his surgery, my husband’s MRI revealed that his brain tumor did not return.

My name is Carmen, and I am 21 years old. 2020 helped me become the strongest person I have ever been. I overcame major depression.

I’ve been seeing a therapist for the first time in my entire life. After 30 years of professional business travel, lots of red eyes, international flights, lots of status on airlines, I finally stopped.

Hi, this is Holly from Virginia. And I was just calling about my seven-year-old son, Thor, who has had the best year of his life. [PHONE RINGS]

Hello?

Hi.

Hey, Thor. It’s Luke from The Daily. How are you?

Good.

That’s a pretty cool name.

Thank you.

So Thor, I heard that you had a pretty good 2020. Is that true?

Yes.

Can you tell me about it?

Last year I didn’t feel good, and I had to lay on the couch, and couldn’t play with my friends. This year I take this medicine every 30 days. It’s CHKD and it helps me.

And now I’m feeling better, and I have energy, and I’ve been doing races and — in the one mile, and my best time is 8:19.

Whoah, really? Is that one of your favorite things to do? Do you like running?

Yes.

What other favorite things do you like to do?

I like to play with my brother.

So last night we were getting ready for his infusion this month, and he just said, like, what an awesome year 2020 is. So we are very thankful for all the nurses at CHKD in the Blood and Cancer Center and all the doctors. They have been there faithfully during the pandemic, making sure kids get their life-saving medicine, and we’re forever grateful.

Bye, Thor.

Bye.

We’ll be right back.

Hello, there. My bit of good news for the year was directly after I got my PS5. I thought the year was going to peak right there, but it turns out I got a PS5 and the girlfriend for 2020. How you like that?

I met Andrew at the end of May through match.com because that’s how Millennials date. I met someone. We started dating. I met someone I really liked, but he ghosted me. I was going on a second date with the guy, and he didn’t show up. The next day I Googled him, and then all these articles came up that said he had been arrested on the day of our second date. So that was crazy. But then a few weeks later, I started messaging with a guy named Dan on Bumble. We met on January 2, 2020. And since then, we’ve spent pretty much every day together, and it’s been the best.

My name is Adam, and my good news for 2020 is that I found the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with.

My name is [INAUDIBLE], and my good news for 2020 is that I met I think that I met my future husband. I fell in love. I fell in love. I fell in love with my best friend. I think the first time he smiled at me, I knew that I was in trouble. Baby, I love you so much. And I know I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Baby, will you marry me? [INAUDIBLE] you have to say. Yes. Can I put this on for you? Yes. Oh my god. I got engaged in April of this year. I had always told him that I didn’t want to get married, and that if I changed my mind, I would ask him. So that’s what I did. I got engaged. I’m getting married. [TRUMPET MUSIC]

This is Chris from North Carolina. In 2017, me and my wife got married. And that following year, in spring of 2018, we started to try and have a baby, and there were quite a few roadblocks that we encountered, fertility specialists, so on. And this Monday I came downstairs to head to work, and my wife was at the kitchen table with a positive pregnancy test.

It’s the world to me. It’s honestly really, really made this year worth it. We are both so happy and so thrilled. We just can’t wait to have a family.

Hi, this is Leslie and I live in Milton, Ontario, Canada. And the best thing that happened to me this year was the birth of my son Nathan on February 10. So he’s 10 months old today.

My wife and I welcomed our first son this year. We welcomed twins in February of this year.

I had a baby girl. A baby boy. We welcomed our first baby. Our first child. Isabelle. Lucy May. Sophia. Maeve Lilian. Enuma Eilish. We call him goose for short. Can you say anything?

Hi, my name is Isabella. I’m from Centerville, Virginia. My older sister has two parakeets, Doodle and Gus. And over quarantine, Doodle has been giving birth to so many eggs. Her count is probably up to 12 by now. And she’s super old and has never laid eggs before. So this came as a huge surprise. And I guess it’s a 2020 miracle.

Hey, this is Will from Western Massachusetts. I’m a doctor out here, and unfortunately, we’ve had to quarantine from most people because of that. And things have been really difficult this year, like they have been for lots of people. But at one point, right when I was getting ready to go to work about 6:30 PM — I’m a nocturnist, and my wife’s feeling frustrated and lonely, totally understandably — our daughter, who was — I don’t know how many months old at that point, but a little over a year — just decided to stand up and walk across the living room for the first time.

And it was like this magical being from another universe just kind of like entered the house and became ambulatory. And we both started tearing up and laughing hysterically. It was like this kind of tear in the fabric of our day-to-day life that was so welcome.

I developed quite a strong relationship with my daughter, who is a teenager. She’s at that age where it’s hard to have fun with me anymore because we don’t share a lot of the same interests. But for some reason, in the manic of the pandemic lockdown, we started talking to each other in horrible fake British accents. And now we love each other’s company because we spend the entire time cracking up.

My name is Nancy Has, and I live in Philadelphia. One of the reasons I moved. Here was because my daughter lived here. My daughter and I are not close. And the reason we weren’t close was because I said a really stupid thing to her. And then another piece of history is that my mom once said something to me that was, to me, a heinous remark. And I was just, I am not forgiving her for this, and I didn’t. And I never shared deeply with her again, sadly, until I was much older. So COVID hits. And I’m kind of losing it a little bit, and very frightened. And one day at around 5:00, I get a FaceTime call. I’m like, oh my god, it’s Cat. I wonder what’s wrong with her because, like, why is she calling me? Like we barely talk. And there we are seeing each other, and I’m like, hey, you OK? She goes, hi, mommy. And I said, she’s calling me mommy? I said, hey, sweetie, is everything OK? She goes, yes. And I said, what’s up? And she goes, nothing. I just thought I will call you to talk. And I’m like, OK. I said, whatcha doing? She goes, well, I’m cooking. So I’m like, so do you want me to keep you company? And she goes, OK. So I’m like, all right, whatcha making? And so we had this very simple, innocent, sweet conversation. Was just so amazing. And I hung up the phone at the end of it, and I looked at my husband, and he said, wow, and I said, that was just the best day of my life. I just had the best day of my life. I can’t believe she called me. Well, the next day she called me at 5:00, and the next and the next and the next. And I have to say that she and I have been cooking together on FaceTime probably, like, four to five nights a week. We pour a little glass of wine. Sometimes my husband gets involved. Sometimes her husband. Sometimes we have a four-way conversation. We don’t have deep, crazy conversations. Sometimes we have actual, probably a minute or two, almost three minutes of complete silence, where we’re just sort of side by side on the phone in silence.

And I think those silences are the sweetest moments in our conversations, which sounds strange, but we’ve spent so much time together that we have those comfortable, comforting silences as we share family recipes.

My daughter died, in a way. And then my daughter was reborn again the day that she made that phone call. And I feel so grateful.

We’ll be right back.

My son, who has always struggled with physical milestones, learned to ride a bike. It was the most amazing thing. There’s a parking lot not far from us, and we would go there every day and just get Luke to practice. And after several weeks, he finally figured out how to do it. And it would never have happened if it wasn’t for the pandemic because usually our lives are so busy, and maybe we would go once a weekend. But what he really needed was us to go every single day. And it finally happened. And it was just pure magic. The bad part is that a couple of months later, he completely face planted and we ended up having to go to the emergency room. But he does still ride his bike, even after that. Hi. So one of the best things about 2020 for me is my family getting a pet kitty. She’s so amazing that I feel like sometimes COVID isn’t here. It’s just the longest weekend ever. OK. So what I like about 2020 is we have a baby and friends across the street. We also have a bubble with them.

My grandmother was born in China in 1920. She’s lived through war, famine, revolution, and one of the deadliest earthquakes in recorded history in Tangshan, China. She lives a really quiet life with my parents in Indiana. And this year, because of COVID, my dad got a ping pong table because he really loves to play but couldn’t go anywhere to play. And they discovered after getting the table that my grandmother could play, and she loves it.

Hi. My name is Lauren Jacobson, and I am a touring musician. And one night, two houses down, we saw that a teenage girl was playing violin in her front yard. Let me take my [INAUDIBLE] off. Tell me about the first night that we met.

OK. Let’s see. So my mom had asked me to play, like, a little concert for her after the 8:00 PM cheer or whatever. And you walked by, and you knew the piece that I was playing. And then we decided to play the double Bach. [VIOLIN PLAYING]

I wanted to play first violin, and so did you. So I switched to second, and — [VIOLIN PLAYING] Close, yeah. That was not too bad for a first time back. It’s been awesome playing with you. I’m glad we found each other.

Ready? Go ahead. [MUSIC PLAYING] COVID has been hard, honestly, the worst year for my family, for most folks I know, for most of the world, it seems. It was — I guess still is such a weird year, and also a sad year. But — Say hi. Do you want to say something?

Very exciting. But today I’m happy, and I’m crying just sharing this. Every morning when I open my eyes, I think, I get another day and am so humbly grateful. I am very grateful for the life I have. And I’m really thankful. So yay. Congratulations. Congratulations. Thank you.

As bad as 2020 has been, I think there have been a lot of beautiful moments of people connecting with each other. And I think in reaching out, we reach to save ourselves. So it’s a year I’ll never forget. So yeah, not all bad. Glory be to God, it’s going to end. 2020 is going to end with great thanksgiving and great love and support from family and friends. Thank you for listening. Goodbye. Bye bye. Bye.

Hi, my name is Nick Schwartz. I live in Chicago. And one small thing that’s brought me and my friends some joy this year has been my Michael Barbaro impression. So I listen every day, and for some reason at the end of every episode, in my head I would say, that’s it for The Daily. I’m Michael Tomorrow. See you Barbaro.

Hello?

Hey, is this Nick?

Yes, it is.

Hey, Nick, it’s Michael Barbaro from The Daily. How are you?

Hi. I’m doing excellent. How are you?

Good. It’s really good to hear your voice. So based on your success in mimicking Michael Barbaro, we thought we would ask you to read the credits at the end of the show.

Of course.

Well, let’s do that.

Today’s episode was produced by Luke Vander Ploeg, Asthaa Chaturvedi, Bianca Giaever, Hans Buetow and Sydney Harper with help from Rachelle Bonja. It was edited by Wendy Dorr and engineered by Brad Fisher. Original music by Dan Powell.

What is this, like an audio mirror? There’s no flaws — there’s no flaws from you in any of this. Bravo.

That’s it for The Daily. I’m Michael Tomorrow. See you Barbaro.












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By Bianca Giaever

The idea for this episode came in mid-November, when The Daily team received an email about the upcoming release of the hip-hop artist Megan Thee Stallion’s album “Good News.” It had been a wild year for Megan: She said she suffered gunshot wounds in July; months later, she appeared on Cardi B’s hit single “WAP.”

We normally don’t follow up on generic press emails, but fans of Megan Thee Stallion on our team got so excited that this time we made an exception. I didn’t know who Megan Thee Stallion was, so 15 minutes before the call, my colleague Daniel Guillemette added me to the invite and I eavesdropped to learn more.

Her press team suggested that Megan do a “takeover” of The Daily, in the spirit of her new album title. It ended up not working out with Megan, but the call made us realize that an episode of good news actually would be the perfect thing to hear at the end of this harrowing year.

We began brainstorming sources for Michael Barbaro to interview. We learned that in 2020, a local newspaper was saved, a fig tree was preserved, an orca gave birth and a Holocaust survivor played piano. To find more stories, we put a callout on The Daily, asking people to send their good news.

The response was overwhelming. Audio messages poured into our inboxes, with multiple emails arriving every minute. (FYI: When you email [email protected], it goes to all of our inboxes.) We received more than 700 messages, of which we were able to review about 400.

Listening to these messages was one of the highlights of my year. We stayed up late into the night, sharing audio gems with one another, laughing and crying. There was a man who said that he had met Oprah and realized he was an alcoholic, a woman who shared that she had finally found time to finish a scarf after five years and another man who said he had finished his thesis on representations of horsemanship in American cinema. Eventually, we decided to construct the entire episode out of these messages.

The messages we received were inflected with joy — they were funny and warm and heartfelt. And while we wished we could use them all, my fellow producers instructed me to keep listening for the small but spectacular audio moments in the inbox — “panning for gold,” as we called it.

In the final hour, I pulled up a message from Kat Palermo, 25, a resident of Santa Cruz, Calif., who has been learning to play the trumpet in quarantine. She sent me these riveting renditions of a few Christmas songs.

Jingle Bells

Good news stories are notoriously difficult to make interesting, because they tend to lack the ingredients that make a story engaging — e.g., tension, conflict or drama. But the context of this year gave new meaning and cohesion to the speckles of joy in this episode.

There are a lot of ways to listen to The Daily. Here’s how.

We want to hear from you. Tune in, and tell us what you think. Email us at [email protected] Follow Michael Barbaro on Twitter: @mikiebarb. And if you’re interested in advertising with “The Daily,” write to us at [email protected]

The Daily is made by Theo Balcomb, Andy Mills, Lisa Tobin, Rachel Quester, Lynsea Garrison, Annie Brown, Clare Toeniskoetter, Paige Cowett, Michael Simon Johnson, Brad Fisher, Larissa Anderson, Wendy Dorr, Chris Wood, Jessica Cheung, Stella Tan, Alexandra Leigh Young, Lisa Chow, Eric Krupke, Marc Georges, Luke Vander Ploeg, Kelly Prime, Sindhu Gnanasambandan, M.J. Davis Lin, Austin Mitchell, Neena Pathak, Dan Powell, Dave Shaw, Sydney Harper, Daniel Guillemette, Hans Buetow, Robert Jimison, Mike Benoist, Bianca Giaever, Liz O. Baylen, Asthaa Chaturvedi, Rachelle Bonja, Alix Spiegel, Diana Nguyen, Marion Lozano and Soraya Shockley. Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk of Wonderly. Special thanks to Sam Dolnick, Mikayla Bouchard, Lauren Jackson, Julia Simon, Mahima Chablani, Nora Keller, Sofia Milan and Desiree Ibekwe.

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