For all that we live in a world with conflict, disaster, and uncertainty, we also have important times of harmony and kinship.
It does us good to remember the high points of humanity throughout history—and we’ve got a ton to choose from.
From solidarity between nations to a friendship that spanned years and oceans, to one eccentric Emperor who inspired a city: history can show us the best in ourselves. Here are 25 historical events so heartwarming that, if you’ve never heard of them, you’ll wish you had!
Soccer might be the secret to world peace.
The Côte d’Ivoire’s 2006 civil war ended in a ceasefire so they could all watch the World Cup.
Basically, although the country was in a civil war at the time, their soccer team was still made up of people from across the country. After they beat Sudan to qualify for the World Cup, the team got on their knees together on TV and asked everyone to stop fighting and hold elections.
The fighting stopped only a few days after that, and the country currently has a functioning government with free elections. –1darklight1
Operation Little Vittles: the sweetest mission during the Berlin Blockade.
Colonel Gail Halvorson, a.k.a. the “Berlin Candy Bomber” or “Uncle Wiggly Wings.” He was a pilot during the Berlin Airlift. During one stop in Berlin, he came across 30 German children who had nothing but told him that he should keep flying because they wanted their freedom. He gave them two sticks of gum, which they promptly divided among themselves, even retaining the wrapper so they could sniff it.
Touched, he told them to watch for the plane wiggling its wings. Meanwhile, he got his crew’s ration of chocolate, cut it up, and tied it to handkerchief parachutes. When he was next approaching Berlin, he wiggled his wings and threw the parachutes out of the window.
Begun without official approval, when General Tunner, the commander of the Airlift heard of the operation, he made it formal. Soon, candy makers from the US began shipping tons of candy (pre-tied with handkerchief parachutes) for the German children, and nearly every pilot in the Airlift participated. –drsameagle
Bummer and Lazarus were canine celebrities in San Francisco.
The two dogs had the run of the streets, and when, on June 14, 1862, Lazarus was taken by a new dog catcher, a mob of angry citizens demanded his release, petitioning to have the pair declared city property so they could wander the streets unmolested.
The city supervisors released Lazarus and declared he and Bummer were exempt from the city ordinance against strays. –BurdenOfItys
This is the kind of guy we’d all like as our neighbor.
During WW2, a Californian agricultural inspector was approached by two of his neighbors, who were being sent to internment camps for being Japanese. They asked him to watch after their farms – basically, to make sure the land didn’t get stolen and offered him full use of their homes and any profits the farm incurred during that time.
Bob Fletcher taught himself how to farm their crops, put in 18-hour days to fully run both farms, slept in the bunkhouse instead of using his neighbors’ homes, and invested the not insignificant profits he made through his hard work. When his neighbors were released and returned home, they were discouraged and fearful of what they would find. What they found was flourishing crops, and a sizable nest egg thanks to the invested profits Fletcher had held in trust and then split with them 50-50.
I love this story because it demonstrates in full what is meant by loving your neighbor, and doing unto others what you would have them do unto you. –TheLostSkellyton
Another example of loving your neighbor, and these two weren’t even neighbors.
The Choctaw tribe of the southern United States donated $170 (tens of thousands in today’s currency) to the Irish in 1847 at the height of the Irish Famine. –JediMasterGeoff
As a note, the forced relocation of Native Americans (including the Choctaw tribe) along the Trail of Tears had also happened in recent years—and still, they sent funds to another people who were suffering.
Coming up next, stories of resistance and resilience from conflicts that shook the world, including heroes of World War II they don’t tell you about in school!
There are several examples of worldwide solidarity in the wake of 9/11.
The remote Masai Tribe (Africa) donated 14 cows to the United States in the aftermath of 9/11. –LasRua
The cows ended up staying in Africa, and proceeds from their offspring were used to fund education.
After 9/11, in England, the Queen had America’s national anthem played at Buckingham Palace.
Worth pointing out that the Queen actually broke protocol when she ordered this. The rules state that another nation’s anthem should never be played during the changing of the guard. –TehBigD97
The musical Come From Away is based on true events in the aftermath of 9/11.
I always think of the kindness of people at Gander, Newfoundland on September 11, 2001. This little town of like 3,000 people ended up with 38 planes, some 6,000 extra people after all airlines flights were grounded after 9/11.
The whole town pulled together making shelter, providing food, filling prescriptions to help make more than 6,000 stranded and frightened passengers feel at home. –Maxwyfe
You’ve heard of Schindler, but have you heard of Sempo?
Basically, Chiune Sugihara (also called Sempo Sugihara) became the vice-consul of the Japanese Consulate in Kaunas, Lithuania in 1939. With the Germans marching east, Polish Jews were fleeing ahead of them, trying to find any country that would grant them an exit visa and allow them to leave and make their way out of Europe and to neutral/allied territory in Palestine, Oceania, or South America.
The Japanese government refused, as they required exit visa holders to have a secondary arrival visa to get them out of Japanese territories and to a destination and almost no one had one. Sempo did it anyway, handwriting 10-day transit visas 18 hours a day for weeks, saving around 6000 Jewish people before he and his coworkers were recalled home due to the Germans invading Lithuania.
He wrote more visas as his family made its way to the train that would take them back home, throwing them out the window without any names on them in hopes random people would pick them off the street to use them, before apologizing profusely that he couldn’t do more for them all.
Most of those Jews made it to the Jewish Ghetto in Japanese occupied Shanghai or Kobe, Japan, where there was a small Jewish community, while the polish government abroad helped them find places outside of Japan, though some didn’t leave until after the war. 40,000 Jewish descendants of those 6000 exist thanks to him. –poiuylkjh2345
Or maybe it should be “Kaminsky’s List?”
When Adolfo Kaminsky was just 18, he saved thousands of French Jewish children from Nazis in occupied Paris. As a member of a Jewish resistance cell, Kaminsky made false documents to get people into hiding or out of the country. Not only did he save thousands from the Holocaust, he also continued to spend his life forging passports so that people around the world could escape whatever atrocity they were caught in.
On the next page, there are two more World War II heroes you’ve got to read about, plus an extraordinary guardian angel of the battlefield.
Not to member a couple of unsung Greek heroes from World War II…
During the Nazi occupation of Greece during WW2, leaders on the island of Zakynthos were ordered to turn over a list naming every Jewish member of the community.
In a move as smart-alecky as it was heroic, Mayor Loukás Karrer and the island’s Bishop, Chrysostomos, hid all 275 Jewish residents across a number of secluded villages and turned in a list as requested. The list had only their two names on it.
Zakynthos’ entire Jewish population survived the war as a result.
The people of Lancashire chose famine over supporting slave-owners.
The Lancashire Cotton Famine, which caused severe economic distress in the 1860’s was self-inflicted. Workers refused to use cotton imported from the southern states as it was produced by slave labor.
In recognition, the U.S. gifted the people of Manchester a statue of Lincoln. –sockhead99
Union soldiers had a surprising guardian angel during the Civil War.
Richard Rowland Kirkland, aka “The Angel of Marye’s Heights,” was a Confederate soldier during the American Civil War.
At the Battle of Fredericksburg, he went over the wire on the front line to go directly on to the battlefield to administer aid to wounded/dying Union soldiers. He gave them water, blankets, etc. to comfort them as best he could. Despite the very real chance he could have been fired upon by the Union side, they recognized what he was doing and did not do so. –tylerfawkes
Everyone had mad respect for George Washington.
Though America revolted from England, they still had a ton of respect for George Washington for not only being able to accomplish what he did but for willingly stepping down after two terms and not becoming a king himself.
When Washington passed away in 1799, King George III ordered the Royal Navy to lower their flags to half-mast: the only time they would extend the honor to a person who wasn’t a citizen of England, or the Commonwealth.
We would not see a similar display of solidarity until over 200 years later: Queen Elizabeth II ordered her guards to perform The Star Spangled Banner after the events of September 11th, 2001. –amadeus2490
The Polish Army had a bear corporal!
En route to Tehran in 1942, a group of Polish soldiers bought a Syrian brown bear cub whose mother had been killed. They proceeded to raise the bear, first in a camp with Polish refugees, and then with the 22nd Artillery Supply Company in the Polish Army.
Soldiers named the bear Wojtek; he integrated quite well into the company, enjoying beer, eating cigarettes, and playfully wrestling with soldiers (they also taught him to salute!). When his company had to get him out of Egypt aboard a British ship, they drafted him into the army so that his passage could not be refused.
And, later during the Battle of Monte Cassino, Wojtek lived up to his new position by carrying 100-pound crates of artillery shells and didn’t drop a single one. Subsequently, a bear carrying an artillery shell became the official emblem of the 22nd Company.
Next up, we all know dogs are humankind’s best friends, but a group of Alaskan Huskies did something truly mind-blowing!
These heroic huskies were the ultimate good boys.
In 1925, a deadly Diphtheria outbreak threatened to eradicate the entire town of Nome, Alaska, which was cut off from the rest of the world by a brutal Alaskan winter and had no treatment for the disease. In response, an anti-toxin serum was transmitted over 674 miles, in six days, by 20 teams of sled dogs. The entire trek was icy, snowy terrain.
At one point, driver Leonhard Seppala took his team of dogs across an ice sheet due to time constraints (the serum was going to expire in two days at that point). A blizzard closed in, and Seppala was left traveling completely blind across miles of ice broken up by stretches of open water.
He ceded navigation to his lead dog, Togo, who successfully guided the team through a veritable deathtrap. The team to finally deliver the serum, led by a husky named Balto, got it to Nome with only half a day to spare and saved the 10,000 lives of Nome’s residents.
Lockerbie, Scotland’s compassionate response to disaster should be remembered.
After Pan Am Flight 103 exploded from a terrorist bomb in 1988, the people of Lockerbie, Scotland – where the wreckage took out an entire street – washed and packed up the clothes and other belongings of the victims so their families could take them back.
The town hall has a stained-glass window commemorating the disaster, and Syracuse University (where a lot of the victims were students) established a visiting scholarship program for high school graduates from Lockerbie. –youseeit
World War I’s first Christmas was surprisingly beautiful.
During the first Christmas of WWI (December 1914), in the unbelievably ugly and terrifying hellhole that was trench warfare, all across the entire line both sides informally agreed at the soldier-to-soldier level to disengage in combat.
At many places along the line, men from opposing armies crossed no-mans-land to exchange gifts with each other, play soccer (football) matches, and generally be human to one another. They joined each other in singing Christmas carols in harmony across the barbed wire and shell-holes.
For all the evil and violence and madness in this world, there is still beauty in humanity. –satellitedoomcannon
We all need a friendship like that of Eleanor Roosevelt and Russian sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko.
Lyudmila Pavlichenko, one of Russia’s most prolific and deadly snipers, traveled to the US in 1942 (in the midst of WW2) to drum up American support for the war. She and Eleanor Roosevelt soon embarked on a tour of the country to share her experiences as a female combatant, and the two became fast friends.
Though media outlets critiqued her appearance and saw her as a strange novelty, Pavlichenko came out of her shell during her time with Roosevelt, eventually telling a crowd in Chicago, “I am 25 years old and I have killed 309 fascist occupants by now. Don’t you think, gentlemen, that you have been hiding behind my back for too long?”
After Pavlichenko’s American Tour, she returned to Russia, and she and Roosevelt only met again 15 years later. Despite having her movements restricted (due to the Cold War), Roosevelt toured Moscow and insisted on finding Pavlichenko—the two gave Roosevelt’s Soviet minder the slip and greeted each other like the best of friends.
Boston’s annual Christmas tree has beautiful significance.
Boston sent aid to Nova Scotia in the wake of the 1917 Halifax Explosion, which destroyed a great deal of the city. Sending food, water, and medical supplies by train, Boston was one of the first responders to the disaster. In response, the people of Nova Scotia have sent a tree to Boston since 1971, which is promptly lit in Boston Common for the holiday season.
Remember Bummer and Lazarus? They had an eccentric, and sort of royal, human friend! Read on to find out about the United States’ one and only Emperor (that’s right, Emperor).
A space flight symbolized peace between the US and Soviet Russia.
The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975 was the first joint U.S.-Soviet space flight. An Apollo Command Module docked with a Soviet Soyuz 19, and marked the end of the Space Race that began with Sputnik in 1957.
Joshua Abraham Norton was the Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. No, really.
Okay, he didn’t wield any power, but the San Francisco resident declared himself Emperor and Mexican’s protector because he was tired of how the government was being run. He’d patrol the streets in an elaborate uniform, often accompanied by Bummer and Lazarus (whom he’d always share his food with).
Because he just went around giving philosophical lectures and writing letters to the government, the people of San Francisco humored him. He even printed his own money, and places that he visited would often accept it as currency!
One day, anti-Chinese rioters were harassing a number of Chinese people, and the Emperor planted himself between them and recited the Lord’s Prayer until the rioters left without violence. When he died, 10,000 people lined the streets to say their farewells.
The 1870 U.S. census actually listed Norton’s occupation as “Emperor.” It also said that he was insane, but hey. At least they acknowledged his benevolent rule!
Two men enter…and one of them ends up not destroying Rome.
Pope Leo famously turned around Attila the Hun himself, who’d been on his way to sack the city of Rome after invading Italy in 452.
Little is known about their meeting, but the Pope went in unguarded and Attila was apparently so impressed that he withdrew soon after.
Liechtenstein’s final mission before shutting down the military was kind of adorable.
Liechtenstein follows a policy of neutrality and ended its military operations after the Austro-Prussian War.
On its final military engagement, 80 soldiers were sent into the field. None were injured, and 81 returned—all 80 soldiers plus one Italian friend they’d made on the trip.
Greece and Turkey bonded over earthquakes.
In 1999, Greece and Turkey both experienced successive earthquakes and sent aid to each other. The two nations had a very long history of hostility towards each other for hundreds of years and this helped significantly improve relations. –GlobiestRob
Did any of these stories surprise you? Warm your heart, even just a little? Share this story with a fellow history buff, or maybe just to help someone smile today.