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Don't mope, have hope: Global stories from 2023 that inspire optimism and delight

Leif Parsons for NPR

Earlier this year, a Goats and Soda reader wrote in with a quote from Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain: "The car goes where your eyes go."

"It's so important, especially as the news cycle is full of cruelty and suffering, for us to carefully choose what we read, listen to, pay attention to," wrote Naomi Krokowski of Berthoud, Colo. "The car, my brain, goes where my eyes go — so I need to keep looking at hopeful art and look for joy in the children I love and remind myself to keep watching for good things."

It's easy to catalog the year's grim lowlights – its wars, disasters and protracted crises getting worse. But it's worth taking time to turn our eyes back to the stories this year that gave us reasons to hope, from "beach day" in Mogadishu to the wonders of raising chickens.

In global health and development, where the challenges are overwhelming and the battle a constant one, it's especially important to dwell a little bit on these positive moments. They, too, are part of the story.

Here are some of the stories from 2023 that gave us reason to be hopeful in 2024.

How do you stay optimistic in spite of it all? 6 hopeful souls share their secrets

They're activists and advocates from Brazil, Colombia, India, Kenya, Lesotho and the U.S. We wanted to know: How do they stay positive in the face of the world's many problems and woes? Published April 21, 2023

We asked, you answered: What's your secret to staying optimistic in gloomy times?

From watching the sun rise — yeah, it's a cliché but it works! — to dancing to techno music to doing good for others to just plain smiling, readers share what gives them optimism in times of trouble. Published April 30, 2023

Friday at the beach in Mogadishu: Optimism shines through despite Somalia's woes

One of the world's poorest countries, Somalia is coping with conflict, a historic drought and a devastating food crisis. But there's another side to the country. Just take a look at the capital city on beach day. Published January 20, 2023

You don't need words to calm a grumpy kid. Parents around the world use a magic touch

Modern parents are told to TALK with an agitated kid to improve their mood. But in many cultures, mom and dad opt for a soothing caress to induce tranquility. Neurologists explain why it works such wonders. Published November 12, 2023

Wed as teens, they renew vows 71 years later — and share secrets to everlasting love

On her grandfather's 90th birthday, Kamala Thiagarajan attended a celebration as he and her grandmother renewed vows — a Hindu custom. She wanted to know: What's their advice for a healthy marriage? Published July 16, 2023

I got 15 mail-order chicks. They ended up changing my life

Our correspondent decided to set up a chicken coop, and populate it with 15 mail-order chicks. She had a sense that raising chickens could have mental health benefits. She had no idea what epiphanies awaited. Published April 28, 2023

A lullaby really can work magic. Science tells us why and how

Sometimes the right lullaby sends my kids off to dreamland so fast it makes me feel like I have a parenting superpower, writes NPR correspondent Selena Simmons-Duffin. It turns out, the wonder of lullabies is confirmed by scientific research. Published June 2, 2023

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Gabriel Spitzer
Gabriel Spitzer (he/him) is Senior Editor of Short Wave, NPR's daily science podcast. He comes to NPR following years of experience at Member stations – most recently at KNKX in Seattle, where he covered science and health and then co-founded and hosted the weekly show Sound Effect. That show told character-driven stories of the region's people. When the Pacific Northwest became the first place in the U.S. hit by COVID-19, the show switched gears and relaunched as Transmission, one of the country's first podcasts about the pandemic.