good things that happened in 2020 hero
McKenzie Cordell

150 Actually Good Things That Happened in 2020

It’s hard to imagine anyone referring to 2020 as anything other than…a struggle. It’s a year that forced us to wrestle with uncertainty, loss and anxiety, as a pandemic raged worldwide, upending our jobs, our health—even our sense of self. But amid all of the awful, there were bright, glimmering, restore-your-faith-in-humanity moments. Here are the things, big and small, that brought us joy over the past year.

what happened in 2020 1


  • Meghan Markle and Prince Harry gave up their titles as senior royals, which meant they no longer had to follow royal protocol (so signing autographs and wearing skirts without pantyhose were now A-OK). But, more importantly, it allowed them to operate independently, speaking out for causes they believe in and launching Archewell, an organization devoted to “building compassionate communities” worldwide.
  • We rose a glass to the Utah brewery that paid off an entire elementary school’s student lunch debt.
  • People worldwide banded together to aid in Australian bushfire relief, from Leonardo DiCaprio’s Earth Alliance donating $3 million in aid, to a little girl in the U.K who raised roughly $2,687 via lemonade stand.
  • When a woman was hit by an SUV in NYC, a group of people rushed to lift the car off of her. Then resumed their day as usual, as New Yorkers do.
  • We cannot remember who won a single Grammy this year, but we’ll never forget Billy Porter’s hat.
  • Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist became our feel-good, guilty pleasure binge-watch.
  • A 78-member medical team worked together to separate conjoined twins in Nigeria, and in January, the 1-year-old girls were deemed healthy enough to be discharged from the hospital.
  • One intrepid college student invented a 3-D printer for chocolate.
  • Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt reunited. Twice.
  • launched, allowing us to buy books online while supporting our local independent booksellers.


  • Jennifer Lopez and Shakira won the Super Bowl with a halftime show performance that made us all want to copy their skincare, haircare and workout routines, ASAP.
  • Then Lopez’s daughter, Emme, made a surprise cameo and blew us all away with her vocals.
  • Google’s “Loretta” ad made us ugly cry into our buffalo chicken dip, then call our grandparents and tell them how much we love them.
  • Jeff Bezos committed $10 billion to fight climate change.
  • One woman received her late husband’s class ring after it went missing 47 years ago. The craziest part? He lost it in Portland, but it was found in a forest in Finland.
  • We hugged anyone and everyone, whenever we wanted. (See, such a time did exist in 2020!)
  • A straight-A student reminded us to help each other out, even in the tiniest of ways, when he asked his teacher to give the bonus points on a test to whoever scored the lowest.
  • Scotland became the first nation to offer pads and tampons for free.
  • What started out as friendly small talk led to cab driver Rajbir Singh realizing his passenger was about to be scammed out of $25,000 due to an IRS hoax. He intervened just in time, police said.
  • Parasite swept the Academy Awards, taking home the Oscar for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best International Feature Film.
  • Eminem performed “Lose Yourself” at the Oscars. He may have been 17 years too late, but that didn’t stop us from singing “Mom’s spaghetti” right along with him.
what happened in 2020 2



what happened in 2020 3


  • We transformed our sidewalks with stained glass chalk art.
  • Four squirrels mastered an American Ninja Warrior course, proving you can do anything you put your mind to. Even if you lack opposable thumbs.
  • Nonstop Zoom calls gave us new insights into our friends’ bookshelves.
  • And celebrities’ too.
  • Not to mention their backyards.
  • Tik Tok introduced us to Tabitha Brown, aka the most reassuring voice on the internet (who makes a mean carrot “bacon,” too).
  • Tie-dye became our national pastime—and ultimate fashion statement.
  • Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor turned one, and Meghan Markle read Duck! Rabbit! in honor of the occasion.
  • We discovered the “Don’t Eat It” Challenge, which tested dogs to see if somebody could place a treat in front of them, leave the room and return without their pets eating it. It soon became a badge of honor to share just how great Fido was at resisting temptation.
  • Parents got in on it too, often learning that training a toddler to listen is even harder than a chihuahua. (But we all kinda knew that, right?)
  • A little boy asked a FedEx employee if he could deliver his skateboard to Tony Hawk. When he shared the story, the internet amplified the message, resulting in a heartwarming reply from the pro skateboarder himself.
  • Black Lives Matter became a national rallying cry. And it was more than a hashtag; more than a day or a month. It was a commitment to be intentionally anti-racist in our thoughts, words and actions. It meant reckoning with the ugliest parts of ourselves, knowing that we’ll fail and fall short, but that we should be striving to learn and do better.


  • Drive-in theaters had a renaissance.
  • And inspired all kinds of drive-in events, like Car-baret and Car-a-oke.
  • The YouTube series Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man inspired us to have more open, productive talks about race.
  • NASA named its Washington, DC, headquarters after Mary W. Jackson, the first Black woman to work as an engineer for the organization.
  • Virginia, New York and New Jersey signed official orders recognizing Juneteeth, a holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States, as a paid day of leave for state employees. Many private companies followed suit.
  • Beyoncé surprised fans with her powerful new song "Black Parade" on Juneteenth.
  • A nutritionist’s hack for juicing a lemon with a chopstick exploded on TikTok, inspiring us to ditch our juicer once and for all.
  • A little girl in Honduras had a class assignment to make an outfit out of recyclable materials—and the end result was worthy of Project Runway.
  • We couldn’t look away from this mesmerizing new glimpse of the cosmos, which features “feasting black holes” and exploding stars. Experts hope it will provide clues as to how the universe is structured and is changing over time.
  • Queen Elizabeth got on Zoom. And gave us a rare glimpse into Windsor Castle.
  • A string quartet performed at an opera house to an audience full of…plants. Nearly 2,300 plants.
  • A five-year-old with progressive cerebellar atrophy took his first steps.
what happened in 2020 4


  • “What [Blank] Are You?” Instagram filters gave us a laugh break mid-day. And finally answered the pivotal question, what ‘90s teen heartthrob are you, really and truly arbitrarily?!
  • Hamilton the movie hit Disney+. Broadway on TV isn't the same, but it worked.
  • We learned that Red Kites—a type of eagle that was nearly wiped out in England 30 years ago—are thriving today, with nearly 2,000 breeding pairs living in the country.
  • Former wide receiver Philip Blanks raced to the aid of a family trapped in a burning apartment, catching their 3-year-old as he fell from the balcony.
  • Crayola launched a box of crayons representing 40 different skin tones.
  • Princess Beatrice had a surprise (micro) royal wedding.
  • Oh, and Taylor Swift surprised us all with Folklore.
  • A July report found that 41 states have reduced their carbon dioxide emissions.
  • A grieving pit bull found joy in befriending a kitten.
  • The Chicks dropped a new album—and cut “Dixie” from the band’s name.


  • Gordon Ramsay became one of our favorite (and least expected) TikTokers with “Ramsay Reacts,” where he offered his unfiltered take on dishes people make on the app.
  • Large blue butterflies had been declared extinct in Britain in 1979, but after a successful reintroduction, roughly 750 were found flying around Gloucestershire.
  • Ted Lasso got us to finally shell out $5 a month for Apple+.
  • A 13-year-old boy started a business selling dog treats so he could raise money to buy new shoes for kids in need.
  • Panera launched broccoli cheddar mac and cheese. People everywhere rejoiced at never again having to choose between soup and pasta.
  • Some of our favorite celebs, like Gabrielle Union and Keke Palmer, spoke out about hair discrimination.
  • A 12-year-old boy turned reclaimed wood from the eastern Iowa Derecho storm into baseball bats. He’s sold 113 to date, and $20 from each sale has been donated to the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation Disaster Relief Fund.
  • @greyandmama came into our lives.
  • It snowed chocolate—yes, chocolate—in Switzerland.
  • Finding Freedom, the royal tell-all we'd all been waiting for, finally dropped.
  • Talk about a baby boom: More than 170 elephants (including two sets of twins) were born in Amboseli National Park in Kenya.
what happened in 2020 5


  • Three moms, including Serena Williams, made it to the U.S. Open Quarterfinals for the first time in history.
  • The Great British Bake Off blessed us with a new season when we needed it most.
  • Schitt’s Creek won five Emmys.
  • Yoga Toes. Look them up.
  • Little Debbie released Oatmeal Creme Pie cereal (and it's as amazing as it sounds).
  • The Academy Awards rolled out their new inclusion requirements—a major win for people of color and underrepresented groups.
  • Yara Shahidi made history as the first Black Tinkerbell in Disney’s live-action movie, Peter Pan and Wendy.
  • The Drew Barrymore Show was born. Yes, it has a 19 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Yes, it’s been called “a master class in emotional whiplash.” And yes, it’s absurd…absurdly delightful.
  • Fleetwood Mac's 1970s hit "Dreams" was back on the Billboard charts thanks to a viral TikTok video of a skateboarder drinking cranberry juice.
  • More royal babies! Princess Eugenie told the world she's due in early 2021.


  • A baby was born from a 27-year-old embryo, marking a world record (held by the newborn’s older sister, actually).
  • Greece opened an underwater museum, letting divers explore a 2,400-year-old shipwreck.
  • Rowing Blazers brought back Princess Diana’s iconic black sheep sweater.
  • Ina Garten graced us with her 12th cookbook, Modern Comfort Food.
  • A Texas teen won $25,000 in 3M’s Young Scientist competition after developing a potential treatment for COVID-19.
  • The Home Edit helped us finally declutter our lives, one transfer station (and Netflix episode) at a time.
  • A pharmacist invented “Monster Spray” to help a little boy overcome his fear of the dark.
  • Lauren Conrad released a clean beauty line, including an ultra-flattering range of lipsticks in completely recyclable tubes.
  • A record number of endangered sea turtles—more than 2,250!—hatched on a beach in northern Mexico. Typically, about 500 are hatched there a year, leading experts to believe the increased population is the result of us all staying at home during the pandemic.
  • They found love amid lockdown: An Italian couple who met on their balconies during quarantine got engaged. And, in a plot twist befitting a Nicholas Sparks novel, it turns out they live in the same city where Romeo and Juliet takes place.
  • Make-a-Wish granted its 500,000th wish, helping 16-year-old Karina create a virtual camp that’d give other kids “a day to forget they’re sick.”
  • A 102-year-old woman donned PPE to vote early, encouraging people to do whatever it takes to cast their ballots—and do so safely.
  • The Queen’s Gambit gave us a whole new appreciation for chess (and Anya Taylor-Joy). Taylor-Joy’s portrayal of a drug-addicted orphan turned world-renowned chess master was so gripping that you barely noticed you were watching seven hours of pawn-shuffling.
  • Chrissy Teigen normalized talking about miscarriage, after openly discussing the pain of losing her son, Jack.
  • Parents went all in to save Halloween, building socially-distant candy slides and candy clotheslines.
what happened in 2020 6


  • Meghan Markle convinced us to trade in that perfunctory “how are you?” with a more powerful three-word question: “Are you OK?”
  • The U.S. had the highest voter turnout in 120 years!
  • For the first time ever, we could say “Madam Vice President” without referring to a TV show character. (We’re not crying…you’re crying!)
  • A 12-year-old became one of the youngest composers for the New York Philharmonic.
  • ASMR candy-making videos went viral on TikTok (talk about soothing).
  • La Morada, a restaurant in South Bronx, reimagined itself as a soup kitchen, providing 650 meals a day to people in need.
  • Similarly, a DC restaurant received nearly $300,000 in donations so it could keep providing meals to the homeless.
  • The Saved by the Bell reboot hit Peacock and our inner quarantweens were shook.
  • Further indulging our need for nostalgia, Dawson’s Creek hit Netflix.
  • Chris Nikic became the first athlete with Down Syndrome to complete an Ironman triathalon, earning a Guinness World Record in the process.
  • A University of Iowa professor spent Thanksgiving cooking and distributing meals to students who were unable to see their families this year.
  • We couldn’t stop watching videos of a little girl who’s been dancing with her mailman every day of the pandemic.
  • Someone told us Chris Pine’s full name is “Christmas Pinecone,” and oh, how we wish it were true.
  • Chef and Ugly Delicious star David Chang became the first celebrity to win $1 million on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. He donated the prize to the Southern Smoke Foundation, which has been aiding restaurant workers throughout the pandemic.
  • An Air Force veteran turned nine acres of land in North Carolina into a “healing farm” to help other veterans feel less isolated and alone as they readjust to civilian life.


  • One man paid the bill of the car behind him in a Minnesota Dairy Queen drive-thru—and sparked a pay-it-forward train that lasted for 900-plus cars, spanning two full days.
  • A pygmy possum proved the two-ounce marsupials are tougher than they look. Experts feared the entire population was wiped out on Kangaroo Island after this year’s bushfires, until one little guy emerged earlier this month.
  • Taylor Swift struck again, launching her second surprise album of the year, Evermore, on her birthday no less.
  • At 8 years old, Blue Ivy Carter received a Grammy nomination for “Brown Skin Girl.”
  • And 16-year-old Marsai Martin broke the Guinness World record for being the youngest executive producer of a movie. (We applaud them, rather than wonder what we’re doing with our lives. But also, what are we doing with our lives?)
  • A Spanish startup created a “piano” made out of plants—that, yes, actually plays music.
  • We spent more time than we’d like to admit trying to learn Shakira’s “Girl Like Me” dance moves (and we’re still working on that moonwalk).
  • A 4-year-old girl started a fairy garden outside, encouraging anyone who walked by to contribute to it. The little girl wound up finding a new pen pal in a “fairy” named Sapphire.
  • A Pittsburgh hospital wrapped newborns in knit blankets that look like presents, reminding us that parenthood is a gift…even when you’re only sleeping 2.3 hours a day.
  • Pantone launched two Colors of the Year, designed to match our national mood: Ultimate Gray for uncertainty, and Illuminating yellow to remind us of hope.
  • In what may be the most Florida Man headline of 2020, a 74-year-old Floridian wrestled an alligator to save his puppy’s life. All without losing his cigar.
  • In less meme-able (but equally incredible) Florida news, a Gulf Breeze man paid 114 families’ overdue utility bills so their water, gas and sewage wouldn’t be disconnected.
  • Prom the musical hit Netflix, and it was far superior to our actual prom.
  • Celebrity chef Guy Fieri raised $21.5 million for restaurant workers.
  • On Dec. 21, Jupiter and Saturn appeared closer together than they’d been in roughly 800 years, forming what’s called the “Christmas Star.”
  • The first doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine were administered in the U.S.

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