Joy Breaks: Top 10 Stories of Inspiration From 2020

Yes, 2020 was a bummer. But there were moments of joy and inspiration.

By Nancy Flory Published on December 28, 2020

When we turn on our televisions or smart phones we are bombarded with news that brings us down. And 2020 sure was a downer. But good, heartwarming stories still managed to poke through. Here are the top 10 from 2020 that we hope will bless you. 

#1 — A Young Cancer Survivor Gets a Standing Ovation at School After His Final Chemo Treatment

When a six-year-old boy in Newbury, Ohio, received his final chemotherapy treatment, he returned to school to a standing ovation from students, faculty and staff.

John Oliver Zippay, known as J.O., was diagnosed in 2016 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He spent 18 days in the hospital and then had three years of chemotherapy treatment. His last treatment was two days after Christmas. His parents told Fox 8 Cleveland that he was unable to do any sort of physical activity for those three years, so they are looking forward to seeing him play like any other child.

“You want that for your child, to grow up and get dirty and play outside and have fun and we kept him in a bubble so we’re excited,” said his mom, Megan Zippay. “Looking forward to the future and having our little boy back.”

#2 — Kidney Donor Explains, ‘I Listened to God’

The principal of an Arlington, Texas, school said she’d ‘listened to God’ when she donated a kidney to a parent of three of her students.

Sarah Schecter, PhD, is the head of Lower School at The Oakridge School. Schecter found out in 2018 that Nate Jones — father of her students Aaron, Sydney and William — needed a new kidney. “It sounded really bleak,” Schecter told WFAA in Dallas.

She began to feel like God wanted her to donate her kidney to Jones, even though she didn’t really know him well. “I know this sounds weird, because I’m not the type of person who hears the voice of God, but I just felt called to give him my kidney. I did not want to. It was not on my list of things to do. So, I just kept thinking that someone else would give him a kidney and that it would work out. … But it kept being on my heart, that I was the person to do it.”

During the 2018 Christmas break, Schecter talked with her family about what was on her heart. She thought they might try to talk her out of it. But they didn’t. They encouraged her to do it.

The Perfect Match

So, in March of last year, Schecter told Jones’s wife, Amenze, that she would take the test to see if she was a match. It turned out that she was. Schecter wasn’t surprised. “In a way, why wouldn’t I be? Since God put it on my heart, why would it not be the perfect match then?”

A few days before the surgery, members of Schecter’s church gathered to pray for her. When she went into surgery, she had Psalm 118:24 on her mind: “This is the day that the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” The surgery was a success for both Jones and Schecter.

Jones said he doesn’t know how to repay Schecter. Schecter told him, “There’s something bold for you to do. God will give it to you. You’ve got a good kidney now. Just go forward and do what you need to do.”

Some people would call Schecter an amazing person for donating her kidney to a man in need. “Truth is, I’m a normal person. I listened to God one time and followed through. … I wish I would have listened to God more. Who knows what exciting adventures I would have taken if I had listened more?”



#3 — Joy Break: Man Sings Through a Nursing Home Window to His Wife Who Has Alzheimer’s

80-year-old John Kline has spent time each day with his wife, Ann, who has Alzheimer’s, at John Knox Manor Nursing home in Montgomery, Alabama. When the statewide order limiting visitation at nursing homes went into effect, Kline didn’t stop visiting her. He just went outside her window. And his serenading her with “Amazing Grace” went viral.

He wanted to sing to her so she’d remember him. “I’ve always said how much I love her, ’til death do us part,” Kline told the Montgomery Advertiser. “But I’m trying to make the statement that no matter what happens, there’s no reason to give up on love. If she gets where she doesn’t know me, I will still go see her, because I will still know her.”

Kline spends about 15 minutes each day serenading her from her window, according to Fox News. He sings church hymns and songs from the 1950s to help her remember him and their life together.

In a recent post on Facebook, Kline said that their visits weren’t a “pain,” but “through a pane.”

“No visitors to John Knox Manor Nursing Home,” he wrote. “Not my best singing — so you probably won’t want to listen. I cut it off at 45 seconds. I love my Sweet Ann and look forward to spending eternity with her. God bless you for even looking — and if you listened, well that was because you wanted to hear Ann.”

The video has received 77,000 views and close to 2,000 shares on Facebook since Kline posted it.



#4 — Joy Break: Super Trooper

Six-year-old Miela Kroenke’s dance competition was recently canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak. So her dad, Nebraska State Trooper Lt. Tyler Kroenke, got his dancing shoes on. And a cape. The video of the pair dancing to “Hero” went viral.

Miela said she had to work with her dad to get the dance right. “He always got it wrong,” she told Fox & Friends. “He started getting better and then it looked good.”

When asked about his fellow troopers’ reaction to the video, Tyler Kroenke said he didn’t expect so many people to see it. “It is what it is and I’m glad they could have a laugh at my expense.”


#5 — Joy Break: The Blessing Goes Viral

A video cover of the song The Blessing filmed in the UK has gone viral. The video has had nearly 2.5 million views.

According to Premier Christian News, more than 65 churches and Christian groups took part making the video. Singers harmonized on the video, performing out of their homes during the coronavirus outbreak.

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Worship leader Tim Hughes from Gas Street Church in Birmingham, UK, organized the video. He told Premier that he saw The Blessing performed by singers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. People began to call on him to do the same thing with the song in the UK. “Basically, we thought, let’s call lots of friends, lots of different networks and people and see if everyone can send in someone from their church singing this song and then we edited it all together. It was amazing — these are musicians who aren’t the most organized! We spoke to them on the Friday and Saturday and everybody had to be in by the Tuesday and everyone got behind it — everybody said yes and it’s been a beautiful thing seeing it all come together.”

Kari Jobe, along with Cody Carnes and a few other musicians, wrote the song, which is based on Numbers 6:22-27.

“I’m so moved by this song and how quickly it came about,” Jobe said about the power of The Blessing. “Because this song is based on scripture, the message is timeless, and we wanted to release it as quick as we could knowing the effect it could have on people’s hearts and spirits immediately, as it did ours. Also, God knew it would be something we could hold onto during a season of our lives that’s full of uncertainties and unknowns. Do not be afraid, God is with you.”



#6 — 7-Year-Old Boy Prays With Tulsa Police Officers

Trey Elliott placed his hand on the Tulsa Police Chief’s shoulder. “Please protect this police officer, and his family, and his entire city, amen.” Trey may just be 7 years old, but he’s already making a Kingdom impact. He wants to show his love and support to the police officers amid the protests and riots, Fox News reported. His mom, Brittany Elliott, told The Stream that Trey never wanted to pray out loud before this experience.

“It’s been quite eye-opening to say the least just to see him be bold in his faith and step out and not be afraid to go up to them and ask them if he could pray for them,” said Brittany. “It’s really amazing to watch that with him.”

When she explained the protests and riots to him, Trey thought the officers could use some prayers. “I think I want to pray for the police officers, ’cause it seems like they need some prayers,” he told his mom. “They’re in some really hard times.” The first prayer was at a coffee shop where Trey saw some detectives.

The police officers’ response has been overwhelmingly positive. “You know, they’re just so sweet,” said Brittany. “We met some really awesome officers that are just so thankful to have … this little boy that wants to pray for them.”

Brittany tells parents to talk to their kids about what’s going on in the world today. “Don’t try to hide it from them. Explain it to them on their level. You’ll definitely appreciate learning from your kids through this.”

Brittany and her husband have been teaching Trey about prayer and faith since he was a baby. “I’m glad that he’s learning to pray out loud. … If your kids want to do something, help them. If they have a goal, it might sound crazy, but don’t turn them down. Definitely help your kids along in it.”

Trey hopes to be able to pray with every officer in the Tulsa Police Department. As of Tuesday, he’s prayed with 90 officers out of the 800 police officers in Tulsa.



#7 — Joy Break: Officer Shares Meal With Homeless Man

A kind gesture by a Columbia County, Florida, Sheriff’s deputy was captured on film and has gone viral.

Brownie Lyons posted on July 2 that she witnessed Sheriff’s deputy and shift supervisor Corporal Shane Foote sharing a meal with a homeless man.

“My husband and I were at a drive thru near the place the officer stopped,” Lyons told WCJB. “He pulled over and opened his back door and was getting something out of the back seat. It turned out to be the chair he’s sitting in. We were wondering if he was going to talk to the guy about being on the street but when we pulled out, he had set up the food and was sitting down with him eating.”

She added, “I actually took this picture while my husband was driving by. I do not know the officer, and personally it doesn’t matter if he’s in law enforcement or not. I wanted to show that there are people who do good things and not always for recognition.”

A Kind Gesture Goes a Long Way 

She posted the picture on Facebook as a “feel good” moment. “So many times officers, paramedics, EMTs, and nurses like myself do a lot of good things according to our hearts to serve not for anything else. It takes very little effort to show kindness. I try very hard every day no matter how I’m treated. A kind word or gesture goes a long way.”

Lyons said that her son realized he went to school with Foote. He also posted the image and tagged the officer. Lyons’ son told her, “That’s Shane all day everyday!”

The Columbia County Sheriff Office told WCJB that Foote’s example serves as a great reminder that we are all in this together.

The post has been shared nearly 4,500 times.


#8 — Joy Break: ‘God … Was With Us’: Church Video Shows the Moment of the Beirut Blast

The explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, earlier this year was captured on film as a Catholic church celebrated Mass.

Father Marwan Mouawad, a priest at St. Maron Baouchrieh Church, said initially they thought it was an earthquake. “As usual we started the Mass and at the beginning of it we felt as if an earthquake was happening, the earth was moving, shaking, so first we looked at the roof to see if it was going to collapse on us,” he told the Associated Press.

The video shows Father Rabih Thoumy in the middle of Mass just before the blast sent him running as chunks of the ceiling fall down around him.

Fr. Mouawad said God was with them. “We felt the grace of God who was with us because when you look at the damage you can think that no one can come out from this alive because there were big damages with lots of glass and iron pieces that exploded,” he said. “It’s truly a miracle. It’s a miracle.”

The church resumed services the following Sunday. One parishioner said their faith gave them courage to come back.

“Of course what we are going through is a catastrophe, we are praying for all the dead people, for all the injured, for all the children,” said parishioner Marlene Rauphael. “We hope to survive, but here in Lebanon we already are survivors.”


#9 — Joy Break: God ‘Has Been Good to Me’: WWII Vet Celebrates 100th Birthday With Drive-by Party

Almost 50 cars, trucks and motorcycles celebrated Bill Macomber’s 100th birthday with a drive-by party. The WWII veteran turned 100 on August 6, but the family was unable to organize a drive-by party at that time.

His daughter, Cherry Smithson, helped organize the party, telling CBN News they weren’t worried about the weather. “We stopped looking at the weather forecast. We have been looking so forward to this.”

Kim Turner Kendricks, Bill’s grandaughter, posted birthday wishes on Facebook. “Happy 100th Birthday to my AMAZING Granddad, Bill Macomber!!!!!! Thank you for your continuous love and support for us all!!! You truly are a blessing to so many!!! You have shown us so many wonderful examples of how we should love and care for others. Love you!!!”

Originally from Georgia, Bill — who served in the Navy during the 1940s — settled in Virginia after the war. He had been assigned to the USS New Mexico. He married his wife, Helen, 76 years ago. She will turn 99 years old in November.

His faith has endured throughout the years. He said that Psalm 121 has given him hope.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains —
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip —
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you —
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm — he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

“He’s been good to me,” said Bill, “to let me live this long. He must have something He wants me to do.”

Thank you, Bill, for your service. And happy birthday!



#10 — Joy Break: BYU Prays With Boise State Midfield After the Game

“We started with prayer, we’re going to end with prayer, and we’re going to give the glory to God,” Boise State team Chaplain Mark Thornton told Deseret News. It was after Friday’s game between nationally ranked BYU and Boise State. The Boise State Broncos pray before and after each game, reported the Deseret News. When he can, Thornton reaches out to opposing teams’ chaplains to invite them to pray midfield following the games.

Prayer on the Gridiron

Thornton found the head coach for BYU. He told Coach Kalani Sitake that the Boise players were getting ready to pray. “Can we join you guys?” asked Sitake. Of course, Thornton said yes. Nearly the entire BYU team prayed with Boise State’s players. “I don’t know if an entire whole team has joined us before in the years that I’ve been here,” said Boise State co-captain Avery Williams. “That means a lot.”

Thornton said he thanked God for the opportunity to play the game. “We prayed for the guys who got hurt on both sides of the field, just for a quick recovery for them. We blessed BYU and just prayed that they would continue to have a great season, and that we would continue to have a great season as well.”

‘We’re Not Going to Turn That Down’

Sitake told Deseret News that he wouldn’t have missed the prayer time. “We’re not going to turn that down, when a team invites our team to kneel down and praise God for the opportunity we had to play. What a great invite from them. I was really impressed with them the entire game, just a great program with wonderful sportsmanship and you know, hopefully we can be able to have that type of impact on other programs as well when we play them.”

“The fact that it’s such a big rivalry and we can be really physical with each other, compete really hard with each other and then drop our pride, drop our egos, drop what just happened for two to three hours and give thanks to God, that says something about both schools,” said Williams. 

“Faith really unifies us,” Williams added. “We have this relationship with God, and we realize there’s something much bigger than ourselves that we all are all in for.”



Nancy Flory is an associate editor at The Stream. You can follow her @NancyFlory3, and follow The Stream @Streamdotorg.

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