At the end of each year, it’s easy to look back and see all the challenges we’ve faced. Wars, economic hardship, health crises, natural disasters and crime might represent the lion’s share of the news alerts that flashed across our devices each day. However, every day, there are people in the world making incredible things happen, and their stories are sure to bring you a smile.
As 2022 winds down, let’s shine a light on some of the positive news that made headlines but you may have missed, or even forgotten. After all, it’s been a long 12 months. Here are 22 stories from 2022 that made us smile or just gave us a reason to celebrate.
Lottery Player Becomes Overnight Billionaire
In November, one extremely lucky person from Southern California became a billionaire thanks to hitting the largest Powerball jackpot in history at $2.04 billion. With the lottery seeing no winners since Aug. 3, the grand prize reached its highest amount since it had hit $1.58 billion in 2016. That previous prize was split by three winners.
U.S. Currency to Feature Its First Asian-American Figure
The U.S. Mint announced in late October that Hollywood legend Anna May Wong would be part of the American Women’s Quarters Series. Wong will be the fifth woman in this series and the first Asian American to be featured on American money.
American Travel Rebounds After Early-Pandemic Lows
After nearly two years of sticking close to home due to concerns over COVID-19, Americans started packing up and hitting the roads and skies in earnest this year. Travel in the U.S. has been steadily climbing as people look to return to their pre-pandemic travel routines. Airlines and tourist destinations are working to meet demand that has grown for people to get away from it all or finally spend time with long-distance family and friends in person.
France Dedicates Memorial to Its Hero Dogs
In recognition of their service to the French people and military, the French Army’s canine infantry was celebrated in October with a memorial dedication and tribute. More than 500 dogs, many wearing their military honors, were in attendance (along with their service people) for the statue’s dedication.
Finland and Sweden on Verge of Joining NATO
After decades of neutrality policies, both Finland and Sweden requested to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in May. The unprecedented move to align with NATO came in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Membership requires approval from all 30 member nations. In August, the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to welcome the two Nordic countries to the alliance. The new members could be granted membership early in 2023.
Family Connections Found Among Neanderthals
Family ties are strong, and researchers are looking at how they even played a role in the lives of our most distant ancestors. Studies in 2022 on Neanderthal remains found in Serbia show evidence that our distant relatives may have lived in familial communities similar to ours. There’s comfort in knowing that, no matter how much life has changed since then, family is still important.
WNBA Star Brittney Griner Goes Home
After nearly a year in Russian custody, Brittney Griner — a star basketball champion at the NCAA, WNBA and Olympic levels — was released in a prisoner exchange on Dec. 8 in what must have felt like a Christmas miracle to her family, friends and fans. The following day, she arrived in her home state of Texas, where she was given immediate medical care.
Griner, 32, was arrested in February at a Russian airport after she was accused of having cannabis oil inside vape cartridges. A Russian court sentenced her to nine years in prison in August and an appeal was rejected in October, making her outlook for release look grim.
Aaron Judge Breaks Legendary MLB Record
New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge brought renewed mainstream attention to Major League Baseball in 2022 when he stalked and finally broke a record of legendary stature. On Oct. 4, Judge hit his 62nd home run of the season, breaking the American League single-season record for home runs that had stood since Yankee Roger Maris hit 61 in 1961, surpassing Babe Ruth at the time.
On Dec. 7, Judge was rewarded with a $360-million contract to keep him in the Bronx for nine more years.
U.S. Men’s Soccer Makes Run at World Cup
American soccer fans had plenty to cheer about at the FIFA World Cup. For a while, the U.S. Men’s National Team made quite a run in the most prestigious international tournament — after not even getting a bid to play in 2018. The 2022 squad made it to the round of 16, where they faced a formidable Netherlands squad. It was the farthest the American men had made it in the World Cup since 2002, when they reached the quarterfinals.
U.S. Women’s Soccer Reaches Pay Equity Agreement
In February, the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team reached a $24 million settlement in their six-year legal battle with the sport’s governing body over pay equity with the men’s national team. In addition to the settlement payout, the U.S. Soccer Federation pledged to pay the women and men equally in future contracts. Though most of the settlement will go to claimants to cover the wage gap, $2 million was earmarked for a charitable fund designed to support girls’ and women’s soccer.
MLB Manager Wins Long-Awaited Ring
Three-time manager of the year Dusty Baker waited an awful long time to be called a World Series winner. After a quarter of a century as manager for a number of teams who almost earned him the elusive world championship, Baker, 73, finally hoisted the trophy when his Houston Astros knocked off the Philadelphia Phillies in six games.
Musicians Return to Live Performances in Big Ways
Live performances made a strong comeback in 2022 as major artists launched new concert tours. One legendary performer, Elton John, used 2022 to continue his lengthy final tour, Farewell Yellow Brick Road.
Taylor Swift Sets Billboard Record
Taylor Swift once again dominated music headlines late in 2022. She released her latest album, “Midnights,” on Oct. 21 and quickly shattered a Billboard Hot 100 record when songs from the record claimed the entire Top 10 of the chart in a single week.
Following that triumph, though, presale tickets for Swift’s 2023 Eras concert tour went on sale on Nov. 15, leading to unprecedented demand and stress on Ticketmaster systems — and disappointment for many fans who couldn’t get tickets.
Dolly Parton Joins Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Even though the country music legend first declined the invitation, saying she felt she wasn’t worthy, Dolly Parton lit up the stage in Los Angeles as part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 2022 class. An overwhelming wave of support from the organization and fans convinced the “Jolene” singer to accept the award and participate in the Nov. 5 event where she even sang alongside fellow inductees Judas Priest for a collaboration nobody predicted.
Beyoncé and Jay-Z Reach Grammy Milestones
Arguably music’s most influential couple, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, each had reasons to celebrate when this year’s Grammy nominations came out in November. First, each musician earned multiple nominations for their 2022 releases, with Beyonce’s nine nods tying a single-year record — set by Jay-Z. But, that pales to the massive Grammy record milestone hit by each artist for total nominations in their careers. They will compete against each other in the prestigious category of song of the year, as Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul” goes against DJ Khaled’s “God Did,” which features her spouse.
Movies Returned—And So Did Favorite Franchises
From “Wakanda Forever” to “Top Gun: Maverick,” movie sequels made big waves on the silver screen in 2022. Tom Cruise’s return to his role as the rules-defying aviator took the top spot in the domestic box office in 2022, grossing $718 million, followed by the “Black Panther” sequel, earning $418 gross domestically. “Jurassic Park: Dominion” took the fourth spot, and the new Minions movie, “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” came in fifth for the year. Meanwhile, stories from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including movies featuring Doctor Strange and Thor, snapped up spots in the top 10 as well.
TECHNOLOGY AND SCIENCE
NASA’s Webb Telescope Takes Us Deep Into Space
NASA shared its first images from the James Webb Space Telescope in July, and it was clear from the first that the futuristic $10 billion telescope would show the world much more than galaxies far, far away. Since it began transmitting images back to Earth, the telescope has shown us dying stars, dancing galaxies and images from deeper in space than we’ve ever seen before.
Texas Hospital Makes Strides in Prosthetics
Amputee patients were given more reasons to be hopeful this year, thanks to the work of surgeons at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston. The hospital’s highly trained orthopedic surgeons are providing a new procedure that could eliminate the need for traditional prosthetic limbs by implanting titanium into leg bones and turning it into a working joint.
Detroit Auto Show Returns, and Electric Cars Go Mainstream
After a three-year break, the Detroit Auto Show returned and saw electric cars take center stage. What once was considered a fad or a luxury item is now becoming a mainstream trend in auto sales, and manufacturers are also pledging to roll out more electric vehicles in the coming years.
Cities Embrace Zoom, Lure Workers To Relocate
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many workers learned the ins and outs of using Zoom to telecommute. Meetings were moved online and job roles changed drastically as we adapted to living in quarantine. However, a number of cities and towns have branded themselves “Zoom Towns” to entice people with a supportive work-at-home incentive. It means more freedom for American workers, in regards to where they can live and how much commuting they need to do, which is cause for many to celebrate.
Wordle Tops Search Traffic
You might think that heavier topics dominated online search traffic in 2022, but it was actually something much more fun that topped the podium. Wordle, the viral word game that challenges everyone to find the same word in six guesses or less, was the most searched topic in 2022, according to Google.
The game edged searches about the late Queen Elizabeth for the year-end honor. However, for some Wordle players, its popularity might be colored by another story from 2022: A report found that since the New York Times acquired the game, there has been an increase in searches for the daily word that indicates an increase in Wordle cheating.
New Drug Shows Promise In Slowing Alzheimer’s Disease
A clinical trial of the new drug lecanemab gave hope to friends and family members of people living with Alzheimer’s. In the study, participants who received the drug had moderately less cognitive decline than those who took the placebo. The drug targets amyloid plaques, which researchers believe play a role in the disease. Experts in Alzheimer’s say that with such a complicated disease, having one more drug available will be a welcome addition for doctors as they treat patients.
Meanwhile, people who work with adults with dementia are exploring new treatments as well, and some are finding that music can be a powerful form of therapy for memory loss.
By Marie Rossiter, for Newsy.
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