Do you sometimes feel like 2018 has been nothing but bad news for our country? Take a step back from the screamers on cable news. 2018 was filled with countless moments of heroic community, too – they just weren’t always the top national news stories.

So we tried an experiment: a simple Google News search for the phrase “Christmas miracle” over the past month. It returned an incredible number of local news stories about Americans coming together to serve their neighbors. Here are a few of our favorites:

1. A Chicago church facing an auction on their building is saved by a last-minute anonymous donation of $2 million dollars.

Thursday night, the church held what they thought would be its final service, until church officials say a donation was made to purchase the property from the bank on behalf of the church. Parish Council President Stanley Andreakis said the donation will allow the church to re-file for bankruptcy and prevent the building from being torn down by an investment bank firm.

“We feel like kids. You wake up at Christmas and you have a present,” Andreakis said. “You are like, I get to keep my church.”

“Last night, we were all here praying, we were praying for a Christmas miracle, and it came through,” said Andreakis. “We had some individuals approach us and they were able to come up with a proposal that our lawyer put together and our lawyer, at the last minute, at the 11th hour, put together a bankruptcy plan so we can restructure because of these guardian angels. Call it a Christmas miracle.”

The non-profit group who donated the money has not yet been identified, but church leaders said at least one donor is a member of the congregation.

Read the full story here.

2. A secret Santa in Vermont paid off all of the items at the Walmart layaway counter.

Customer Julie Gates told WCAX-TV that she encountered the man telling a customer he would pick up the tab for his items. He asked her if she was paying for an item on layaway. He said, “Why don’t you run and get what you want now and come back here.”

She was skeptical, but the layaway option is why she came to Walmart. She returned to the line with items and the stranger was still there. He paid for everything.

“This can’t be,” Gates said. “Who can afford to just pay for everyone’s layaway? And he said, ‘Santa Claus can.’ ”

Walmart wouldn’t say how much the man paid or how many people went home with free gifts.

And Vermont wasn’t the only state with such a secret Santa – different anonymous donors paid off the layaway counter at Walmarts in North Carolina, New Jersey, and Nevada.

3. A Kansas woman donated her kidney to a man she’d never met, giving him a second chance at life.

A Shawnee city councilwoman says she’s dedicated to serving others. So dedicated, in fact, that she’s donating a kidney to a Wichita man.

It started with a Facebook post. Dan Harmon’s wife shared information about Dan being on the kidney transplant wait list. In her post, she says, “My amazing husband needs a kidney. I’m not asking for your organ, though that would be awesome if you do have two of them.”

Doctors say odds for strangers being the perfect match for a kidney are about 1 in 32,000. Harmon says the help from Shawnee’s Stephanie Meyer is a Christmas miracle.

Watch their full story here.

Merry Christmas from all of us at America 101!

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