Good News Friday: A debt collector makes people happy. A beautifully-written tale about a Waffle House’s last day. And a special Division III runner brings joy

Hope everyone had a good Halloween. We got a good bit of trick-or-treating action at our new apartment, although I have to say I didn’t see a lot of interesting or unique costumes this year. One kid was dressed as a Tootsie Roll, which I enjoyed.

If you haven’t visited it yet, the fairly new site upworthy.com is where some of my best material for Good News Friday is coming from these days; they post inspirational stories, happy videos, and basically the best stuff on the Web that tugs at your emotions.

This one is typical of their stellar efforts, though I first saw it on the awesome “CBS Sunday Morning” TV show. It’s about a debt collector named Bill Bartmann who started a very different kind of business, a woman in major financial trouble, and what can happen when compassion gets shown.

Beautiful.

**Next up, a fabulous story from the terrific sportswriter Chuck Culpepper, one of those stories you normally never hear about. A senior at small Elms College named John Southworth has Down’s Syndrome, and last week he ran the longest race of his life at a Division III cross-country meet, an 8K.

The NCAA allowed a volunteer coach to run alongside Southworth (see? The NCAA has a heart sometimes!), and the way his teammates embrace and adore Southworth, well, it’s just very sweet.

Said John’s father: “It all goes back to the emotions you have when you have a child born with Down’s Syndrome. First, it dashes all your normal hopes and dreams for the kid. You think, ‘I guess I won’t have the fun of seeing him play little-league sports and high school sports.’ So it’s one of life’s ironic surprises that he was on a high school team and now is here on a college team.”

Added freshman teammate Joey Sirois: “He’s probably the only kid I’ve ever seen finish a race with a big smile on his face.”

It’s a terrific story told well by Culpepper. To the people in this story, this was the biggest story of the year.

wafflehouse.blog

**Finally today, another story I never would’ve seen if not for Twitter. SI’s Richard Deitsch pointed me and his followers to this fantastic story written by an Indiana University journalism student named Jessica Contrera, and it’s about the final day of life for a Waffle House restaurant in Bloomington.

Just about every newspaper reporter has written one of these stories in their life; I did one in college at U. of Delaware, when Scott’s Ice Cream on Main Street decided to close. They’re fun and a little sad and really challenging, because you want to capture everything you can all at once.

Contrera does an amazing job of painting the scene and giving us vivid detail. Seriously, this is one of the best stories I’ve read this year. Take a few minutes and dive into the lives of these customers, and of 46 years of memories inside one little restaurant.

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