Good News Friday: One town in Ohio sees a big drop in opioid overdose deaths. The little girl who just wanted to hug strangers. And a husband’s beautiful story on living, and caring for a sick spouse

Hey all, always like to provide updates that drastically change how I feel about something I wrote here. So you may remember I wrote recently about this burger place in Portland that a critic named the “best burger in America”, only to see the restaurant have to close down less than a year later.

Well, it turns out there’s more to the story, and Oregon-based Willamette Week has the greater context for why Stanich’s restaurant closed. Check it out.

Happy Friday, y’all! As I contemplate how it could be only Nov. 29 and I’m already sick of Christmas music in stores, I bring you stories of good cheer without any Santas or elves yet.

First up today, what I think is a hugely important development in the destruction of America’s cities thanks to the opioid crisis. There has been so little good news about it over the past decade that when there actually IS some positivity in this fight, it seems important to highlight it.

So I read with interest last week this New York Times story on Dayton, Ohio and how it has seen a significant reduction in overdose deaths from opioids.

As Abby Goodnough reports, there are a lot of causes for the reduction, including expanded Medicaid coverage in the state which means more $$$ for treatment; the fact that Narcan and Naloxone, drugs that help stop deaths after overdoses, are more available, and maybe the most important factor, there’s more help, again thanks to more money, for addicts after treatment has ended.

Now of course there’s more to do, and drug addiction in Ohio hasn’t disappeared. But finally, a combination of factors seems to have started to turn the tide.

Really excellent story here.

 

**Next up today, just a small slice of pure child joy, from an unnamed kid who went viral this week thanks to this Tweet. The little toddler just wanted to be friendly to everyone in her neighborhood supermarket, so she went around waving and hugging (Update: Turns out the kid’s name is Joelle Hicks, she was filmed by her Mom, Caitlin, and it was shot in 2016. But hey, it’s new to me.)

Just look at the pure delight on the face of the last woman the little girl hugs. Sometimes, a hug really is exactly what someone needs.

**Finally today, there are certain stories I come across that I expect to be great, either because of the publication they’re in, or because I’m familiar with the writer and I know he or she writes sensational stories.

But every once in a while a story totally exceeds my expectations, and that’s the happiest I get as a reader. Buried at the bottom of Jon Wertheim’s recent weekly SI.com tennis mailbag (yes I’m a tennis nerd but you knew that already) was a recommendation for this piece, by a writer named Alex Belth, from Men’s Health magazine.

In it, Belth writes movingly and intelligently about his life with Emily, who has severe Crohn’s Disease and has had multiple surgeries to make her symptoms lesson, with little success.

There’s nothing flashy or hugely dramatic in the story, it’s just a real-life slice of life caring for someone who can seem totally healthy one minute, but barely able to get out of bed the next. Here’s a little piece of the story:

Em can’t have children. She’s unable to conceive, and beyond that, doesn’t have the stamina to be a parent—which rules out adoption. It was a potential deal-breaker, and we dated five years before we got married, schlepping to couples therapy looking for answers. In time, she’ll feel better and change her mind, I thought, when actually it was me who had to accept that kids were not in our future.

You wish for love, but when it arrives, you never know how it will look. Kids or not, I love Em because I can be myself with her. She’s devoted, unwavering in her affection, forever cheerleading. I find her Post-its throughout the apartment—in the fridge or the medicine cabinet: “Morning handsome! I love my life with you!” We look at each other with curiosity and amusement because we have such different interests—she’s into neuroscience, sharks’ teeth, and photosynthesis; I’m into cooking, Buster Keaton, and the Yankees. (I used to think that kind of stuff—having the same taste—mattered. It doesn’t.) 
Above all, I was attracted to her fighting spirit. There is something reassuring about being with someone who is not going to freak out in a crisis, and Em is unafraid when things get tough, which they always do. She doesn’t like being sick, of course, but understands the nature of living with sickness. Like fame or good looks, you’d best not make too much of these things. You learn how to deal.

Really beautiful stuff; I highly, highly recommend reading the whole thing. The most powerful thing in the world? The love between two people.

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