The High Five (Dec. 18)

The countdown to Christmas is drawing to a close. Here are five good things that happened this week to help put you in the Christmas spirit.

Actor Edward Norton Was So Moved By Photos of Syrian Refugees That He Raised More Than $450k to Help Them

A recent post from photo blog Humans of New York actually changed the lives of its subjects. The series depicted a family of refugees from Syria preparing to be resettled in America after their home was destroyed in a missile attack during the country’s civil war. After going viral on Facebook—even drawing comments from President Obama—the images caught the attention of actor Edward Norton.

He was so moved by the photos that he launched a CrowdRise campaign to bring in money to support the family. So far, it’s brought in more than $450,000. On the campaign page, Norton wrote,

If we don’t welcome people like this into our communities and empower his dream of making an impact with his life, then we’re not the country we tell ourselves we are. Let’s reject the ‘anti-human’ voices that tell us to fear refugees and show this man and his family what Americans are really made of. Let’s show that a country built by the energy and dreams of immigrants still believes in brave people who come here with hope for better life.

A Girl Who Lost Her Family in a Fire Is Getting Thousands of Christmas Cards

Three years ago, Sa’fyre Terry lost her father and three siblings in a fire. The flames also took her right hand and left foot and burned more than 75 percent of her body.

The now-8-year-old girl told her aunt, Liz Dolder, that all she wanted for Christmas was a bunch of Christmas cards. Not wanting to get her hopes up, her aunt told her she may receive a few. But, through the power of social media, little Sa’fyre received thousands of cards and packages in the mail from people touched by her story. In fact, in just one day Sa’fyre received about 195,000 cards and more than 3,000 packages. It took two two-ton mail trucks and a rented cargo truck to deliver the mail.

“’Wow’ is the general reaction in my family,” her aunt told ABC News. A 5-year-old boy in Hong Kong even sent Sa’fyre his favorite teddy bear with a note that said “Let’s be friends.”

Anonymous Donors are Paying Off People’s Wal-Mart Christmas Layaways

At Wal-Marts across the country, anonymous do-gooders have been paying off layaways so families who have fallen on hard times can take home Christmas gifts they’ve been making payments on. The donations have ranged anywhere from $100 to $100,000. Someone in Florida even paid off $200,000 on layaway accounts in two Wal-Marts near Gainesville. In total, these secret Santas have paid off nearly $500,000 in layaway debt, and its inspiring others to pay it forward.

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My son just needed car repairs done, and I was actually going to have to return the layaway and not get it at all, so it was huge for me to get this, one woman told TODAY. “With everything that’s going on and how cruel people can be to each other, to actually have somebody be that generous and selfless is amazing.”

Elementary Students Raised Thousands of Dollars to Give Their Blind Classmate a Braille Computer

Brennan Draves has been blind his whole life, but he’s never let it hold him back. The 10-year-old has excelled in school and has plans to write his own novel. Draves uses a special braille computer at school, but his family hasn’t been able to afford one that he can take home and use over the summer. For Christmas, Draves’ classmates decided to launch a fundraiser to get him his own personal BrailleNote computer, which enables him to read, type, use email, use a planner, play music and more. The students raised more than $7,000 in four days, and they surprised Draves with his own BrailleNote in a presentation that left most involved blinking back tears.

Executions Are at an All-Time Low

Capital punishments are on the declines, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. A new report says that state-sanctioned executions have fallen to the lowest number in 25 years. This year, there were 28 death penalties recorded, the lowest since 1991 (when states reported 14). The center’s executive director, Robert Dunham, told The New York Times, “The numbers are consistent with a long-term trend in which public support for the death penalty is dropping, the number of executions is dropping and the number of death penalties imposed is dropping.” He thinks a major reason for growing public opposition to the death penalty seems to be the rising number of exonerations of death row inmates—causing people to question the fairness of the death penalty. And as a result, many juries are opting to sentence offenders to life in prison rather than death, which is causing a drop in court-sentenced executions—in face, the report indicates numbers the country hasn’t seen since the ’70s.

Bonus: Jimmy Fallon and the ‘Force Awakens’ Cast Celebrated the New ‘Star Wars’ With This Awesome Melody

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