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Celebs behaving beautifully: A review of Hollywood’s good deeds in 2017

Celebrities' Good Deeds

Instagram | Twitter | Fair Use

Paul Asay - published on 12/30/17

From devastating hurricanes to diseases, a look at the celebrities who reached out to others in need this year.
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Let’s not mince words: This year was kinda depressing. We’ve had more than our fill of North Korea and natural disasters. We’ve seen so many shocking mass shootings that we’re not shocked by them anymore. Lots of us are ready to tell 2017 goodbye … and good riddance.

We sometimes turn to Hollywood to provide a little respite from the world’s troubles: A fun action movie, maybe, or an engrossing television show. This year, given all the sexual harassment scandals coming out of the entertainment industry, it was a little more difficult. Some of our favorite stars fell. Some popular entertainment was tarnished.

But if you look deeper than the Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey headlines, you’ll find that Hollywood did give us some stories to smile about — real stories involving real people who, by the way, just happen to be famous.

I first started thinking about these positive stories seriously in November. After reading headline after headline of stars behaving badly, Twitter user Bakoon implored fellow users to spread stories of a different stripe: “If anyone has any nice allegations against a celebrity, that would be great too,” the user wrote.

Soon, Twitter was awash in positivity: One talked about how Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman “let me stay with them when my mom was in the hospital for cancer surgeries.” Another talked about how Brad Pitt bought tractors for some poor African farmers and “asked to be anonymous.” Still another mentioned that the late comedian/actor Robin Williams noticed her crying in a cafe one day over the death of her mother. He paid the woman’s check and whispered words of encouragement in her ear before he left.

These stories, of course, could’ve taken place years earlier. But I realized that these sorts of positive celebrity tales actually happen all the time. Sometimes we’re just too wrapped up in our own worries and rage to notice.

Take the devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey in and around Houston, Texas. Certainly the flooding was a heartbreaking tragedy for many. But in the midst of the devastation, countless people donated to relief and recovery efforts, and (as I wrote here before) celebrities led the way. J.J. Watt, an NFL defensive end who plays for the Houston Texans, helped raise — get this — more than $37 million for relief efforts, thanks to the more than 209,000 individual donors who chipped in a little bit to help. Many fellow NFL stars and other celebs stuck their hands deep in their pockets to aid Watts’ efforts.


“If there is one thing that I have taken away from these last few weeks, it is the reassurance of how much good is out there in our world,” he wrote in a statement.

Money is deeply needed and appreciated in times of crisis, though cynics might say that celebs have money to burn. But time? That’s a scarce resource for all of us. So when Nicolas Cage stopped by the U.S. Coast Guard Aviation Training Center to salute those who had boots in the water during hurricanes Harvey and Irma, delivering an emotional speech while he was there, it felt significant.

“I can only imagine the bravery and strength it takes working through flood water, going door to door looking for survivors and pulling people out of the wreckage that they used to call home,” Cage said, voice cracking as he spoke.

And then there’s Kristen Bell, who got stuck in Florida during Hurricane Irma and decided to while away her time by visiting a local shelter, where she belted out a few songs from Frozen (a movie in which she voiced Princess Anna). And then, because apparently she still had a few hours to kill, she hung out with some stranded senior citizens at her hotel.

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A post shared by kristen bell (@kristenanniebell)

Tragedy can bring out the best of us, even if we’re famous. Just last week, with fires still raging in California, Rob Lowe served spaghetti and burgers to some of the firefighters working to save homes near Santa Barbara. “Dinner for new friends at our house,” he wrote on Instagram, along with a picture of a bevy of firefighters hoisting plates full of food.

Or then there were all the relief efforts to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria. Some celebs gave money, of course. Others traveled to the island, ready to help in person. And then came the rather strange fundraising effort launched by Late Night host Stephen Colbert and actor Nick Kroll, who posted awkward adolescent pictures of themselves online and pledged to donate money to Puerto Rico for every celeb who did the same. More than 200 came through, including such luminaries as Reese Witherspoon, Kristen Bell and Martin Short, and the effort raised more than $1 million.

But stars don’t just chip in when a crisis goes national. Take the time that a woman crashed her car in Santa Paula, California and Harrison Ford was one of the folks who stopped to help. (The Force was clearly with her that afternoon.) Sure, it’s not quite as spectacular as when actor/comedian Jamie Foxx actually pulled someone out of a burning truck, but still. You do what you can.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson didn’t actually save anyone from certain death this year — at least not as far as we know. But 10-year-old Jacob O’Connor was thinking about the action star when he dove into the family pool to rescue his 2-year-old brother. Jacob remembered how Johnson performed CPR in the movie San Andreas, and when Jacob pulled his little brother from the water, he mimicked him — saving the boy’s life. “The movie just popped into my head and I started thinking about that scene,” Jacob told the Washington Post. Not one to let a good deed go unrewarded, Johnson visited the boy later, saying that he wanted to shake the hand of a “real life hero.”

And then there are stories of celebs who point to the ultimate hero …

Justin Bieber has had plenty of well-chronicled instances of bad behavior in his still-short career. But lately, he’s become one of the most surprising (and, admittedly, conflicting) Christian evangelists in the world. Just this month, Bieber fired off an Instagram post to his 95 million followers, featuring a white board that encouraged people to turn to Jesus. “What if I told you that there’s a God that’s willing to meet you wherever you’re at!” he wrote on the white board. Then, in the post itself, he wrote, “Jesus is changing me from the inside out every day!”

As sincere as that post was, I was even more struck by what Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz wrote after the MVP candidate suffered a devastating knee injury December 10. Instead of expressing anger or sorrow or even resignation like most of us might, he took to Twitter that very afternoon to express his hope and trust in God. “I know my God is a powerful one with a perfect plan,” he wrote. “Time to just lean in to him and trust whatever the circumstances! #Proverbs3:5-6.”

While we’re on the subject of encouraging others, let’s go back to Kristen Bell for a moment. She apparently heard about a 6-year-old girl named Avery Huffman, who suffers from an inoperable brain tumor. Huffman, like many little girls, loves the movie Frozen. So Bell called Avery — as Princess Anna from Frozen. And she told the little girl that she was now, officially, an honorary princess of Arendelle.

So once you get past all the dour headlines about global peril and political shenanegans, we do find stories of people — sometimes even the famous ones — trying to make the world a little better by visiting hospitals or encouraging bullied teens or donating their homes to worthy charities. No, 2017 hasn’t been exactly a stellar year. But sometimes in the worst of times we can find the best in people. And remember, celebs are people, too.

Read more:
WATCH: Mark Wahlberg shares how his faith is “the most important” thing in his life

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