By Ellen McGirt
Updated: December 17, 2018 1:57 PM ET

As the number of columns winds down toward our collective holiday break, I’ve decided to devote as much newsletter space as I can spare to affirming stories and hopeful news. It’s been quite a year, and we deserve it.

Let’s kick off the week with this extraordinary story from reporter Shirley Wang about an unlikely friendship between a kitty litter scientist and a professional basketball player. The basketball player was Charles Barkley, and the scientist was her own father, Lin Wang.

At first, Wang didn’t believe her father when he talked about his “friend” Charles Barkley. She didn’t even pretend to know who he was. “Like a good millennial, I Googled Charles Barkley,” she writes. “He seemed pretty famous — and definitely not like anyone who would be friends with my dad. But again, as a good millennial, I knew that people have very loose definitions of the word ‘friend.’”

(For anyone who remembers watching Barkley play in his prime, ouch.)

Turns out, it was a real and true friendship and one that defies expectations of famous athletes, basketball fans, suburban dads, immigrants, and what men who call each other friend will do for each other.

You will never look down on kitty litter science ever again.

It is also one of the most delightful stories I’ve read in a long time. At the great risk of giving more away, I leave it to you…to decide if you want to end up ugly crying at your desk, in your car, or at home near a box of tissues.

“Your dad is one of the happiest people I’ve ever met in my life,” Barkley told his daughter. “I’m not just saying that — I mean, think about it: It’s fun to be with your friends, you know? ‘Cause, I don’t have that many friends that I want to be around, to be honest with you. I mean, you know a lot of people. But when you go spend time with your friends, it’s a whole different animal.”

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