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5 people who impacted their world this year - and what they're up to now

Bethany Hines and Lauren Lee | 12/22/2016, 3:55 p.m.
At Impact your World we love to share stories of ordinary people going the extraordinary distance. Here we take a ...
Photo of the world map. (COURTESY) Pexels

— Simmons was shopping in a Dallas-area grocery store in August. He was wearing his Applebee's uniform when he came across a woman who looked like she needed a pick-me-up.

"Whenever I see someone who has had a bad day, I need to let them know that it could be much worse," Simmons told CNN.

He decided to pay for the woman's groceries. It wasn't until later that he found out how much it actually meant to the lonely widow.

"Her husband of 58 years met her at a Piggly Wiggly and thought she was the most beautiful woman in the store. He bought her groceries," Simmons told CNN. "When I paid for her groceries that day, she had a flashback. It made her day so wonderful."

The next day, the woman's daughter came to Applebee's, where Simmons works as a waiter, ordered a glass of mineral water and left the massive tip.

"In my heart, I did nothing to earn $500 from that woman," he says. "It made me feel better. I changed this lady's life at least for a little bit."

As for what he did with the $500, Simmons says he "paid his phone bill with some of it and bought lottery tickets to share with other customers."

The waiter and the widow have stayed in touch.

"$17 was nothing to make a lady smile," Simmons says. "We are good friends now."

Age ain't nothing but a number

Four-year-old Norah Wood and 82-year-old Dan Peterson struck up an unlikely friendship in a grocery store.

It all started when the little girl shouted out to the older man, who looked a bit down standing in the aisle. "Hi old person! It's my birfday today."

Tara Wood, Norah's mom, took a picture of the two chatting and posted it on her Facebook page.

Someone recognized the man and sent his contact information, commenting that it was "the first time they'd seen him smile since his wife died."

That could have been the end of the story. But it was actually the beginning of a special relationship.

"Dan joined our family for Thanksgiving and we still visit him once a week," Norah's mom told CNN. "I speak with him a couple of times a week just to check in to see if he needs anything. He's getting mail and letters from people all over the world. He's never felt more loved."

A bride, a man and her father's heart

Jeni Stepien-Maenner's father was murdered 10 years ago and was an organ donor. The man who received his heart is Arthur Thomas.

Stepien-Maenner stayed in touch with Thomas through the years. When she was planning her August wedding in Pittsburgh, the first person she thought of to walk her down the aisle was the man with her dad's heart.

Thomas agreed and traveled from New Jersey with his wife to the wedding.

"Tom (Arthur Thomas) and I talk a LOT, " Stepien-Maenner told CNN this month. "About two months following the wedding, it was sometimes a few times a week."

"Sometimes he's traveling, or I'm caught up with work. But we always touch base at least biweekly."

"It's convenient because we can text, email or call."

About two months ago, Stepien-Maenner and her husband began house-hunting in D.C.

"Tom was helping via text and giving us lots of advice!," she says.

"He's involved in our lives and we are so lucky that our wedding in August opened that different window of friendship for us!"

"We can't wait to all spend some more time enjoying each others' company."