“I bought more candy-grams, Mom,” Alec says with a big smile as we drive home from school just two days before Valentine’s Day.
“Alec, you already bought twelve candy-grams,” I frown. “Do you really need more?”
Alec’s school was selling the candy-grams as a fundraiser for the holiday. For twenty-five cents you could send a single hard candy with a note of friendship.
This particular morning I had asked my sixth-grader to pick a few names of special classmates to send a candy token of friendship.
“So, Alec, how many friends would you like to send a candy-gram?” I asked, leaning against the door frame supervising the early morning routine.
“Oh, lots, Mom,” Alec pulls his sweatshirt over his head. He has forgotten to take off his pajama top first again.
“Yes … but … can you narrow it down a bit, Buddy?” I ask, pulling the sweatshirt back over his head to remove the pajama top. “Are there any friends who help you every day, Alec? Who are your closest friends?”
“All of them, Mom,” he answers. Uh oh. I realize that we might be heading into trouble.
“Okay, Alec, but let’s keep it to twelve candy-grams, all right?” I run my hands through some serious bedhead. We are going to be late … again.
Driving home that afternoon, Alec tells me that he has surpassed the limit. He has sent sixteen candy-grams.
“Well, that’s okay, Alec. Sixteen it is, then.” We drive the rest of the way home in silence. I glance at my son. He smiles the rest of the way home while I pray:
Lord, please let him get one candy-gram … Just one, Lord. Please.
On the afternoon of Valentine’s Day, I drive though the car line at Alec’s school and I see my son. He is standing by a tree with a look on my face that makes my stomach sink. His expression is like a storm cloud.
“What’s wrong, Buddy?” I pretend not to know.
“I didn’t get any candy-grams from my friends, Mom.” Alec gets into the car and stares at his lap. I fumble for words to cheer him up while the familiar feeling of being out of control—of not knowing how to help him—rises within me. It is hard and cold and empty.
“I’m so sorry, Alec,” I put my hand on his head. One of us is about to cry, but I’m not sure who it is. “But…” I search for words, “Did you make anyone else happy today? Were your friends happy when they got your candy-grams?”
Suddenly, Alec looks up. “Oh, yeah, Mom,” as the clouds dissipate from his face. “They were so happy to get my candy-grams!”
I sense another lesson in life that my son is about to teach me.
“And look!” Alec reaches into his green bookbag and pulls out a small, red heart-shaped box, one of those Russell Stover hearts filled with 5 or 6 chocolates. “Look what Ms. Dill gave me!”
I look and see some writing on the side of the box. The handwriting reads:
“To Ms. Dill” in bold, black Sharpie.
It’s the penmanship of a child writing a sweet note to a teacher.
“When did you get this, Alec?”
“Oh, Ms. Dill gave it to me when I was out on the steps, right after they handed out the candy-grams.” Alec smiles and rips away the clear wrapping of the chocolates.
“Were you upset, Alec?” I ask. “When Ms. Dill found you on the steps, were you upset?”
“Well, yeah,” Alec looks down, embarrassed, as the storm clouds momentarily appear, but he shrugs them away. “But Ms. Dill, she found me and said she had something very special for me. Then she went inside and came back with this!” He holds up the shiny red heart and smiles his big, bright, beautiful smile.
It is one of the best Valentine’s Day gifts that I have ever received.
And so Ms. Dill saves the day, I think. She gave my boy one precious Valentine gift, a gift given to her and passed on to my son. Thank you, Ms. Dill. Thank you.
Do you know a “Ms. Dill” in your life?
It’s hard raising a child with special needs. We so want the world to see our kids as we do, but sometimes that doesn’t happen. But every so often, we come across one special person, an angel on earth, who reaches out in a simple way and makes our journey a little easier.
People who “get it.”
They may never realize how much they bless us, but their encouragement strengthens us so we can keep walking and be the parents that our kids need us to be.
Someone probably came to mind as your read this post, a person who in some way has made your journey brighter… someone like Ms. Dill. Do you have the name of that someone?
If so, would you do something for me? Toss a pebble and see where the ripples go.
When we toss a pebble of encouragement into the world, it sends a ripple wide and far, one that reaches other lives, multiplies, and bounces back to us. That’s what is so amazing about love: when we give it, it returns to us.
Would you take a moment and forward this post to that person with a simple note that says that they, too, encouraged you in a special way? Just a simple note thanking them for making a difference on a hard day?
It’s a fantastic way to spread awareness about special needs, and it’s so easy to do! Write one small note that lets them know that they shared a burden in a way that said, “Hey, I understand.”
And me? I know who will receive my note:
Ms. Dill … thank you. You blessed us, and, yes, it made a difference.
“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm,
for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.”
– Hebrews 10:23-24
New Living Translation (NLT)
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