Campbell: A Story Of Kindness

Tazz and Campbell

Once upon a time, I had a child and called him George. I had all kinds of hopes and dreams for that child. We were going to  take him on the kinds of outings kids love, and for his birthdays, we’d invite his friends to come too. We would delight in watching him grow from babyhood to childhood as he ran and jumped and played with his peers; we would laugh at the funny things he said as he was learning to talk; he would make cookies with me and we’d go for picnics at the zoo. When he became a big brother he would take pride in helping with the baby.

One day, when George was almost four, the hopes and dreams crumbled as a doctor gave me the news that George had autism. As I sat there in shock (strange really, since I’d known for a year that something was wrong) I did not yet know that at some point in the future, I would come to accept a new kind of “normal”, that my hopes and dreams would take on a different, but still meaningful form, and that while the journey would take us on the scenic route, we would still see many wonderful things along the way.

It hasn’t all been a cakewalk. There have been hard times. I have had to learn how to restrain my son with my bodyweight to stop him from hurting himself. Speech is still sporadic enough that we celebrate every single word, every single sentence. It saddens us that George does not have friends, preferring to play by himself.

One of the hardest things to deal with has been the reactions of other people. We get rude stares in grocery stores, and complete strangers tell us that what our child needs is “a good hiding”. When people see George having difficulty in a public place, they jump to the immediate conclusion that he is misbehaving. Don’t get me wrong – sometimes he is. He may have autism, but let’s face it – an eight-year-old boy is an eight-year-old boy. Most times, though, George is having trouble with the brightness of the florescent lighting, or the overabundance of sounds, or all of the conversations going on around him that he does not know how to filter.

I sometimes wish for a magical potion, a Perfume of Arabia that I could sprinkle onto people to open their eyes and help them understand.

In the absence of a Perfume of Arabia, the best I can do is write about my experiences and hope that it will make a difference to someone’s life. Like it did to a reader, Tazz, who along with her dog Campbell, had an incredible encounter with a special needs child. With Tazz’s permission, I am sharing the story here. I’m not even going to bother rewording it. Tazz’s words can speak very well for themselves.

“One thing I learned is to never ever judge what I see a child doing, because for all I know there may be a problem I do not know about. Turns out this info came in very handy for me not long ago. There is a family who are members of the church I am currently attending part time. Their son has some kind of a problem that they have not quite diagnosed yet. However, it causes him to sometimes have horrible meltdowns. I was walking down the hall one day during Sunday School time going back to class from the bathroom when from a room down the hall a ways I heard the most heartbreaking crying I ever heard, and knew it was this little boy having another hard time. His mother was doing all she could to calm the child. I followed my heart and took a chance. I softly knocked on the door, and asked if I could help. She had come to the door with the melting down child in her arms, and when he saw Campbell his screaming stopped. I mean like turning off a switch. I asked if I could bring Campbell in and visit for a minute. She agreed and we all sat on the floor with the little boy calming down and petting Campbell. They are now looking in to the possibility of getting a therapy dog for this child. Campbell has come to rescue this child a couple more times since that day. Because now if we are there, and this child starts to have a problem they come and get me from where ever I am and I happily go and help. Well, Campbell helps.

Is this not the most amazing story? Tazz had an instinct and she followed it. She and her dog were exactly what that little boy and his Mom needed. We special needs parents all need people like this – people who don’t necessarily know the circumstances, but who open their hearts to people who really need it.

To Tazz and all of the people like her, thank you. Thank you for being there. Thank you for being you. You restore my faith in the goodness of human nature.

This week’s Indie Ink Challenge came from Head Ant, who gave me this prompt: What would your proverbial “perfumes of Arabia” take care of? Fiction or non-fiction.
I challenged lisa with the prompt: Write about anything you like, but include the following: cotton candy, a dog, and a broken-down taxi.

Photo credit to Tazz. This picture was taken at an event to remember the victims of domestic violence.


To Serve And Protect

This morning, I got up extra-early – despite my body screaming at me in protest at being yanked out of bed at such an ungodly hour – and went to the gym. It was so early that, even with the recent time change that gives us an extra hour of daylight in the mornings, it was pitch-dark.

My drive to the gym was uneventful. It usually is. There’s not really a lot that can happen during a two-minute drive. By the time I got there the parking lot was already about half-full. I parked the car, grabbed my bag and got out. When I turned around I was surprised to find myself face-to-face with a large policeman who was standing beside his cruiser.

“Good morning!” he said.

I looked blankly around me for a few seconds before concluding that since no-one else was in the parking lot, the policeman was talking to me.

“Hi!” I said brightly. Remember that “bright” can be a relative term. It was just a smidgeon after five in the morning.

“This your car?” he asked.

Again, I looked around, this time at the other cars in the parking lot. Gesturing stupidly at my old Chevy van, I said, “This one?” as if the policemen could have been referring to any of the other fifteen cars that I had just gotten out of.

“Yes,” said the policeman, without showing any trace of impatience. He probably encounters a lot of dimwits early in the morning.

Cripes, I thought suddenly. Does he think I stole the car?

I assured the policeman of my status as the car’s rightful owner, and the conversation that ensued was very boring. It involved a headlight that was out, a promise (on my part) that it would be taken care of right away, and an assurance (on his part) that he would not write me up for the $110 ticket.

Coincidentally, when I was riding the subway to work about ninety minutes later, the pair of men sitting across from me were talking about the evil entity that is the police force. From what I could glean, one of them had received a speeding ticket over the weekend and was now fighting it. This story led to a rant about how policemen as a breed are awful money-grabbers who are rude to the public and never do anything useful.

As I listened to this, I thought back to my earlier encounter. The policeman had been very nice to me, even though I was displaying the intelligence of a dead tulip. Technically, he would have been within his rights to give me a ticket; instead, he had done me the service of telling me – helpfully and non-confrontationally – that my headlight needed fixing.

This all makes me think back to a day about two years ago when I was at our local coffee shop with James, who was then almost four. My two boys had been playing the back yard, and George had pushed James into a brick wall. James had ended up with a bleeding face and more than a few tears, so I left George with my mother-in-law and took James out for a donut.

We sat next to a window in the coffee shop, James proudly sporting the gauze patch on his cheek. When a police cruiser parked outside, James waved enthusiastically at the policeman, who waved back cheerfully. When the policeman entered the coffee shop, he came right up to our table and started chatting with James. He introduced himself as Larry, told James about his own little boy who was about the same age, and on James’ request, he took James outside to look at the police car. He capped off the exchange by pulling a Thomas the Train sticker out of his pocket and putting it onto the gauze patch.

James thought Christmas had come early that day. He spoke about Larry the policeman for weeks, and a couple of years later, he still remembers him. What I remember of that day is that a police officer took the time to speak to a child. He instilled in my son the idea that the police are there for the community, and that they are trusted sources of help.

There are exceptions, of course. There are the policemen who will  be rude and arrogant, and who will power-trip you right into the middle of next week. But it is important to note that the exceptions are just that – exceptions. It seems a bit harsh to diss the entire police force based on the actions of a few of its members.

I want my children to know that if they are ever in trouble, they can go to the police, and the police will help them.

I am truly grateful for everything the police do. These people, who willingly put themselves in dangerous situations in order to protect their communities, are heroes.

(Photo credit to grainger. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)