The Beating Of A Butterfly’s Wings


Last week, while my husband and I were on the road, we saw a man walking dejectedly away from a car that was in the emergency lane. We pulled over and offered him a ride, which he gratefully accepted. It turned out that he had run out of gas, and we took him to his nearby home so that he could enlist the assistance of his wife.

As we were driving him home, he said something that made me feel sad. He said, “I didn’t expect anyone to stop.”

I think it is sad that we live in a world where we expect our fellow man to not help us. All too often, we see instances of people walking past other people who need help. Have we all become so busy and self-involved that we just don’t have time to look around us and lend a helping hand? Or is this a manifestation of the “crowd mentality” that makes us assume that if we don’t do something, someone else will?

What we did for that man was so small. It cost us about five minutes of time, but it probably made a huge difference in how that man’s day went.

The very next day, I went out for a long run. It was cold and windy, and it was snowing a little. Because of the extreme winter that we have had, several of the sidewalks are still packed with ice. About six kilometres in, I was running along a relatively clear stretch, so I was able to build up a decent pace. A man walking towards me indicated that I should slow down.

“There’s a big patch of ice up ahead,” he told me. “It’s hidden under the snow. Be careful.”

I thanked him and adjusted my pace accordingly. As I gingerly picked my way over the ice he had told me about, I pondered the fact that if he had not taken the time to tell me, I could have ended up with a serious injury. Those five seconds of kindness possibly changed the course not only of that day, but of the next few weeks.

It has been said that the beating of a butterfly’s wings can start a hurricane on the other side of the world. In the same way, just a few seconds of kindness can completely alter the course of the recipient’s day, week or month, and it can make the giver feel a whole lot better too. Several studies have shown that the single biggest predictor of happiness is the propensity to be kind.

My wish for all of you reading this is that you will take advantage of opportunities to be kind, and that you yourselves will be on the receiving end of kindness.

Tell me, what acts of kindness have you recently given or received?

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit: Sephyr_Raon_Noxor. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.


Leaps Of Kindness


Yesterday, I wrote about the difficulty of buying toys for kids with autism. As hard as it is, from time to time we are lucky enough to find something that my son George really loves. A few years ago he was into the Brown Bear, Brown Bear books, which were successfully used as his transition object for some time. Mr. Potato Head has been an essential part of my family’s life for about seven years now. George never gets tired of them, as his staggering collection will testify.

A year ago, we stumbled upon something else that would bring George a lot of joy, when we bought each of the boys a Leap Pad for Christmas. This child, who usually takes a bit of time to warm up to a new toy, pounced on the Leap Pad immediately. He spent countless hours watching the videos and playing the games, and even making a few simple videos himself. We started to see improvements in George’s speech and cognitive skills as a result of the games he was playing.

Then, about a month ago, catastrophe struck. Somehow, this device which had survived almost a year of an autistic child playing with it, got its screen cracked. This was an absolute disaster. George’s Leap Pad breaking was utterly traumatic for him. He was bereft, and could not understand why his beloved toy was no longer usable.

The next month was – rough. George’s younger brother James was remarkably kind in sharing his Leap Pad as best he could, but there were still a number of meltdowns and many, many tears. And in my current state of unemployment, I couldn’t afford to buy another Leap Pad. The situation seemed hopeless for poor George.

But sometimes, when situations seem hopeless, little miracles can happen. Maybe you win money in the lottery or find a $100 bill lying in the street. Or maybe – as was the case with us – you speak to someone who cares.

We called Leapfrog, the company that makes and distributes Leap Pads, and we explained to the customer service representative what had happened. I wasn’t really sure what we were hoping for – perhaps a discount on a new Leap Pad, or the option to send the broken one somewhere to be repaired.

What we got was so much better. Although the cracked screen is not covered by the warranty of the product, and although Leapfrog was under absolutely no obligation to do anything, the customer service lady told us that she would have a one-time replacement sent to us. I had to follow an elaborate set of instructions that were emailed to me, and then the new Leap Pad would be on its way.

Yesterday, we came home from a shopping trip to find a parcel on our front steps. I looked at the return address on the box, and seeing that it had come  from Leapfrog, I handed the box to George to open. There are no words to describe the look of absolute joy on his face when he saw what it was.

Thank you, Leapfrog. And thank you, Customer Service Lady. The fact that you cared has brought many smiles to the face of a child with autism. And that is the best possible Christmas gift for a parent.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.



Autism: My Child’s Reward For My Specialness


A story that’s trying hard to be a feel-good tale is doing the rounds on Facebook. A family that includes a special needs child was eating out at a restaurant, and the special needs child started to get a little boisterous. Mom was feeling self-conscious, knowing that her son’s behaviour might be bothering other diners, but then a waitress approached the table and said that a kind stranger was footing the bill for their meal.

So far, so good, right? As the parent of a child with autism, I am touched that someone would extend such kindness to a special needs family. But the story doesn’t end there. The waitress also handed the family a note from the stranger. The note said, “God only gives special children to special people.”

While many people are going on about how sweet and kind all of this is, I am blown away by the presumptuousness within the message. Yes, paying for the family’s meal was incredibly nice, and I have no problem with the gesture. It’s the note that I take issue with, and not only because of the implied assumption that everyone believes in God.

My son was diagnosed with autism at a time when a lot was wrong in my life. My relationship with my husband had hit a rocky patch, our finances were in complete meltdown, I was going through postpartum depression, I was struggling with the loss of my father… There was a lot going on.

During this terrible time, while I was trying to adjust to the reality of autism, someone told me that God never gives us more than we can handle. If that is true, how do you explain the fact that there are people who reach the point of being unable to cope, who feel so desperate that they decide to take their own lives? How do you account for the mothers who feel so overwhelmed and lost that they either abandon their children or surrender them to social services? What about the people who lose their homes, families and jobs because they feel that they can drown their problems in drugs or alcohol?

God only gives special children to special people?

The implication here is that autism and other disabilities are some kind of reward. What kind of God would do that?

“This person is so great and so awesome and so special that I am going to give their child a disability that slows down their speech, slows down their learning, reduces their chances of independence, and makes them scream in frustration when they cannot express themselves.”

Call me crazy, but that’s one messed-up reward system.

Here’s the reality: there’s nothing special about me. Yes, I’m a good mom. I provide my kids with the necessities of life, I shower them with love, I advocate for them, I try to instil them with confidence…

But I also get overwhelmed. I have days when I yell at them too much. Sometimes I let them watch as much TV as they want because I’m too tired and fraught to entertain them myself. Occasionally I’ll buy them junk food because I don’t want to cook. There are times when I get impatient with my son’s autistic behaviour even though it’s not his fault.

In other words, I am just like 99.99999% of other moms: I do the best I can with what I’ve got, and I accept that I will have my good parenting days and my bad parenting days. I’m not any better – or more “special” – than anyone else.

I didn’t get my child with autism as a result of God deciding that I was special. I got my child with autism through an accident of genetics.

I love my son more than life itself. Whenever I see the look absolute desperation in his eyes when he’s having a meltdown, my heart breaks for him. I ache inside when I think of the fact that he doesn’t have friends because he doesn’t know how to, and I constantly worry about whether he will be OK in the future.

I don’t believe in God, but if I did, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t make a child go through life with a disability just because the child’s parents were “special”.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle.