I did a double take as I dropped Kendall off at her friend’s house for a birthday party/sleepover when she was in 7th grade. Her friend Katie, the birthday girl, took me by surprise. I caught my breath when I saw this young girl’s face and I recognized who she was.
“Katherine?” I hesitantly asked.
“You’re Katherine?” as I put my hand to my heart.
“Yes”, she looked at me with such a puzzled look. Her mom, who was in the living room helping all the girls unload their sleeping bags and tote bags, came to the door with the same puzzled look.
I couldn’t help it. Tears started to well in my eyes as I looked at Katie’s mom and said, “Your daughter has a very special place in my heart.” I confused her even more because we had never met before and she and Kendall became friends during this current school year.
I explained to them why. When Sarah was in 3rd grade and she had the most amazing experience! Her autism impaired class was integrated with Katie’s 3rd grade class. These general education kids learned side by side kids with special needs and learned to accept them. I told them how one parent in the class told us that her son who always struggled in school gained confidence as he saw and helped children with tougher issues than he had.
Sarah found a friend in Katie (Katherine). Katherine loved to read and Sarah’s teacher said Katherine would sit down in the reading nook in the classroom and Sarah would join her. Sarah loved to be around Katherine and Katherine accepted her for who she was. Sometimes Katherine read to Sarah and sometimes they just sat together while Katherine read to herself. Sarah’s teacher said that she caught Sarah picking up a book trying to imitate Katherine reading. She said it was so sweet to watch. Sarah adored her and Katherine was the first non-related friend Sarah had ever had.
Then the most amazing thing happened. Katherine began to help Sarah learn to read. Sarah would copy what she was saying and soon Sarah was reading ‘ICanRead’ books! Her teacher said that Sarah would listen and do whatever Katherine taught her. She said the look of pride on Sarah’s face was priceless!
I loved how Katherine was not afraid of Sarah or Autism. She wasn’t afraid that she was going to “catch” Autism, but saw Sarah as a friend and wanted to help her. Sarah learned how to read because a girl named Katherine took the time to work with her.
By the time I finished my story, Katie’s mom and I were both crying and we hugged.
I told her, “You will never know how much your daughter’s kindness has made a difference in our lives.”
Her act of kindness has stayed with me. I shared her story when I spoke for several years to 3rd grade students at a local public school about Autism Awareness. The school wide program was called “Everybody Counts” and each grade at the school learned about a disability. (It was a great program! I wish my kids’ elementary school had it!)
I would talk to these students about Autism and its common characteristics, and then I would share Katherine’s story. Afterwards, I would look directly at the students and asked them, “Will you be a Katherine? Will you be kind and be friends to a child with special needs just like Katherine did?” As I stared into these little eyes, their heads would nod in agreement with such heartfelt emotion. It was so sweet! I shared with them that autistic children, while different from them, are kids too, and just want to be friends and accepted.
To be a Katherine! One girl’s actions inspiring others on how showing kindness can make such a difference in others’ lives! I wonder if any of those kids remember her story and showed kindness to others. What an amazing ripple effect that would be! No matter what, Katie’s actions are still felt today in our lives! I don’t know if she has forgotten this, but we never will! She opened up Sarah’s world just by being kind and being a friend. She might have thought what she did was small, but it meant the world to us! Like your prayers! Your prayers for Sarah truly mean so much to us! It is the lifeblood and encouragement to us to keep going on this Autism journey. We can never thank you enough; we are seeing such a difference in her!
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24