The question without an answer…
During my 30 Day Christmas Challenge, there were several acts of kindness that I knew I wanted to do: track down my all-time favorite childhood teacher, find a way to thank those serving in the military and their families and visit a senior in the nearby retirement home, just to name a few. However, there was ONE specific act of kindness that was on the top of my list…something that I was so excited to do. But after weeks of trying, I just could not make it happen.
Until today, that is.
As a kid, there’s really only one thing you want be: like everyone else. You want to be “normal”, to fit in…to have a big group of friends who you can laugh with, play with, share secrets with. I know this is how I felt. And this is why it hurt me so much when I saw people make fun of my little sister, Kim. Kids (and adults) can be extremely cruel.
We’ve heard it all…the “R” word, mean impersonations of her disability, laughs behind her back. And over the past 30 years, there’s been a simple question constantly circling in my head: WHY? WHY did Kim have to be born with this rare neurological disorder? It’s just not fair. WHY did people have to be so mean to her–hasn’t her life been hard enough?
I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll never know the answers to these questions…but here’s what I DO know: Kim is nothing short of amazing and I am incredibly proud to be her sister.
Kim’s disease is progressive–meaning she’s getting worse. This has been a very hard process for her…and for my family. A few years ago, doctors put in a trachea so they would be able to quickly put her on life support. These are the things that we have to think about now. Then a few months ago, she had a seizure that wouldn’t stop…they had to put her in a coma and in the ICU. This was the first time when I saw my mom actually break down, unable to talk about what we were all thinking. The doctor told my mom, “Pretty soon we’re going to have to start making some difficult decisions.” I have to fight back tears just trying to wrap my head around these words. I remember asking her what he meant by that, desperately wanting to stay in denial, but I knew the answer. I just don’t have the strength to deal with it.
Kim celebrated her 30th birthday in the hospital. But my little sister is a little hero and a little fighter. She lives at home with my mom and step dad, with nurses caring for her most of the time.
Kim is very limited right now what what she can do. During my 30 Day Christmas Challenge, I started to think…I wonder what Kim would want to do to help others if she could? I instantly had an idea.
A sweet surprise…
Today’s act of kindness is inspired by and dedicated to my sister, Kim. And best of all, I was able to complete it with my other sister, Stacy. The two of us may have been the ones to complete the act, but we were there representing Kim.
Today my sister and I threw an ice cream party for several special ed classes at Kim’s old elementary school. There were about a dozen kids in total, ranging from kindergarten to third grade. And they cracked. us. up.
We had an ice cream bar all set up for them…with lots of different flavors and toppings. As they came into the cafeteria, their little faces instantly lit up with pure joy. A teacher asked one of the boys, “Are you ready for some ice cream?” His response: “You know it!” I couldn’t help but laugh–he had a great sense of humor!
The ice cream was a hit and soon the kids were on a sugar high! Many were heading back for second sundaes and a few of them even got up and started dancing. I turned to my sister Stacy, both of us just looking around at these kids and all the fun they were having, and I whispered in her ear, “We did this.” It felt awesome to know that this was our idea…we made this happen.
One of the coolest moments for me is when I realized that one of Kim’s old teachers was there. She had officially retired years ago, but today of all days, she just happened to be back since they needed a sub. I loved being able to see her again and to give her a hug…to thank her for taking such good care of my sister and making her feel special for so many years.
The next time you see someone with a disability, I have a challenge for you…don’t look away. Don’t ignore them or just see their disability. Look them in the eyes, give them a smile. Yes, on the outside they may seem different, but on the inside, we are all the same and want the same things…to be included, to belong, to know that others care, to feel kindness.
Kim may not have been able to join us at the ice cream party, but she was definitely there in spirit. She’s taught me so many things…to not take anything for granted and that sometimes the simplest pleasure, even an ice cream sundae, can bring the most joy.