One of the things we did over the holiday break to keep Brian busy was to walk around some of the local ( and not so local) shopping malls. In recent years, Brian has learned to really enjoy going on these excursions. It’s not for the shopping, rather, he loves to engage with fellow shoppers with friendly greetings. Specifically, Brian likes to wave at others and in many instances, go up and shake hands. In the past, Brian would attempt to hug instead of handshake, often to the surprise and sometimes to the chagrin of the surprised shopper. Teaching more appropriate social behavior in public took time and lots of practice, but eventually Brian learned to limit his legendary hugs to family members and friends only.
Handshaking with strangers is an entirely different matter. We are trying to help Brian replace handshaking with hand waving, but similar to the hugs of the past, this is also taking time. Eventually, Brian will get there, but we are certainly in transition at the moment. Case in point, during our 4th shopping mall excursion on New Years Day, Brian kept walking up to strangers to shake their hands, while I was trying to redirect him. Most people were obliging and very nice, but understandably, there were those who did not appreciate my son invading their personal space. It was during such moments that Brian would become frustrated and my heart felt sad for my son. How do you explain necessary social graces to a sweet soul who is so pure of heart? It is this same exact vulnerability that also makes me so afraid for Brian’s safety, a lifelong concern that all special needs families share regarding their children.
I admit I was quite weary by New Year’s Day. It was Day 12 of the holiday break. We kept Brian as busy as we could during the vacation, but I was counting the hours until the school bus would come the next morning. My patience was starting to wear thin after a while, as I attempted to redirect Brian from shaking hands with everyone at the shopping mall. It was part comical, part crazy, yet, I could see the genuine joy and energy boost that each acknowledgement from a shopper gave Brian. He really loved the interactions and his joy was palpable. I could also see that the feeling was mutual for most people. Brian received many accolades from ” Hi Buddy” to “Is your son running for Mayor?” to ” high fives” and genuine smiles. One woman had tears in her eyes when Brian came up to her to shake her hand. She told me that encountering his beautiful spirit was the best moment of her day and wished us well. That was powerful and made me think of how our interactions with others can make a genuine impact for better or for worse. It also made me think about New Years resolutions in 2020 and what I can actually resolve to do more of.
Traditional self-improvement resolutions have never worked for me, as I historically give up within a few weeks of making them. In the end it’s not meaningful enough , hence, why I’m not motivated to stick with whatever I determined to give up in the first place. Perhaps my thinking on resolutions has been wrong all along: rather then focus on what I should deny myself of, how about making a conscious decision to give myself and others daily kindness? Simple, random acts of kindness that come from the heart do make a difference for both the giver and receiver. It costs nothing but your willingness and everyone benefits. Kindness can take many shapes and forms and can transform the minds and hearts of those it touches. Daily acts of kindness can be anything from a surprise note, phone call, or text, to sharing of resources, time, or your listening ear. Or as Brian does so well: extending a smile and a hand in kindness with a genuine joy in the world of the walking wounded. Each one of us will experience hardships in life that have the capacity to derail and disarm our joy, but a true kindness will always renew our strength to forge ahead.
One random act of kindness per day translates into 365 acts of kindness per person,per year- can you imagine how many more with determined resolve? The ripple effect would be phenomenal and so meaningful, much more than never eating chocolate again, which I certainly can’t do anyway. But I can resolve to do at least one act of kindness per day, simple or extraordinary, because it’s the right thing to do. I want to make a difference for the better, just like Brian does so well, with one smile, wave, and often one handshake, at a time..
Happy 2020! May your new year be filled to the brim with random acts of kindness, both given and received. Until we meet again, thanks for reading!