The transforming power of kindness began whispering to me when I sat across the table from a classmate at our 45th high school reunion. Not the classmate who led me to apologize for my short career as a mean girl in elementary school, but another one. More acquaintance than friend while we were growing up, when we were young moms, this classmate showed me the transforming power of kindness.
We became first time mothers during the same year.
We both had unremarkable pregnancies and easy labor and delivery.
We both learned our newborns had life-threatening conditions requiring surgeries at far away hospitals.
We both had supportive husbands and extended family.
But I had something my she didn't have. Because my child was born six months after my classmate gave birth, I had her.
She and her husband were my parents' neighbors. When she heard we would make an overnight stop at my parents' home on our way to the hospital where our son was in NICU, my classmate offered to stop by to see me.
We were weary, worried, and hurting when we arrived at my parents' home. All I wanted to do was curl up in the dark and lick my wounds. But Mom had already invited my classmate over. Soon we were sitting across the table from one another. She took a deep breath and told her story.
She described her daughter's birth and diagnosis.
She disclosed her mama trauma.
She talked about her baby's hospital stay.
Bringing their baby home.
"It's hard," she told us. "But you'll get through it."
She was right. We got through it. So did our children.
My classmate and I remain more acquaintances than friends. We didn't bond in a special way. We don't exchange Christmas cards or offer updates on our families. We only see each other at class reunions.
In the center of my heart, however, this classmate inhabits a singular place of honor. Her visit on a cool late May evening in 1982 unleashed the transforming power of kindness in my life. Her kindness made me want to show the same kindness to others. Decades later, my desire led to action.
A Different Dream for My Child, my devotional for special needs families, was published in August 2009. My purpose in writing it was to offer parents the same kind of hope and encouragement my classmate gave my husband and me when we were shell-shocked and sore.
This month, ten years after A Different Dream for My Child hit the shelves, my sixth book for the special needs and disability community was released. Sharing Love Abundantly in Special Needs Families: The 5 Love Languages® for Parents Raising Children with Disabilities, co-authored with Dr. Gary Chapman, provides caregivers with ideas, hope, and encouragement for improving communication and fostering love in their families.
There's no logical explanation except that writing books was God's plan for my life all along. His plan for you may not be writing books. But as a member of the disability and special needs community, He has a plan for you, a plan that includes being motivated by the transforming power of the kindness you've experienced at some point in your life.
The kindness that changed the trajectory of my life began when a mom took the time to share her story. God used her act of kindness to plant a seed in me to speak hope and kindness into your life. One day, God will open doors for you to show kindness to hurting moms, too.
That's how the transforming power of kindness works.
One parent at a time.
One story at a time.
One grateful heart at a time.
One life-changing moment at a time.
Jolene Philo is the author of the Different Dream series for parents of kids with special needs. She speaks at parenting and special needs conferences around the country. She's also the creator and host of the Different Dream website. Sharing Love Abundantly With Special Needs Families: The 5 Love Languages® for Parents Raising Children with Disabilities, which she co-authored with Dr. Gary Chapman. It was released in August of 2019 and is available at local bookstores, their bookstore website, and at Amazon.