Recently I and seventeen other kids in my school were part of something miraculous. It is customary that when the students of the advanced English class reached eighth grade, they would go “Secret Santa” shopping. Each person in our class was “paired” with a member of the special education class. These “partnerships” each received two kids a piece for whom to shop. Our English class assignment was to help our partners experience the Christmas spirit. I am happy to say that is not exactly what happened.
My partner, an eighth grader diagnosed with autism, is probably the jolliest person I have ever met. Even after knowing him for two years, I had never truly experienced the depth of his happiness. Instead of me helping him to experience the spirit of Christmas, he taught me more than I could have imagined.
Some of the things he taught me include the idea that not all success in the world is measured by a material object. For our secret Santa people, we had $340 to spend. This may not seem like much, when you consider that is all they would receive for Christmas. But to me, if I could have chosen all the stuff I purchased or the feelings I experienced while shopping for someone else I would choose the latter, hands down.
Another example of what I learned from him, something that I have been told countless of other times, is to not judge a book by its cover. Known to me, but not to him, one of the two people that we were shopping for was my partner himself. This was extremely tricky, especially considering that despite what people may think, this autistic child is a genius of a kind. He is not the typical genius, like Albert Einstein, or Sir Isaac Newton, but he is the kind of person who can see someone in help. In a sense, like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a musician with perfect pitch, this godsend of a child is an empathizer with absolutely perfect judgment. He knew what other people needed, when they needed it, and what is the perfect way to give it to them.
Over the last four weeks, since I experienced this, in my opinion I have grown to see that one person can make a huge difference in a simple day, just as he made a difference in my life. He taught me that you can choose to live your live, no matter what trials or tribulations you may have, with a positive attitude and charity for all. Because of this experience I have been mentally pushed and inclined to try to be like this classmate by showing and experiencing kindness in my life.
Another example in my life came by my cousin. He was born with a partial brain. Although he was never able to see, hear, talk, or move, or even understand those around him, he made a bigger difference in more lives than I think anyone could imagine. His whole family, my aunt, uncle and cousins have been positively affected by his life. From the help that she had to give her son, my aunt, his mother, has been able to pass on the love that she had given him, to others around her, brightening her community. It is because of his disability that she was able to learn so much. Most moms spend their time watching basketball games of their children, or helping them do their homework. Because of my cousin, my aunt knows that what is happening around us doesn’t matter as much as how we treat others. My cousin has passed away but the legacy he has left behind exemplifies the concept of and visionary picture of love and devotion within families and extended to others.
Both of these kids, diminished in view by their shortcomings, are great examples in my life. If every person could be half the influence that either of these were, the world would be four times the world it is now. Every day I strive to be like these examples, with some, but not much success. Even with my great shortcomings, I know that the people that I try to help have been bettered by this, but not as much as I.