Kelly Spencer - Happy Healthy YOU
Each year, Indigo Lounge is a satellite drop off for the Power of Hope Community Organization. Their mission is to provide support with compassion to families in need throughout our local communities by providing donated pajamas, stuffed toys, slippers, hats and mittens, toiletries and so on.
When we first got involved with this, I thought we were just helping provide some basic needs. That is, until one of our customers brought in some pajamas and teddy bears a couple of years ago. She explained that many years before, she and her sons had to go to a women’s shelter. Her son, who was now almost an adult, still cherished the teddy bear he was given at the shelter and hugged for years, she explained.
The small things made a big difference.
Not too long ago, I was invited to join a group on Facebook called 'Cards for Andon.' The group displayed a sweet looking picture of a happy, smiling 12-year-old boy.
Andon was born with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. His right side is much weakened, his vision is impaired, and he has some cognitive delay. As a small child, doctors said he most likely wouldn’t talk or walk.
Andon does both now.
If you know anyone with a family member with more complex medical needs, like Andon, you know they have frequent medical appointments. Mom finally asked the doctors the hard questions, such as “Will he live a normal life? Will he get married?”
They were told that he most likely will not be able live on his own. Difficult news for any parent to process.
A friend of the Mom, suggested that rather than waiting for the big milestones to celebrate, they could celebrate the small things.
Andon has a “wicked send of humor,” says Jillian Vanden Beukel, longtime family friend. When they go to the post office to get the bills and mail, Andon always asks if he got any letters? But he never does.
The happy young lad turns 13 on December 12th. Due to his condition, he would be overwhelmed with a birthday party. He's unable to invite kids from his school because they're from all over the province. But he adores receiving old-school snail mail.
Andon’s mother Janelle Gatti made a Facebook status asking family and friends to send Andon mail for this birthday because of his love to receive it. The status was shared over a hundred times. So mom and
family friend Jillian partnered up. They created a group to flood the Gatti's mailbox with birthday cards for Andon.
Andon has no idea that on his birthday, he will be able to open dozens and dozens and dozens of good wishes.
It’s the small things that make a big difference.
As I sat and spoke with Jillian, it became very clear the loving effort this family gives. Not just mom and dad working hard to make this boy’s life happier, but his younger sister too. Julia is Andon’s younger sister and is described as a protective helper, often assisting him get his shoes and coat on.
They have all been overwhelmed with the kindness and thoughtfulness of everyone. They have received over 75 cards already from all over Canada, and even one from the Netherlands. Some even with gift cards for Andon’s favorite things... Swiss Chalet and Burgers.
“I cried daily last week reading all the love people were sending Andon and his family” said Vanden Beukel.
And while his family and friends excitedly await the 12th of December to surprise this happy child who only wishes for letters in the mail, I could not help but think of all of those who work so hard to assist this child in celebrating his life.
So I encourage all of you, to not only send birthday cards to Andon, but to his sister Julia and to Mom and Dad Gatti, as well to the family cheerleader and close friend Jillian Vanden Beukel.
Small acts of kindness make the world a better place. Not just for the recipient but the donor and all those that witness the act. It’s good for our health too. Practicing kindness regularly has been researched to boost immune system, reduce headache and tension, generate positive thoughts and emotions and activates empathy and emotional processing as well as increase grey matter in the brain.
As we approach the holiday season, we can get “wrapped up" in the big consumerism and forget the meaning behind it all. Thoughtful generosity and kindness and peace and love for all.
I invite you to think of ways to offer small acts of kindness for others as well as celebrating the little things in your life that sometimes can be taken for granted.
Cards for Andon (or Julia, Mom and Dad or Jillian Vanden Beukel) can be sent to:
PO Box 1118
Norwich, ON Canada