Years ago, as we were headed home from Disney World, Dave and I stood by the security line at the airport with Max and Sabrina, unsure of what to do. The line was extensively long, the kind to trigger a Max meltdown—he couldn’t handle crowds or long waits back then. I decided to see if I could find someone to help, and I approached a TSA officer and explained our situation. “My nephew has autism,” she said. “I totally get it.” And then, she escorted us through the line.

I shared this story in the wonderful new book When Action Follows Heart: 365 Ways to Share Kindness. It’s by my friend Susan Spencer, the Editor-in-Chief of Woman’s Day who also happens to be one of the nicest people I know. The book is full of simple yet meaingful ideas: print out a quotation or song lyric a friend likes and frame it for her as a surprise; visit a local animal shelter with your kids to play with the animals; take five minutes to write a current or past coworker a reco on Linkedin; designate a Crazy Food Day in which your family gets to have pizza for breakfast, pancakes for dinner and ice-cream anytime. (At last: validation! I do this because it’s laziness, but evidently, it’s a good deed.)

Blanche Dubois once famously said, in A Streetcar Named Desire, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Until I had Max, I was the opposite: a fiercely independent person who only wanted to accomplish things on her own. And then, suddenly, I was that person dependent on the kindness of strangers—at restaurants, at events, at nearly any public place where Max needed a helping hand or an extra helping of empathy.

I took the assistance, of course. It leveled the playing field for Max so he could participate in an activity the same as others kids were, or if it could offset his sensory issues. Still, there have been times when the kindness seemed to emanate from a place of pity, and that I’ve never made peace with. It made me uncomfortable when a woman who worked at Dunkin’ Donuts commented to Dave about Max not being able to talk and then gave him free donuts. Some people thought I was being overly tough, and I don’t ordinarily look a gift jelly donut in the mouth, but it’s upsetting when people think that Max’s condition is sad enough to merit freebies. This is not a sentiment I want to encourage.

In general, though, I have learned to become a more gracious receiver of kindness, thanks to Max. As the mom of a child with disabilities, you figure out pretty fast that it takes a village to raise your kid. For sure, I could stand to dole out more kind deeds—and I’ve got 365 of them sitting on my nightstand. What’s something kind that someone has done for you lately? 



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