In today’s polarized world, kindness sometimes seems in short supply. But Brittany Denison, a Fathom Realty agent in Midlothian, Texas, has found a way to spread it while caring for her special-needs son.
Like other moms of school-age children, Brittany has been dealing with typical back-to-school tasks like buying new backpacks and shopping for school clothes. But Brittany has also been opening minds and hearts while teaching others how to treat people with disabilities, and her efforts have drawn local, national and international attention.
Brittany’s son, Michael Murphey, was born with a rare genetic condition known as Treacher Collins syndrome. The condition has caused Michael’s face to develop in an atypical way. Auggie, the child portrayed in the popular book and movie Wonder, had the same syndrome.
As kindergarten approached, Brittany was excited but scared that Michael would be met with whispers and stares from other children. So to prepare Michael’s classmates and their parents, she posted a special message on Facebook before school began.
“I have a HUGE ask of all parents of school-aged children!” Brittany wrote in early August. “Would you please take a moment to talk to your children before school starts next week? Talk to them about using words like ‘different and unique’ instead of ‘weird and scary.’ Talk to them not only about being friendly and kind, but also about being a friend.”
Brittany explained in her post that as Michael gets older, he is beginning to realize that children sometimes stare at him. “Please don’t tell them not to stare!” Brittany wrote. “Instead, let them know that if they are going to stare, it’s polite to also say ‘Hi!’ Teach them to stand up for the kid in the room who is being picked on, and to sit with the kid who is being excluded.”
Brittany has been thrilled to see her post shared many times. The supportive responses she has received have been encouraging. Soon after she posted, a local television station did a feature on Brittany and Michael. Then People magazine picked up the story, spreading her sentiments across the country. Brittany has even seen their story in at least one foreign publication.
Brittany reminded parents in her post that they can teach their children kindness by example. “Model acceptance and kindness in the way you speak to other adults. This includes the cashier, the drive-thru employee, and the guy who didn’t use his turn signal!” She also encourages people to learn more about the amazing work of the Children’s Craniofacial Association, which has been so supportive of her family and many others.
Michael, who loves baseball, superheroes and puzzles, has had a great first few weeks of school, Brittany says. “He is making plenty of new friends in his class and at recess,” she wrote on Facebook recently. “Our Midlothian parents have obviously had the conversation with the kids, and IT IS WORKING!!!”
Brittany may have been targeting kindergarteners and their parents with her Facebook post, but it’s a message we can all take to heart.