Mail from Autism Speaks is not unusual in my household. Throughout the year we receive various invitations, information packets, donation requests and other helpful materials that help us guide my son Ethan’s journey. This time however, the envelope contained something of great value, if not to Ethan, then to me.
Inside the envelope were three neatly handwritten notes, which seemed unusual. The notes themselves weren’t unusual — what was unusual was that there seemed to be at least two people in this world who still realized the importance of actual penmanship, and the impact a personal handwritten note still elicits. The first note was a brief cover letter from someone at Autism Speaks.
I hope you and the family are well. We received this letter from a mom in New Zealand, I thought you would love to see it. Ethan is an international rock star!
Hope to see you soon.
Send my love to the family.
The second one-page handwritten note, which was sent to Autism Speaks, read:
Dear Autism Speaks,
I would like to express my thoughts to a little 6-year-old boy named Ethan Walmark who played Billy Joel’s song Piano Man in New York.
A truly amazing experience.
I hope it is possible to pass on my letter to him, as it would mean a lot to me. He is most blessed and smart. A young inspiration!
I hope you will!
Ariel [not her real name for privacy purposes]
The final three page letter — initially sent to Autism Speaks and meant for Ethan — was safely enclosed in its original envelope. The envelope was marked “Air Mail” with a return address that read Auckland, New Zealand. With Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and all other social media in abundance, the fact that someone eschewed technology to hand write a letter, find the correct United States address, spend money on postage and mail the letter from the other side of the world is above and beyond the call of duty — even if that call is for a 7-year-old child on the autism spectrum.
Ethan’s newfound Kiwi (which, according to Wikipedia, is "the nickname used internationally for people from New Zealand... its usage is not considered offensive; it is generally viewed as a symbol of pride and endearment for the people of New Zealand.") friend Ariel’s letter got right to the point:
Dear Ethan Walmark,
Hello, my name is Ariel. I live in Auckland, New Zealand. It is a small country at the bottom of the world with lots of green grass, farm animals and mixed nationalities.
I am writing to you because I am absolutely amazed at your live piano performances which I have watched on the broadcasting website YouTube. WOW!
I cannot believe my eyes. You’re truly amazing.
I have two boys and they have played instruments but decided to put away their instruments instead of mastering the instrument!
My eldest boy is in college, 14 going on 15 years of age. He loves technology-using tools nowadays. My youngest boy is in his last year of intermediate [school] attending a private boys school local to our house. He used to play the violin and was very good at it! He now enjoys food technology and computing.
I am a busy mother raising my two boys. I once played the piano when I was 10 years old. I got quite good at it!
I hope you continue in performances forever more. Your gifted talent is worth the world!
I hope this reaches you!
Ariel and sons xoxo
We live in a world where people sit anonymously behind their keyboards and type random, often spur-of-the-moment, often hateful and vengeful thoughts. Yet here was Ariel — a total stranger, a mother of two from the other side of the world — who found herself so inspired and moved by my 7-year-old son, that she took time out of her day to write a letter of appreciation. More impressive was that she didn’t address the letter to me, she addressed the letter to my son.
This lovely woman — Ethan’s Kiwi — wrote Ethan a letter just as anyone would write a letter to a friend. She didn’t talk down to Ethan. Her words weren’t condescending. Her prose was simple and succinct. She wrote the letter as if she knew Ethan could read and understand her thoughts (he can, and did). She encouraged Ethan as I imagine she does her own two sons, who are clearly lucky to have such a caring and thoughtful mother. As parents of two ourselves, all we want is for our children to be good people. Be happy. Make a difference. Make an impact on the world.
Today we live in a world where there exists a nationwide terror-awareness campaign whose slogan is “If you see something, say something." To some degree, Ariel took that phrase to heart, but instead of seeing the evil in the phrase, she saw the good. She saw something (in my son) and said how he inspired her. Make the world a better place. Make someone else happy. If you see something that inspires you today and every day, say something. To that I say, “Write on!”
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