This summer my family moved to a new state. Over the past couple months, I’ve repeatedly heard my younger daughter say, “I still don’t feel like this is home. It feels like we’re on a trip, and we need to get back.”
Sometimes she says it through tears. Other times she says it just matter-of-factly. And sometimes she even laughs about it. This fluctuation of emotions pretty much sums up the ups and downs that go along with moving.
But I must admit something. My daughter’s recurring comment, whether said through laughter or tears, has worried me. You see, this particular child is my Firefly with glasses that sit on the tip of her nose. She has prominent freckles and unruly hair that refuses to behave in a smooth and orderly fashion. This child is a Noticer with a keen awareness of other people’s struggles and fears, especially her own. On more than one occasion she’s maturely expressed that she is “different” from the rest. This child is a friend to all but not really attached to one. She marches to her own beat, makes up her own lyrics, sings like no one is listening. What happens to someone like this when thrown into a new environment with people who know nothing of her inner gifts? Back in our former community, she was loved and celebrated “as is”. We are now in a much bigger city where life is fast and unfamiliar. Would her light brighten or dim here? I’ve wondered many times.
Well, I was just at the height of my worry when something happened. I guess you could call it a game changer. In this case, I’m calling it a story changer. I share this experience as a means of grasping what matters in a fast-paced, overly distracted, pressure-cooker world. Whether we are lost or we are found, just a few moments with open hands and attentive eyes can turn things around.
This is our story …
It was Meet-the-Teacher day at my children’s new school. Coming from a school where every person we passed in the hall was either a friend from our neighborhood or church, the difference was quite noticeable. Walking amongst 900 people and not knowing a single one was intimidating even for me. My daughters and I purchased their school spirit t-shirts, put money in the lunch accounts, and then visited both classrooms. We had just left the second grade classroom where we’d met my younger daughter’s teacher. By the look on my child’s face, the meeting had gone well. She was smiling that squinty-eye smile where the corners of her mouth merge with the corners of her eyes. This full-on expression of joy was kind of stuck on her face. I reveled in my daughter’s smile as we made our way through the crowded halls.
So there we were, descending the steps along with 900 other families that had come to meet their teacher. About halfway down, there was a woman coming right for us. No matter how many people were in her way, she was determined to get to us. It was as if she knew us. It was as if she must reach us.
Finally this tall, slender woman with a welcoming smile stood directly in front of us. My children and I came to a halt. That’s when this lovely woman leaned down and gently cupped my younger daughter's face in her hands. In a deep, warm voice that held a hint of southern charm she said, “You are so cute. You are so, so cute. I just can’t stand it! Who are you?” she asked excitedly.
My child’s eyes shifted over to me without removing her face from the woman’s hands. She began giggling like this was the funniest and most wonderful thing that could possibly happen. “I’m Avery,” she responded between giggles.
“Well, you are beautiful, Avery. I just love your freckles. I am so glad you are here. I am the P.E. teacher.”
How this woman knew to pick Avery out of the crowd, I will never know. How she knew to take both my daughters under her wing and introduce them to the principal and associate principal, I will never know. As I fought back tears of relief and gratitude, I did know one thing: what was happening in that moment was incredibly significant. I just didn’t yet know how significant.
Avery went home and reenacted the whole scene for her visiting grandparents. When her daddy came home, she acted it out again, never leaving out the face—the face in the hands was the most important part. Avery called one of her friends back home. “You will never guess what happened to me today,” she said clutching the phone with a wide smile.
You know when someone has a story? Like the day she met her spouse? Or the day he found a winning lottery ticket in a puddle next to his car? Or the day she quit her dead-end job and headed to Nashville to follow her dreams?
As I heard Avery telling everyone she possibly could about the hallway experience, I thought: This is her story. In one moment, her homesickness eased and her new life looked brighter. I could envision her telling this story for years to come, maybe even to her future spouse or her own daughter when she is scared and uncertain.
Don’t we all want our face to be held in someone’s hands?
Don’t we all want to be told how beautiful we are?
Don’t we all want to know we matter, that we are not invisible?
Don’t we all want a story to tell—that moment when our life started looking a little brighter?
Those questions swirled around in my head for days, though I wasn’t quite sure why. When I found myself in despair at a local emergency vet, I thought of those questions again. Banjo, our very special cat, had gotten outside and had an allergic reaction to something in the woods behind our home. As I sat wringing my hands in the waiting room, a family walked in with their feeble dog. He was so old that his fur had actually grayed. He had saggy, red-rimmed eyes and a large lump protruded from his hip. The dog was lovingly worn down to the threads just like a childhood teddy bear.
I heard bits of the owner’s conversation with the receptionist. “Old … suffering … time to say goodbye.” The mother cried holding her small child against her hip. The father couldn’t even speak. He just patted the dog’s head in a calm, rhythmic motion. As I watched a family in turmoil, tears silently dripped down my cheeks.
The receptionist told them that euthanasia specialist would be with them shortly and to take a seat. The dog did not budge so the father picked him up gently. They sat down at the end of the bench near me. After sitting in silence for a few minutes, I trusted my voice. The father had walked away for a moment; the woman and her small child sat alone.
“I’m sorry,” I said quietly.
The woman’s sad eyes perked up. I saw a long, slow breath release from her chest. She smiled weakly.
“I can see that is a very special dog,” I added.
The woman turned slightly toward me and proceeded to tell me how they rescued him when he was a pup. For the first few weeks, he could only sleep if his head was pressed against hers. Because he had a bad case of fleas, she was paranoid there was a flea in her ear for the longest time. She laughed out loud. It was so nice to hear her laugh. She told me how he protected them. He was a good dog—the best kind of dog. Thank you for asking, she had said, her voice cracking just once.
I couldn’t change her story, but I could make the story a little better by letting her know I could see her pain—that she was not invisible. I vowed to keep remembering to look for small ways to impact someone’s story in a positive way the way the P.E. teacher did for my child.
Avery continues to have her up days and her down days. Her big sister made her a schedule to post in her room that highlights her P.E. days. Avery pops right up on those days. “I get to see the nice lady with the big smile today. You know, the lady who held my face,” she adds like I need to be reminded. I won’t ever need to be reminded, but that’s a story I will never tire of hearing.
I have no doubt the hallway experience altered the way Avery felt about this new territory—about her new life. To some that may seem like an exaggeration, but I am certain that it’s not. In fact, for the skeptics, I suggest this:
Take someone’s face in your hands. Look them straight in the eye. Say, “You are beautiful. Tell me about you.” Then stop and listen.
Talk about empowering. Talk about goose-bump inducing. Talk about uplifting, life-changing, and hope-building. Talk about grasping what really matters in a world of distraction, pressure, rush, and despair.
It doesn’t take much to change someone’s story. In fact, I’ve discovered six seconds will do. I wrote the following poem while waiting for Banjo to emerge from the vet. I thought of many six-second actions that can turn the day around and possibly change someone’s story. When I posted the poem to The Hands Free Revolution page, it was deemed “The 6 Second Challenge” and shared by nearly 25,000 people. “I’m in for The Six Second Challenge! How about you?” people wrote again and again. I was fueled with such hope, and I wanted to share this hope with you.
So in honor of those who are lost … those who are hurting … those who are looking for one small sign that they are not invisible, I offer this challenge. Today let’s see what we can do with 6 seconds to change someone’s story or at least make it a little brighter.
The 6 Second Challenge
In 6 seconds you can kiss someone like you mean it.
In 6 seconds you can hold open a door.
In 6 seconds you can wait for a little straggler to catch up. “I’ll wait for you,” you can even say.
In 6 seconds you can take a deep breath.
In 6 seconds you can let it go. “It’s not worth it,” you can say.
In 6 seconds you can tuck a note in a lunch box or in a pocket. It takes 2 seconds to make a heart.
In 6 seconds you can say you’re sorry.
In 6 seconds you can cut yourself some slack.
In 6 seconds you can throw away that picture, that pair of pants, that inner bully that keeps you from loving this day, this you.
In 6 seconds you can feel the sunshine.
In 6 seconds you decide it’s time to stop looking back.
In 6 seconds you can whisper, “It’s gonna be okay,” to yourself or someone who’s scared.
I used to sound like a broken record. “I don’t have time,” I would always say. But then I realized what could happen in a mere 6 seconds.
It’s enough to make a bad day good …
It’s enough to bring life back to your weary bones …
It’s enough to change someone’s story …
It’s enough to remember what really matters in the midst of so much that doesn’t.
© Rachel Macy Stafford 2014
If this story brought you hope or inspiration, please know you can find it (and many more uplifting experiences like it) in my second book, HANDS FREE LIFE: 9 Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better, & Loving More. Friends, have you ever changed someone’s story in a positive way? Please share. Every week when The Hands Free Revolution community members share their struggles and triumphs someone out there feels less alone. I feel so uplifted each week as I read your thoughts and encouragements.
Thank you for the overwhelming response to The Presence Pledge on last week’s post. It is now available in two styles in the Hands Free Shop along with the other inspiring Hands Free prints, bracelets and vintage t-shirts! I appreciate your unending support!
There is nothing — nothing — that makes me feel more loved, appreciated, or noticed than having my face held in someone’s hands. It has always been my favorite gesture of human kindness, even more so than a hug (and I love a good hug!). I’m so glad Avery had that experience and the girls received such a warm welcome at their new school. I’ve been thinking about you so much during these new beginnings… and holding your face from afar. XOXO
Kristin Shaw says
I second that! Love you both. xoxoxo
Claire Holloway says
tears in my eyes at work. going to your store. 6 seconds…. not much time to ‘get closer’ is it?
love your work
and, by extension, you (and Avery!!!) oh and Banjo
Rachel, you speak directly to me. I am a firefly. My sweet, strong, painfully shy 8 year old boy is a firefly. He is the sweet baby that helps a teammate up in the middle of a game instead of trying to kick the ball. He has so many amazing things. I can’t believe the timing of this message that you gave me today. You spoke to my scared hurt momma heart. You see, my firefly started 3rd grade this year and we have a teacher who I am sure is nice, but I wrote her an email on Friday and I didn’t get an answer. I waited but then I sent another email with a quick question about how did he do his first week. I promise you, I wasn’t trying to be annoying. I swear, I did not think she got my first one and it had only been a sentence or two long. She answered, but then went to another teacher who happens to be my mother, and complained about me sending emails. She told my mom that she wasn’t going to be able to handle it if I sent her emails every week. I am frustrated and embarrassed. She ended her response to me with something about working hard to bring him out of his shell. I wanted her to take his shell in her hands and tell him that he is okay not try to pull him out of it! Please, if you think about it. ..pray she looks for his light.
Hillary, you are not alone in your concerns for your child’s success and well being. I’ve been there too. My youngest had terrible separation anxiety when he started school. The teachers seemed to have no compassion…Then I realized, after working in the classroom, that the teacher too has her own fears. I am holding your face and your firefly’s face in my hands and seeing success for you both….and if you could hold the teachers face in your mind’s eye…. and believe that all will be well… Good things will come!
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Thank you so much, Kara. Your encouraging message to Hillary is so inspiring to me!
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Hillary, my heart hurts when I read this and I want you to know you did nothing wrong! You were simply being an advocate for your child. If we don’t advocate for our children, who will? Perhaps the teacher was overwhelmed with the beginning of school duties. I was a teacher for 10 years and the beginning of the year can be a little nutty. Try if you can to replace worry with TRUST. This is something I wrote in 2013 that may help you:
“When I begin to go down the path of worry, I stop myself by saying one word: Trust.
Trust that worrying will do nothing to change the outcome.
Trust that my child will be where he needs to be in his own time.
Trust that things will work out as they should.
Replacing worry with trust has allowed me to live more and love more in the precious day at hand.
I choose to live the precious time I am given instead of worrying the moments away.”
I know it is easier said than done, but when I began stopping myself with the word “TRUST” it really helped me let go and allow things to evolve as they should. This might be a growing year for your little Firefly. Perhaps this is just the teacher to help build a confidence he doesn’t yet know he has. I will be praying for your little Firefly and for you. And I would also encourage you not be afraid to communicate with the teacher. If you think that a face-to-face meeting in a few weeks would help you know how he is doing, I would ask to schedule one. As a teacher, I did this often with parents. I looked at it as part of my job.
I’m not, nor have I ever been, a teacher. But what Hillary says here upset me. I have an Avery as well. She started first grade this year. She’s not a firefly – she’s a whirlwind. But whirlwinds require special care, too. They need some structure and a little help focusing, doing their work neatly and completely, and need to know that their unbridled energy has a time and a place.
I think what bothered me the most about Hillary’s post was the teacher’s reluctance to get back to her and complaining about the emails to someone else. All of my kid’s teachers have presented an open-door policy. They ask that we email them anytime, stop in the classroom anytime, call them anytime if there is anything we need to discuss or they need to know. Of course, they may complain about my emails and I simply have no idea. But they get back to me.
I’ve talked to Avery’s new teacher about what a force of nature she is, and she offered to keep me updated on how Avery is doing. During open house, she sat down and talked to Ave, and they made a pinkie promise that Avery would let her teacher know when she was feeling happy or sad or mad or excited, and that if she needed help, to ask for it. Her teacher’s end of the promise was to listen and to help her in any way she could.
To Hillary I would say this….you are your child’s advocate. You speak for him when he cannot speak for himself. Do what your heart tells you to do. You should feel comfortable discussing your child – his needs, his well-being, his struggles – with his teacher, and she should encourage you to do so and listen to what you have to say. I think Rachel’s suggestion to schedule a face-to face meeting is a great one. Don’t wait until conference time – try again to establish open communication at the beginning of the year, speaking to her from the heart. Perhaps then she’ll better understand your concerns and you’ll better understand her intentions. Good luck to both you and your Firefly!
You make great points Stacy,
when my child started first grade and suffered severe separation anxiety, the school responded by putting him in isolated time out, they physically restrained him at one point by laying him on the ground and putting a knee on his back, with his hands held behind him. He was told to calm down before he could be released. To deserve this response, he had only cried for his mama, and tried to run out of the class room in search for her. We do have to be advocates for our children. I learned very quickly that the staff and teacher were ill prepared and uninformed of what separation anxiety was and how to manage it. I also learned that this new teacher had 3 other children in her class with developmental delays and behavior issues. She was overwhelmed from day one. I asked to volunteer in the classroom and the staff immediately said absolutely NOT. I wrote a research paper in the next 48 hours and then presented it to the staff and school psychologist asking the to understand more clearly, I wrote a clear plan of action of what I intended to do as a parent and support for the school to help my own child. I appealed to our pediatrician who wrote a doctors order to allow me in the classroom until my son could make the adjustment. It worked, they accepted. It took 9 weeks for my son to be completely confident and trustworthy of his new experience. The reason why I wanted to respond to Hillary is because, I Learned so much as well in those 9 weeks. I learned that our teachers are under a lot of stress, that they too have fears, and that most of them want things to be successful but are not always experienced enough, or empathetic enough to see beyond immediate circumstances. This special blog helps remind us to see another’s point of view… to see the bigger picture, to adjust our own beliefs.
Janis Bates says
You are amazing! All the stories I have read make me cry. Good for all of you out there who make a difference and have the courage to be the voice and advocate for those who need us.
Susan C says
I have been there with my sweet middle girl, Maddy, a little red haired, blue eyed sprite. 1st grade was hard, 2nd grade was terrible…the first teacher warned the second teacher about how “scatterbrained” she was, how she didn’t focus, how different she was from her older, attentive, straight A sister. I didn’t step in soon enough, because it was a small private school and I didn’t want to be a trouble maker. Once I did, it made a difference, but I still pulled her out and home-schooled her for 3 years. I needed the break as much as she did. I wonder if I had been brave enough to step in sooner and confront the way she was being treated, if it would have made more of a difference. My point is, don’t worry about anyone but that sweet boy. Pray about letting go when you should and protecting when you should. It is sometimes hard to know the difference. It is now many years later for us…my Maddy left this morning for her second year in college. It breaks my heart to see her go, but I am so happy to say that she is bright, beautiful, unafraid, and doing life her way (which is thankfully God’s way). She has her struggles, and has tendencies she will always be working on, but she is a noticer, a friend, and a light…just a good, sweet girl, with scars from being “different”, but I am prayerful those scars will be her strength. I will pray for your little one’s light to shine and for that teacher to catch a glimpse of it enough to see what he really needs instead of what she thinks he needs.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
So beautiful and touching, Susan. Thank you, friend.
You can ask for another teacher. Don’t keep him somewhere where his not appreciated. There are a lot of good teachers in this world and a lot of very marginal ones, too. I, too, had a firefly whose kindergarten teacher didn’t appreciate him. I regret to this day that I didn’t take him out of that woman’s class. Luckily, his had subsequent teachers in other grades that did appreciate him, thank goodness. He is 28 years old today and a doctoral candidate at Princeton University. The advocacy for and constant encouragement was sometimes a struggle but the payoff so great. He has now turned into my great encourager and advocate. Thank God your beautiful son has a loving, caring mother like you!
I am a former teacher, and I think you don’t need to feel bad at all for inquiring about your son. Have you heard of the book called Quiet? There is a helpful chapter in there about parenting an introvert. Teachers are taught to involve all students, and sometimes I think our training gets in the way of recognizing the unique qualities students possess. I feel terrible you were made to feel embarrassed.
I pray he has a great year. My daughter has Aspergers and she went through a couple of years miserable in class but keeping it in, 4th-5th grade. I remember that on the very last day of class one of her teachers told me that she seemed to be “comeing out of her shell.” I thought “What shell?” Some people just dont’ get it, don’t let their hard shells be of significance in your beautiful lives.
Maybe you can hold that teacher’s face in your hands. Maybe that’s what she needs in order to pass it on because you cannot give what you do not have. Maybe if you give her that experience….she will be able to pass it on. I love your writings. Each word tugs at my soul and my heart strings. You talk about the way I walk in this world. Making the choice to to see, to witness, to stand with others has made the world a better place for me to live. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and love. You make a difference.
Rachel Stafford says
“Making the choice to to see, to witness, to stand with others has made the world a better place for me to live.”
That is profoundly beautiful, dear Elle, and I am so blessed to walk beside you. Together, there is hope.
Absolutely beautiful! Thank you for reminding us. This applies not only to change anothers story, but to change our own.. it only takes 6 seconds.. I love that.. it only takes a smile, holding the door, a deep breath, a kind word, a simple hello. It is true, when we change ourselves, we change the world. When we reach out to another in empathy and in thoughtfulness, we change the world as well. We remember our connectedness. Thank you!
Julia Kurskaya says
We’ve read this with my husband, and right after we’ve finished, we grabbed the guitar and the harmonica and sang The 6 Seconds Challenge! So it’s a song now. I love your posts, every post. Banjo is absolutely awesome.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
This makes me SO happy! I want to hear the song! (Avery plays the guitar & sings too!)
Julia Kurskaya says
Oh Rachel, you are such a GIFT to us! My husband is in charge of the most song-writing in our family, he would love the idea to record it and send it to you! We will be working on it. God bless you.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
I can hardly wait, Julia! My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Much love and gratitude to you!
Julia Kurskaya says
It’s in your mailbox, Rachel. We’ve sent it several days ago, and I’m writing this just to make sure it didn’t get to spam because of the attachment! 🙂
Love your stories! Thank you.
LOVE this story, Rachel!!! I often tell people, especially children, something nice. It never fails to elicit a positive reaction. A simple ‘I like your shoes’ (dress, hair, laugh, glasses, etc) is super easy and makes ME smile as much as the person I say it too. So that brief few seconds lasts soooo much longer!!!
Carina Smith says
This is the first time I’ve read anything from your site. It showed up on my feed when a friend commented on your post on FB. I am in tears – we are moving next year and I am scared out of my ever lovin’ mind. My daughter is EXACTLY how you describe your daughter. I am still scared, but you have offered me a hopeful perspective. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! And yes, we have absolutely had those 6 second encounters and they are indeed, story changers. Thank you for that reminder, as well! May God continue to bless you through your writing!!
I love your insightful posts and stories. They always bring me hope, a tip, a message.
From a noticer and from a mom of a noticer, Thank you! This is exactly it! Last year my son, who sounds just like your daughter, struggled. He is smart and bright and funny (with lots of annoying 10 year old habits too). His teacher never noticed him. Ever. So he detached and quit putting effort into his work. Our new school year starts next week. I hope he can find someone who sees him this year! because not being seeing is also a story changer.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for writing this and for your Firefly article. I’m in tears because you write my heartbeat.
My oldest son (7) is my firefly. He is as your daughter is: a noticer, special, sensitive, uncertain, thoughtful…different. He is everyone’s friend, but not too many are his. He is the one at the playground who offers friendship to every child but is left watching them walk away. I try to encourage him to continue to let his light shine and be himself, but he doesn’t understand why other children don’t want to be friends. Sometimes, I don’t understand either.
I have prayed for him. I have prayed “God, please, let someone SEE him!” I’m still praying.
I’m sure your daughter’s stairwell moment was an answer to your prayers. It was beautiful. I rejoice with you, as a mother of firefly myself. Wouldn’t it be nice to get all of our fireflies together and say “See! Look at how you all light up the room!”
So, again, thank you for writing. It’s hard to give a voice to the heart’s burdens, but you do. Don’t stop.
My husband and I have put my son through 4 different kidney surgeries in the first 18 months of his life due to a congenital defect in his urinary tract. We lost the kidney but as you can imagine the hope I had that we’d keep his kidney in between surgeries was iffy at best. After his 2nd surgery Michael & I were strolling through Menards with Orion in the cart and in awe of all the Cool Tools we saw. I wasn’t in the best of moods, my hope had been stepped on, because they had found a second blockage in his ureter and we were due for another surgery, but in the meantime Orion had a nephrostomy tube inserted into his kidney to allow it to drain into a bag because it could not drain into his bladder. I noticed a man at the end of an aisle he smiled at me and Orion as if he knew us personally & hadn’t seen us in a very long time, I found it a bit odd but curious at the same time. As we strolled past him I gave him a little smile and nod in return. He grabbed the cart, Looked at Orion and then looked me in right in the eyes. For some reason a part of me said RUN STRANGER DANGER and I started to push the cart out of his grasp his hold became more firm, stopping me from moving on, as he looked at me and started talking a sense of Pure Peace rushed over me. Turns out he knew exactly what the nephrostomy tube and drainage bag was for, where other people stared in disgust at my beautiful son and the pain he had to endure, this man understood completely. Turns out his son had been through the same exact diagnosis and surgeries as Orion, and even more as he had further health complications when he was born. I’ll never forget when the man said “You need not worry about your son, he’s going to be ok. I promise you that despite what the doctors say, despite how long the road looks from here, your son will be just fine” He smiled at me, nodded, let go of the cart and walked down the aisle in the other direction to meet his teenage son, put his arm around him and gave him half a hug. The man will never know what he did for my outlook, he’ll never know that with his few kind words he restored my Faith and my Hope.
There are people we come across in this lifetime who can change things for us in just an instant, with just a few words or a helping hand. I call these people Everyday Angels. Now that we’re down a kidney I can see that this man was correct, no matter what we came to deal with along that road, Orion is okay, and he’s going to be just fine. I believe a Higher Power sent that man to us, I was struggling, barely keeping my head above the waters of despair and we were sent an Everyday Angel to help see us see the Light through a really dark time. If each of us think a little harder and look a little closer at our lives and the people we have crossed paths with you’ll recognize these Angels are all around us, and they help even when we don’t take the time to notice. The next time you want to make the statement that you’ve “Lost faith in humanity” remember that it’s much easier to remember those who have hurt you versus those who have truly helped you. Humanity is not lost, I still have the Faith & Hope that these Everyday Angels will continue to help guide me out of the darkness & into the light.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
With tears running down my face, I give thanks for Orion, your Everyday Angel, you, and your story. Thank you for reminding us of all that is good.
Beautiful story of Orion. My baby brother, Garreth, had special needs after being hit by a car. He couldn’t walk, talk or do anything normal anymore. The once vibrant, blonde hair eight year old, was bedridden and his hair turned dark. But that smile was still there. We don’t know what he did or didn’t understand, but we treated him as normally as possible and kept him in school (after the first year of being in the hospital). Many of his friends and some of the teachers did not know how to act around him.
When Garreth was about 14, a teenage boy in his school, a boy labeled a trouble maker by the teachers & staff, began helping me with Garreth. The boy (David) would meet me at the van in the mornings and help wheel Garreth in; he would sit by him in classes and would wheel him to lunch and sit with him there. He reached out to Garreth and to us in a very painful time. Our lives had been turned upside down and nothing was the same anymore. Some people we had known all of our lives wouldn’t even speak to him or to us. We realized most of them were just scared of how to deal with Garreth’s accident and the new him. (He had a feeding tube and wore diapers) Some of our family even had a hard time knowing how to act around us.
But not David…he was a lifesaver that year. My hope in people was definitely restored. He loved on Garreth and we loved on him. We didn’t treat him like a troublemaker; we treated him like a friend. He helped change our story with Garreth and I think we may have helped change his. Garreth passed away when he was 15. We tried to find David to be a pallbearer, but we didn’t have any luck. But about six months ago, I saw David in Wal-Mart. I felt someone watching me, and I turned to meet his smiling face. I smiled back and said hello. We only talked for a few seconds, but my heart felt that joy I felt eight years ago. Joy because David had loved on Garreth and helped change our story.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
I couldn’t love this story anymore. Giving thanks for Garreth, David, and you, a very special lady. Wishing you peace, dear one.
Izabel Silvestre says
I’m far away from you… I live in Barzil and I love all your posts!
Sorry if my English have lots of mistakes but I think you’ll undestand!
The school story was very beutiful… makes me cry with emotion!
Everything our children do or live teach other kids and their moms…
Thank you for your words.
Stacey Zink says
This has to be the best post I have read in a while. It touched my heart. Thank you so much for sharing. I want to be this person for someone else.
In six seconds, I can thank you for this beautiful post. I am so glad you and your family are adjusting to your new home, and I love Avery’s story. Thank you for sharing it, Rachel. Thinking of you during this newest beginning. xoxo
Your posts are beautiful and inspiring.
We just moved 6 hours away from anyone we know. My daughter has had a little difficulty with school, math particularly and has a lot of anxiety. I just took her out of public school and this morning dropped her off for the first time at a cottage school (home-school hybrid). She seemed very independent as I left, saying, BYE MOM, pushing me out the door. I have been praying and hoping I am doing the right thing. She really needs social interaction too. As I got to my car, another mom stopped to talk to me, then another joined us. Turns out we are all from the same state. It made me feel better to talk to them. They were my angels today. Then I got home and read this. I think this year is going to be a good beginning of our new story!
My 6-second story is one I will never stop telling, and one that changed a very terrible day into a day that could be bearable. My son was 3 1/2 when we were told the news that no mom ever wants to hear “Your son has cancer”. Our world shattered. I shattered. I had no idea how to put on foot in front of the other, I had no idea what the future held for my little boy, for his twin brother, for his little sister, and for the baby inside of me. I had to leave the hospital later to get some necessities for our hospital stay. I stopped at a local fast food restaurant to get some food, because as much as I didn’t feel like eating I had to for my unborn child. As I was ordering in a very flat and pained voice, I asked what the flavor of ice cream was that day. She replied it was snickers. My voice must have changed tone because that is my favorite and this woman in the drive through took note. When I got to the window to pay she told me that she could tell in my voice that snickers ice cream excited me so she gave me extra. I held back the tears and I realized that this woman who didn’t know me or the horrible news I had just received showed me kindness. A small kindness that 3 years later still makes me choke up. She didn’t have to be kind, she didn’t have to give me extra, she didn’t have to pay extra attention – but she did. She changed a day that was devastating into a day that was manageable. From that day forward I have tried my best to never judge a person, to smile at strangers, to open a door, to do something small because like you said – those 6 seconds matter, and we don’t know whose life we can change in those few precious moments.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
I cry with you, Alyssa. What a beautiful example of how one small action gave you the hope and strength you needed to carry on. “She didn’t have to be kind, she didn’t have to give me extra, she didn’t have to pay extra attention – but she did.” Those are powerful words. If you feel so inclined, I would love to know how your son is doing now. Thank you so much for the blessing of your story. It won’t be forgotten.
Thank you. My son is a year off-treatment and doing very well 🙂 Thank you for asking.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
WONDERFUL NEWS! Thank you for the update, Alyssa. May your sweet family continue to prosper.
Proud Mommy says
This is wonderful news. My cousin was diagnosed with leukemia at 2 years old, he is now a healthy 19 year old basketball star… I remember when he was first diagnosed. My Aunt and I were at Children’s Hospital for a treatment…my Aunt noticed a “new” family walk in, you could just see on their faces that this “horrible place to be” was new to them. My Aunt was signing papers, laid down the pen and walked away from me… at the time, I was so confused, she walked up to the “new” mother and gave her this huge hug. She didn’t say a word, just offered comfort in what must have been a horrific day. The “new” mother was lost in her arms…she just cried and cried and my Aunt never had to say a word…a strong hug was all that she needed, “there are others like you”, “we are here for you”, “your child WILL get through this and so will you” was the message of the hug, but she didn’t have to say it…she was just “there”. 17 years later, I always tell this story… my Aunt was extremely strong during this time, I wasn’t sure how she was doing it (especially when she had her own brother who had lost a battle with leukemia when he was six– of course, that was always in the forefront of everyone’s thoughts as her own son battled on…) I’m not always this person…I’m “busy”…I’m “the one having the bad day”, etc. I truly vow to do better. I have three wonderful children and they all seem to embrace others…they are good hearts. My daughter, who can be so difficult at times, reached out to a young boy, in their kindergarten year, who has special needs. He has grown to adore my daughter and they would call every year and ask permission to “keep them together” in the classroom…. in the 5th grade (last year), they separated him from her and he did wonderful… I’m SO proud of the strength that she had…in a world where you are judged SO much, she walked away from her own friends and helped him the very first day to rebuild a Lego tower that he knocked over… one that was built by one of her friends and they were furious at the little boy for ruining their hard work. She stood up for a young, troubled boy last year in school, also. This boy came from a family of lower income…that lived in a home that needed a lot of repair, I heard that they didn’t have heat during a terrible winter and they had MANY MANY animals, that qauite honestly, they had no business having…. an adult when up to this child and “yelled” at HIM for leaving the animals out in the cold of winter… threatened to call the police on his parents… she said this for all the RIGHT reasons but to the WRONG person. This wasn’t this child’s responsibility…it was his parents, he was a 10 year old troubled child who wasn’t even being cared for, himself…. my daughter went to her teacher…she told him what happened and used these words which broke my heart then and now, as I write this…. “This boy HAD only one place to feel safe and that was when he came to school and now she has taken that away from him, too”. She wasn’t trying to get this person in trouble, she was sticking up for the underdog, just like we all should…she noticed, in the middle of a crazy, loud cafeteria that this young boy was hurt and troubled and ASKED him (imagien that), if there was something she could do to help. Although, my daughter then took tons of “slack” from this person and her fellow coworkers, it never seemed to bother her… I KNOW she would do it all over again and I am SO proud of that. My oldest son was an introvert, for lack of better terms, too. He had a group of friends that went on to play sports when sports wasn’t “his thing”….for years, I worried and worried about him finding his way… he always seemed so “left out”, even though he wasn’t… he wasn’t “me”…I was always involved, with tons of friends, Straight As, etc … he was happy by himself or with one friend and struggled with school work… it took until his Junior year of high school to “find his own”… he moved to a new school (Vo-Tech), I wasn’t a fan of this move, but it ended up being the absolute best thing for him. He flourishede at this new school, developed a HUGE group of new friends and found his own… he now could sit down with anyone and have hours of conversation. I TRIED to push these things because I thought he “had” to be this way, but it had to be him that decided how he would be… I think we forget that, too. Our chilren our born and we “picture” this life for them, when it will be them that sets their life story…we can only love and support them during that time and hope that we’ve taught them enough to do the right thing. Like someone previously said, I’ve never seen your posts until a facebook posting… WOW! I will be a follower of yours…I’ve been reading and crying and thinking and how I can be better. If you can get just one person to do that, it’s incredible and I can see that there are so many others trying for the same thing. Thanks for making a difference in so many people’s lives!! Have a great day!!
My Avery moved to a new school this year (with over 1,000 students) from a small private school with about 275 students. She needed more resources for her learning disabilities. I lived in fear (and sometimes continue to) At her old school the teachers and kids knew her limits. They knew she needed extra help opening her snacks; had trouble writing and reading….but they accepted her as is and loved her. Would these new kids do that? Will she just disappear in a sea of children? All I can do is let her know she is beautiful, smart and capable every chance I get! That is our greatest power as parents. Thank you for this post about your sweet Avery!! 🙂
While I was going through chemo, very sick. No hair, eyelashes or eyebrows. Just not feeling well. I was on a rare outing to my favorite thrift store. A complete stranger came up gently touched my arm. She said “has anyone told you today that you are beautiful”. Then walked away. I will never forget that. It was just what I needed.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Lovely, Wendy. Thank you for sharing. I hope you are doing well now.
Proud Mommy says
WOW! That is so touching and I pray that you are healthy, now. God bless you.
Lisa D says
Rachel, I want to thank you that you are sharing your gift of writing with us. I have recently found your blog and the two posts I have read have both brought me to tears. This is so well said and so convicting and I admire your focus on not missing the present. You just write so beautifully. I shared your last story about treasuring siblings with a couple of friends and we had such a wonderful conversation. Thank you again for the tears of joy today.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
I am grateful you are here. Thank you for lifting me up with such kind words.
Your blog posts always bring tears to my eyes. I wish I could express my thoughts and feelings like you do. Thank you!
This story is so wonderful it made me cry. Thank you!
Oh, sweet Rachel, what I wouldn’t give right now to have a neighbour or friend like you at this very moment. Your amazing heart and truest beauty just leaps off the page and I feel like my heart is in my throat. Your words always touch the deepest depths of my heart. I yearn to be better. You are so open, enlightened, inspiring, always uplifting…such a gentle soul… always an emotional read for me. Thank you for being such a soft, glowing light in this often hard, sad, disconnected, closed off world. What you do has the power to help and change people for the better. Thank you for having such an amazing impact on my life. You and your family would be such a gift and blessing to any community.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
I am so touched by your heartfelt words, Patricia. You have blessed me beyond measure today!!!
Proud Mommy says
It’s funny… I’ve been thinking the same thing. I have a friend that is an addict. We were inseparable and I lost that 6.5 years ago, when she was finally put into a Rehab and that cycle hasn’t stopped since then… she’s very sick and we don’t have much communication, now, even though I’d love to…she feels I”m part of the “bad life” that she had and needs to be away from that… I respect that and pray for her, but man, do I miss our friendship…this was my absolute best friend, that one that knows how your secrets and funny stories… I would love to have a close friend like you, someone that empowered me when I was down, etc. I mourn for the loss that I have in her friendship…thanks for making me feel better by reading your encouraging words.
Lloyd Neale says
Thanks for sharing another moving reminder that one important gesture can touch another person’s life. It definitely shows the impact a teacher can make on a child’s life, let alone a loving and caring Mother like you. Teachers impact the lives of those who cross their path every day and this is yet another reminder how grateful we should be for their public services and how they impact the lives of children. God’s continued blessing to your family and you as you continue to adjust to a new environment.
I have been taking care of Women and their Newborn babies for over 30 years. I too am a Noticer. During my earlier days in Labor & Delivery, I began to find that I was able to provide the special comforting care required for mothers and fathers who are delivering dead babies, babies of all gestational ages. I sought out the assignment to care for patients who laboring with an “IUFD” (intrauterine fetal demise). It seems morbid to say that I gained feelings of selfworth by caring for people who are never forget that horrible day in their life.
I’m a transplanted Ohio girl, struggling to mix in with the Alabama patients I now care for. Yesterday I found my old ways of comforting those with a loss in their life transcends all races, all socio-economic classes. The things I can say to these girls I know will be with them as they travel thru the next weeks and months of their mourning. It sounds morbid to take photos of those little (or even worse, big) babies. Using a disposable camera or their cell phone, creating images that will be all she has left to remember her child, the moms are grateful. It sounds morbid to say that each time I took those photos only the good features of the baby were recorded.
Thank you for allowing this bit of sharing space. I know that you will understand how making a horrific event, in the life of my patient a bit easier, would make me feel proud of my capability.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
You are very special, Melinda. I felt peace and assurance simply reading how much you care for and feel called to bring comfort to those in such despair. Thank you for the life-changing, soul-touching work that you do. I am certain you live on in the memory banks of those who found your hands and words to be an unexpected blessing in a time of sorrow and pain. Bless you, Melinda.
I had something happen to my “firefly” a few years ago that I wanted to share. My 2 oldest boys are eleven months apart and the “firefly” is always in his brothers shadow. The oldest is a typical “first born”, he’s athletic, smart and the life of the crowd kinda’ guy. The 2nd son…. quite, kind and always the one to make someone feel welcome in our home or church.
Since the boys were 4 and 5 we placed the in kid triathlons. Not hard crazy ones but ones they can accomplish and something they can do to feel successful. On the day of the race I told my #2, mommy will ride the bike portion of the race with you so you don’t get lost and it’ll be fun for us to be together. As we rode down the path. He noticed everything that day, the river, the bunnies by the river and clouds in the sky that made him think we might have a evening thunderstorm. In his slowness of pace I asked him, Landen….. Did mommy forget to mention THIS. IS. A. RACE? He replied yeah mom, but look at what a pretty day this is. I just wanted to hurry and get this thing done. He took what felt like forever on that ride and we still had to do the run portion.
By the time that we did the run you guessed it we were dead last. Everyone else had finished the race and were waiting on him to finish. But, instead of everyone being mean and mad, telling him to hurry. Here’s what happened. Everyone was at the finish line chanting for my son. Go Landen Go, Go Landen Go, Go Landen Go! I was behind him, I got to see him finish that race from behind and it was a day that still takes my breath away. That crowd helped him see he could finish a race and be a winner just by finishing strong. I reminds me of the Bible verse that talks about being surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. It was an amazing day, I hope he will remember for the rest of his life. People cheered him on. That day he felt like he was in the Olympics…. A WINNER!
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Oh my goodness, what a beautiful story!!! I cannot help but say THANK YOU to you, Mama, for being so patient when many of us (myself included) would have felt compelled to push Landen along. You are both a blessing.
I always gain so much from your stories. My next 6 seconds is to share this article with a friend in need. Thank you!
As I read your blog it brought me to tears!!! I have a 11 year old boy and 9 year old boy/girl twins. There is a VERY REAL possibility that we will have to move out of our home state. It kills me to think of moving my children away from all of their friends, their schools, their hobbies and everything that they know and love. I myself have NEVER lived anywhere other than where we are now, born and raised here. I can’t decide after reading your post if I should feel happy or scared :-/ your story was beautiful and powerful and all to true about how much the smallest gesture could have such a HUGE impact on someone. I wish wish wish there was an easy answer or way of knowing what the right thing to do is!!!!!!
Staci, I’ve been there too. We moved our 4 kids/pregnant with #5 ……. 5,000 miles from the deep south to Alaska. You CAN do it and you’ll be amazed at the people placed in your path to bless you along the way. Those “everyday angels” come out of the woodwork. When your at “home” with the comforts of family we’re not usually pushed into friendships. Now we have friends…. That love us. Not because that HAVE to(like family). but because they want to. YOU CAN DO IT!!!!
The 6 Second Challenge…beautiful!
tara pollard pakosta says
you are a gifted writer.
my daughters moved around quite a few times and most recently they only
spent 9 months in one place before moving again after their dad was diagnosed with
brain cancer. We had a wonderful PE teacher who was also a home room teacher for my younger
daughter and she too, was a total gift who made my girls both feel so very loved and she didn’t even
know our situation, she just has that gift in her, to make you feel special.
They won’t ever forget her and she retired after 36 years. She sent my daughter an email recently to
see how she was doing. How special is that?!
I love reading your posts. They are always so well written and thought provoking, just like this one. Thank you. I always pass your wonderful posts on for others to enjoy.
Oh! Having just this morning attended a “new to the district” parent coffee hosted by the school and PTO this morning, I read every word with butterflies in my stomach. I probably read them too quickly but I couldn’t linger because the tears were coming and I had to finish before everything got blurry… And then, the cat. Your Banjo is the lookalike for my sweet dear Morgan, whom we had to (? Opted to) give away before a major life transition, this moving adventure which has so far had us in 3 houses and 3 schools in 2 years… Oh, that picture broke me open. She was older, she was stuck in her ways, she was given to a “cat lady” for whom I have no contact info but who, hopefully, loved her…. But this is the fourth reminder of her in two days I have had – and the feeling she’s moved on to the litterbox in the sky just won’t go away. Thanks for your book, for sharing this story, and thanks especially for sharing upside down Banjo eyes with me.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Oh Melissa, my heart goes out to you, and yes, that Banjo picture had to be for you. I had already published the post this morning and thought to myself, maybe I should add a picture of Banjo in case someone out there wonders if he was okay. So I went back and made the adjustment … and now I know it was for you. I just bet Morgan is being loved and pampered by “the cat lady” and cherishes the years she was loved by you. To love and to be loved–there is no greater gift for humans OR animals.
Good luck in the new transition. My heart is with you!!!
Oh, Rachel! I just can’t even express how much I love this post! Amazing, my friend! And, the Presence Pledge. SO. GOOD. Write on, dear friend! You are making a difference that surpasses understanding, I just know it! XO
We just moved to and I am praying for the kindness of strangers to help my boys (and me) feel like this place is finally home.
Beautiful story! Your daughter reminds me of how I’ve felt my since I was a girl, a little different on the inside. She may be part of my special group of ‘highly sensitive people’ (google it). I was so relieved when I realised there were others out there with the same perceptions of the world. She has a beautiful spirit, I hope she continues to soar! Much love.
You are a fantastic writer. I very much enjoyed reading this post! If we all took the time to help those that need it, wow what a different place this world would be.
Thank your for sharing this wonderful piece about your daughter, her feelings about change & the PE teacher in the hall!!
I recently went (still going) through an unwanted divorce. I know that feeling of unwanted change. Only I wanted to walk down the hall & Not be noticed! I wanted to just be me & not the ex wife of someone who people knew had left me. I wanted to hide sometimes but not be alone. I wanted to find out who this new Me would become. I wanted to go though my new life with a feeling of familiarity only I couldn’t because nothing seemed familiar even still living in the same town. One day my wonderful Christian counselor helped me to see that God walked straight to me and lifted up My chin. He asked, ” Who are you?” I said my name. He replied, “I know. You’re beautiful. I’m glad you are right here. I’m gonna be with you in this new journey.”
Thank you for touching my life today and confirming that even when we aren’t noticed for who we are, God puts the right person in our patch to speak life to us!
Dear Rachel, I appreciate your words & wisdom so much. In 1957, at age 9, I watched my Dad die of a heart attack. It was just the 2 of us at home that fateful day. Up `til then I had been a happy boy. My behavior plummeted after his death. I can count on one hand how many people in the school system tried to help me deal with the PTSD. Basically I was written off as a problem child. To most teachers & principals I was a nuisance. In spite of their attitudes towards me, I did get through the public school system, earned a college degree and have had a good working life. I give a lot of my time to teenagers and let them know that they matter in a variety of ways. It only takes 6 seconds to let kids know they do matter!
My wonderful wife and I became advocates for our son Erik when he was in kindergarten. He is gifted, they said he was ADD. A highly regarded Neurologist told the school system that Erik was not ADD, that he was gifted and that they needed to figure out ways to inspire and teach him. He was a 4-year captain of his lacrosse team, achieved Eagle Scout, was active in our church youth group and now is a successful Aerothermal Engineer working on jet engines. He is very close to earning his Masters in Engineering, has applied for 2 patents and is well-liked by many. He is successfully launched. My wife gets most of the credit for Erik’s advocacy and perhaps I contributed too. He has even mentioned a possible Ph.D.
For you parents out there, become a staunch advocate for your kids in school. Don’t back down. I married Laurie for many reasons, but her efforts on behalf of our son in the school system were awesome! And keep reading Rachel’s blog & books. Godbless, Murphy
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Thank you, Murphy, your son’s story just fills me up! What a story of hope for us all to cling to. Thank you for sharing this beautiful, heartfelt message. Thank you to your wife too!
Love love love your post today. It takes a special person to choose to make a difference in the lives of the people they interact with. This teacher came into your life for a reason Rachel. I believe she’s an example of ‘you get what you give.’ You’ve given so much to your readers with the honesty you share on your blog. It undoubtedly helps many. God put the ‘PE teacher’ in your life to return the favor you’ve offered to so many through Hands Free Mama. That’s how I choose to understand it.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Thank you for such a beautiful, loving perspective. You have blessed me through these kind words, Leah.
Ann McGraw says
This reminds me of a similar story that happened to an outstanding man I knew. When he was a boy, growing up dirt poor in rural Mississippi, his mother took him to an optometrist after a screening at school detected a sight problem. He was shy and had no self confidence. When the doctor looked into his eye with his medical instrument, the doctor said, “I see a very intelligent boy who is very special.” That boy went on to get a PhD, became a scholar and preacher, and eventually became an loved leader and the executive director of his state’s denominational association. By the time I knew him, he was elderly, but I heard him tell the story of how the doctor’s words changed his life!
Rachel Macy Stafford says
I love this one, Ann! THANK YOU for sharing!
I absolutely LOVE your posts. I have learned, however, that I cannot read them at work because they almost always reduce me to tears. With your sweet words, it’s like you know what I’m thinking and feeling. That is a true gift. I, too, have a firefly who just turned 9 a few weeks ago. We started her in Kindergarten in a private school about a week after she turned 5, and I was sick with worry the whole day. When my husband and I picked her up from school, the teacher told me that she would call me later that night because she had a few questions. In the sanctity of our vehicle, I turned and simply asked, “How was your day?” She burst into tears….and I KNEW. My sweet, precious, comedic little girl who smiles and has an aura that draws people to her was inconsolable, and couldn’t tell me why. I promised her that she wouldn’t have to go back, and I meant it. The teacher called and asked me if “there is anything I need to know about your child or do I just need to enforce the rules more?” What does that mean?? She She was 4 just a week prior to school starting. The teacher proceeded to tell me about my daughter not being able to stand in line, wanting to still play when it was time to go, etc. I have to admit, at Kindergarten Orientation Night, that same teacher said something that made the hairs on the back of my hair stand-up. I asked my husband, “Did she REALLY just say that to parents??” But I dismissed the warnings from my inner voice. The next day, we found another school with a teacher that was exquisite! I found myself preemptively striking by telling the administrator that, “She’s been at home with my mother since she was born, with only 1/2 day pre-school a few days a week, so she’s not really learned how to stand in line yet.” and “She only turned 5 about 8 days ago, so she still has some playfulness in her.” The administrator reassured me that those things were fine because standing in line was something they worked on, and the teacher would be able to “meet your daughter where she’s at.” MUSIC TO MY EARS! Within 30 days, the teach had her reading books, and reading to other students. NO ONE in the room could read as well as my daughter! Parents who volunteered would see me and tell me what a great reader she was! The teacher found a way to reach her, and my daughter blossomed. We’ve had bad teachers intertwined with good teachers, and we also dealt with the teacher who didn’t email us back when we asked a question about how she was doing in 2nd grade. My daughter made it through with her kind, gentle spirit intact. When I saw her squinting right before school started back in July, I told her that we were going to get her eyes checked. She needed glasses, but refused to wear them. I asked her why, and she said, “Mommy, if you could see through my eyes, you would see that everything is just fine.” So, we didn’t press her about them, and a week later, she started wearing them on her own, and now she is the little Noticer with the smudged glasses that sit on the tip of her nose! I send her out to school with a hug, a kiss, and the same words every day…”Don’t forget to be AWESOME! Now go change the world!” I still worry…but it seems to lessen with each passing year…and BOY what a difference a kind teacher makes!
amanda reid says
Wow. That’s the best thing I have read for a while. Good on ya Rachel.
Caroline McGraw says
Dang, Rachel, you are on a roll with making me cry with your posts! What beautiful stories – thank you for sharing them. And I’m so glad Banjo is doing better and ‘supervising’ your work too. 😉
Your 6-second challenge gave me permission to stop pushing myself to ‘do a little more work’ this evening; instead, taking a small pause helped me acknowledge the truth that I need to rest. It’s wild, isn’t it, how much can change in just a few seconds. xoxo
Nancy Janas says
I believe that people are put in your life for a reason. You brought Avery & Natalie to me ~ a true BLESSING every day I see them, but you gave me the FIREFLY story to share with my students last year!!!! God is good ~ Thank you for coming into our school with your “awesomeness” if there is such a word!!!! Feel free to use it in your blog to describe yourself!!!!!
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Thank you, Nancy, for being the inspiration behind this post! Look at all the goodness that has bloomed here because YOU noticed my daughter’s sweet face that had a little uncertainty in her eyes. I thank you for listening to the urgings of your heart that connect you those precious Fireflies of the world who thrive under your loving wings. God bless you, beautiful one.
Deanna Thomae says
Beautiful! Absolutely beautiful! Thank you for sharing – I want to be just like that PE teacher. 🙂
I’m crying. This was such a beautiful story. I still remember my first grade teacher who loved me like a daughter. Some people imprint your life forever. We should all strive to be that person to someone.
The other day I had a elderly man run across the parking lot in 109 degree weather at the grocery store and say- “Mam’ let me help you – it’s hot and you have your hands full with your babies – I don’t want you and the kids to be in the sun – I’m a skin cancer/ melanoma survivor and I am very lucky to be alive – God bless you and your family – Hold them tight!” – His words were so kind an his message impacted me – he was a little bit of an angel to me and he changed my story tha day
Rachel Macy Stafford says
That is simply beautiful! Thank you for sharing the actions of an “everyday angel” as one reader so appropriately said. It is so uplifting!
Good stuff for Moms and Dads! <
Salena Lee says
I love this! Thank you so much for sharing.
Jim Paulk says
Thank you. It is exhillarating to begin a beautiful early morning with hot tears streaming into my coffee.
Love this story so much!
Beautiful story of Orion. My baby brother, Garreth, had special needs after being hit by a car. He couldn’t walk, talk or do anything normal anymore. The once vibrant, blonde hair eight year old, was bedridden and his hair had turned dark. But that smile was still there. We don’t know what he did or didn’t understand, but we treated him as normally as possible and even put him back in school (after the first year of being in the hospital). Many of his friends and some of the teachers did not know how to act around him.
When Garreth was about 14, a teenage boy in his school, a boy labeled a trouble maker by the teachers & staff, began helping me with Garreth. The boy (David) didn’t have many friends at school, if any. He was what most considered an outcast. Of all people, David would meet me at the van in the mornings and help wheel Garreth in; he would sit by him in classes and would wheel him to lunch and sit with him there. He reached out to Garreth and to us in a very painful time. Our lives had been turned upside down and nothing was the same anymore. Some people we had known all of our lives still wouldn’t speak to him or to us, though it had been years since the initial accident. We realized most of them were just scared of how to deal with Garreth’s accident and the new him. (He had a feeding tube and wore diapers) Some of our family even had a hard time knowing how to act around us.
But not David…he was a lifesaver that year. My hope in people was definitely restored. He loved on Garreth and we loved on him. We didn’t treat him like a trouble maker; we treated him like a friend. He helped change our story with Garreth and I think we may have helped change his. Garreth passed away when he was 15. We tried to find David to be a pallbearer, but we didn’t have any luck. But about six months ago, I saw David in Wal-Mart. I felt someone watching me, and I turned to meet his smiling face. I smiled back and said hello. We only talked for a few seconds, but my heart felt that joy I felt eight years ago. Joy because David had reached out to us in our time of pain, had loved on Garreth and in the end, helped change our story.
Lauri Ryding says
I’m going to post the 6 second challenge … And see what happens!
I love the premise and the story … And how you shared the Love … It would be great if we could get everyone on the same page!!!
Thank you again
Sue Johnston says
This is beautiful! Thanks for the reminder that small acts can make big differences
Physical touch is my primary love language, so I completely understand the feeling of love when someone touches my face. In fact, that has always been my unspoken way of saying “I love you”. I use it with my husband and also with my children. With my husband, I put my whole hand against his cheek and stare into his eyes. My children are all boys, and they are getting older, so they aren’t always up for hugs and kisses. But I can get away with touching them gently on their nose, the top of their head, their back. Just that light touch is enough to remind them that their mom loves them and is thinking about them. Never underestimate the power of touch. 🙂
Jane Doe says
Thank you so much for posting! What an uplifting story. Isn’t it wonderful how people just “know” sometimes 🙂
I give random compliments to people all the time because for some reason it feels better to receive a compliment from a stranger – someone who has nothig to gain. It comes from a genuine place and you know it’s heartfelt and honest. Keep it up!
T.K. Thorne says
I have never shared this with anyone. Years ago, I was the shift lieutenant at a police precinct. A young woman was brought in and told to sit handcuffed in a chair while paperwork was being done. It was cold and she was rail thin without much clothing, her eyes puffy and ringed with dark circles, maybe old bruises. She curled her feet up in that chair and shivered visibly. I knew she was a drug addict. I was new on the shift and in those days women still had to prove themselves as “one of the guys,” but I also knew there were some blankets upstairs in the precinct, and I brought her one and put it over her. Our eyes met for a brief moment, and I saw the thank-you in them. It was not just for the blanket, but for seeing her as a human being in a situation where she felt invisible and vulnerable. I have often wished I could have done more for her and wondered what happened to her and if that moment had made any kind of difference for her, though I could fathom how it could have until I read this post. It certainly did for me. Those seconds have stuck with me all these years and hopefully made me a better person.
Thanks you for the beautiful and thought-provoking post.
Micky Schaefer says
I just Love that essay. Ir is very good to know You are a writter. Micky!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Stephanie L says
The nice thing about the 6-second challenge is that it makes you feel good too. The other day when I was grocery shopping I saw another mom sitting between aisles with her son passed out in her lap. Apparently he’d been cranky, she’d given him a bottle, and he’d fallen asleep. I asked her if I could get her anything. She declined, but thanked me. I can’t comment on how she felt, but I felt better after and I’m glad I took a short time out of my hectic trip (done while my 2 were napping).
kelly Ham says
I have been following your blog for awhile now…thank you for sharing your amazing insight! Just bought your book on my kindle and ready to start reading it tonight! I hope that your new city becomes “home” more and more each day 🙂
Sheila Eickhoff says
Thank you! Easy yet powerful idea!
I will pass this along. It brought tears of comfort, joy and relief. I will pass this along and will follow you. Please continue writing. We need you.
emily wierenga says
Oh Rachel. You know how I talked about love on my post this past week? THIS is it. THIS is love. Pure and simple, in six seconds–love changes the world. Thank you.
I have always had a lack of self esteem but have always been someone to see and say something nice or positive to someone. But as I got older it seemed harder to do and I did less often. I worked at a salon doing hair and was about to fly out with my parents to visit my brother and his family. As we were boarding the plane I notice the stuardess had really pretty hair and when I made my way up to here I made a (probably 6 second) comment to her that it was very pretty and how much I liked it. She just said thank you and I sat down, no biggie. Into the flight I was sleeping and the stuardess went to my mother in the other side if the aisle and told her how amazing of a child she had, that me caring and noting enough to say something to her had made her day. She was just recovering from cancer and had just gotten some of her hair back. It wasn’t the same hair she had grown up with and didn’t know how to manage it. This was also her first day back to work after her cancer treatments and she was nervous feeling everyone was looking at her, in a negative way. She made my mom cry as she told her story and how I made such a difference to her.
As the plane landed and we were getting off, she gave me a huge smile and hug. At this point I still had no idea what had gone on while I was sleeping. Once we left my parents told me her story and how I affected her. Since then I realized what a difference something so small and FREE can do for someone and try to always point out thing I notice about someone. I know I love it when someone does it to me, even just a hey, I like your shirt.
Great post by the way!!
Thank you for this,my niece posted it on her facebook page and it touch me.
About 6 months ago as I stood in line to check out at Walmart I watched how the women in front of me was treating the clerk. The clerk always staying quiet and continuing to work. When it was my turn to be checked out you could tell she was definitely not happy. I told her that I was very sorry for the way the lady had treated her and I hoped the rest of her day goes better. She smiled and said yes, some days people are not very nice, thank you for being one of the nice ones and she continued to smile. I always try to be courteous to the clerks, they have so many people that treat them so very bad, be the one that makes them smile.
That is not the end of this little story, I have had the same clerk several times since that first meeting and she always smiles at me and we have a small conversation. This past week we had her again and we could tell that she was very upset, I asked what was wrong and she said the person in front of us had been so nasty, calling her everything in the book. I told her how sorry I was for her and that no one has the right to treat her so badly.tears started to come to her eye she said, I am so glad you came through my line today, I really needed you to come through my line as she smiled through her tears. Just a couple days later I saw her in the story and she looked at me and said hi with a big smile and gave me a hug.
Just remember your small action can change someones day and maybe even more.
Lori Anderson says
Beautiful, and perfect timing for me. Thank you.
I have never heard the term “firefly”, nice. The literary character Clementine is a firefly. We adore that series of books and I always feel more appreciative of my own sensitive children after reading them. This was such a touching article. 🙂
I am a firefly as well, and had a few wonderful experiences when I was around 3-6. My older brother tended to be a little rowdy as a kid, so whenever he had field trips with school, my mom would help chaperon and keep him under control. Because I was the complete opposite, and incredibly well-behaved, my mom was allowed to bring me along with her (which they didn’t normally permit). I got to go to museums, the ballet, all kinds of cool stuff, and his teachers got to know me.
When I was 4, my brother was in 5th grade, and had a very kind teacher who knew that I was already reading, and loaned me books from her classroom library. At the end of the year, she gave me a copy of Across Five Aprils, which I didn’t actually end up reading until I was much older, but love.
Since I had never gone to preschool or daycare of any sort, & didn’t play with neighbor kids or anything, I could interact just fine with adults & older kids like my brother, but had no idea how to be around other children my own age. I was bright, tested well enough to go right into first grade, but after a few appointments with a child psychologist it was decided that I needed kindergarten to learn to socialize. My brother’s 5th grade teacher talked to the kindergarten teacher about me, so she recognized what I needed to thrive that year. She had me help with extra tasks when I finished things early, and gave me the individual attention that I needed. At the end of the year, she made a big box of activities and craft supplies for the summer, and told my mom to have me split time between doing that stuff, reading, and playing outside a lot so that I’d be ready when school started again. It was such a positive introduction to school (made even better because I’d been looking forward to it for an entire year prior and was really jealous that my brother got to go and I didn’t).
Wow, that got the tears rolling! Thank you for lifting me up…we just moved too. We’ve been here almost 4 weeks, and my so. Has started waking up scared in his new room. Time to remind myself that my lost sleep = his comfort and security. It’s hard to keep chugging sometimes, but I’ll remember to take my six seconds – for me, for my kids, new neighbors, my husband, people I don’t know! Thank you…
Absolutely amazing and heart warming post! Love it so much! Can I post ot on my blog and link it to here please tonight or tomorrow? X
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Hi Becci, you can definitely post a link to my post on your blog but not the content of the blog post. Thank you for helping me protect my work while sharing the message! I am grateful for the support!
I have become a big fan of your blog, your writing is so simple yet so inspiring .
Diane Mahoney says
I love this post! I effortlessly take these 6 seconds as a nurse to listen to a patient, make them feel validated, less scared, comfortable, find a warm blanket. best words heard were from a man I got a blanket for who actually said ” you have such a warm personality, I can tell just from spending such a small time with you, thank you”
Here’s the problem, I very rarely take those 6 seconds with my children, to look at what they are trying to show me while I’m riding to make dinner, to lay with them and. listen to their fears, joys at the end of the day, to say I’ll wait for you buddy to my sweet little 8 year old who takes his sweet time, to tell my 10 year old with his beautiful face in my hands that he is perfect just as is. I seem to make sure I take 6 seconds to say ” hurry up, how many times do I have to tell you, that’s too much pasta, you didn’t brush your teeth long enough, you are sui man to your brother, close your mouth when you eat…..” the list of what I take 6 seconds to say seems endless and when I read the quote about how do my children feel spending time with me, I broke down and sobbed. I’m guessing they feel not enough, flawed, and anything but how I want them to feel. I cried all day realizingI never even said goodbye at drop off, what i did say was pick those up and get out you’re late….. words that sting myself. some days i feel that my misuse of so many 6 seconds has permanently damaged things, but your words give me hope. it’s never too late to change their story or my own. I look at those words as many times as it takes and slowly the way they feel around me will be strong, safe, loved, interesting, special, talented, mattered……AS IS. Thank you from the bottom. of my heart!
Stacy Echevarria says
I love your story and your poem! You are a gifted writer! I was brought to tears. We are a military family and just moved this july for the 9th time. I always worry about my children. They went from a small parochial school where they all three attended, to three separate huge public schools. We also are in a much bigger town. Every little task just feels so overwhelming at times. The children are adjusting well, but maybe it’s taking me longer this time. I truly relate to your experience and I am thankful for the teacher who held your daughter’s face and her heart. 🙂
Candace McDonald says
This story was so incredibly touching. Thank you for sharing it. I shared on my facebook page. I truly strive to live my life and touch those around me. I have just started my own mommy blog. If you get a chance to check it out, I’d love your feedback: http://candacebmcdonald.wix.com/workingstayathomemom. Again, thanks for writing, you are gifted!
I adore this. I have shared it with many of my colleagues. I teach in a setting designed for students who have been unsuccessful in a regular school due to their emotional and behavioral challenges. They have such sad stories for their young ages. My hope is that by reading this someone will realize this doesn’t have to be the way their life story ends.
wanda schaudel says
Loved the story How to Change someone’s story. A retired teacher who now know blesses us with her subbing payed this on my FB. She wrote a sweet note about it to me. I am an Elementary PE Teacher. She was kind enough to compare me to the one in the story. I know I don’t teach the essentials of learning…math, reading, writing… but I do teach the essentials of Life…getting along, sharing, apologizing, loving each others differences, being silly, laughing. It was a particularly hard week at school this week. Even though it took me more than 6 seconds to read this article …it was what I needed. ..it was my story changer !
I love that the P.E. teacher was so influential in changing your daughter’s feelings about her new school! I just have one thing… my children would be VERY uncomfortable with a stranger touching them. As a teacher myself, I’d caution people about touching other people’s children at all. Getting down on their level is great! Encouraging them is great! (Though I’d encourage people to talk to children, particularly girls, about ANYTHING other than their appearance.) Holding their faces, no matter how gently… not so great.
Michelle Reeves (bodfortea) says
I just read this over at the Huffington Post and had to come back here to leave a comment – such a beautiful, poignant and important post. Thank you for sharing your story, and your daughters, and reminding me to slow down, to make a difference.
Katie Haydock says
After an epically rubbish and exhausting day this made me weep in happiness. Thank you for helping me remember how lucky I am and that a bad day is just a bad day.
I love these stories of connection. And I really love the idea that 6 seconds can change someone’s day, and maybe, like your daughter, their whole school year. I’m taking this on as a challenge!
What a heart-warming story! Thanks for sharing it. We recently moved and my almost 4-year old still misses “the tiny house” (our old house). She still hasn’t really connected with anything here and your story helped me realise that. Time to find something to ground her here. Xxx
Glad I am not the only one who cried…was it at the part about the dog?
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