After hearing where the envelope came from, you might understand why.
My husband is a teacher and one of his middle-schoolers who has been classified as having Asperger’s wanted to celebrate his birthday in a “don’t give me presents” kind of way. No, instead he wanted to invite people to watch The Planet of the Apes and just to have a good time.
Asperger’s, for those who are unaware, is a high functioning autism that typically emerges in the ‘tween’ years and is characterized by a child exhibiting sheer brilliance in certain academic subjects side by side a pronounced social awkwardness (which sometimes leads to trouble with their peers). But it also turns out, as evidenced by my husband’s student, that social non-conformity can be liberating – they’re free not to care about what others think of them. Though an Asperger’s child can struggle with feelings of failure, and become riddled with anxiety should they step outside of their familiar routines (I should mention here that I don’t know if this is the case with this particular student), if they’re in a comfortable, familiar setting they tend to thrive and become very successful, caring people.
As one of my education professors used to say, “They’re the millionaires who work in the tech industry because they can sit and code for hours!” In other words, many grow up to have the dream incomes the rest of us wish we could have.
And yet, they start off by not having the social advantages of their peers.
But as this student showed, those who 'have not' tend to give more.
So to celebrate his birthday, this student preferred to give to others instead. His gift to his class (or rather, his mom’s present to him) was to go out and purchase everyone a movie ticket and to give them money for popcorn. And they decided to include, in an instance of unfathomable generosity, a pair of tickets for both my husband and I which they placed in an envelope. My husband carried it home and then related a snippet of this student's story to me so that I could understand a bit about who was giving us the chance to see a matinee on a Saturday.
If you picked up on the fact that I only wrote “the mom’s present,” it’s because this student also ‘does without’ in another way: his father passed away only a couple of years ago.
When my husband told me this, I really had to break out the Kleenex box.
But, it’s just a movie and popcorn, right?
No, it ‘s more than that. It’s the graciousness coming from someone who ‘does without,’ compared with many others his own age who function normally (whatever that means – I know I don’t even do this most days) and have both parents living. It’s his mom’s willingness to foster this virtue of kindness within her son; yes, with financial means, but the investment she’s making, I’m betting, will make a deposit directly into his character and faith. And, by extension, into mine and all those inspired by generosity on the part of a very young man who didn’t have to be so aboundingly thoughtful at his own party but decided to be anyway. I mean, seriously, what middle schooler does that? Or 'mature' adult for that matter?
I feel I can only end with, then, with a birthday wish. Happy birthday, dear student! I look forward to the movie and to meeting you in person. May I just say that I’m sure dad is smiling on his gentle and kindhearted son for his inspiring, and somewhat tear-jerking actions! (And as my husband said "Let’s be sure to get him an awesome gift!”)