So many things had to happen to get here. When she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer last year, she was determined to fulfill her dream of playing college basketball at Mount St. Josephs.
When doctors said she may not live long enough to see her first game, the NCAA and her team’s opponent, Hiram College, agreed to start the season two weeks early.
Ten thousand people packed the arena to see Hill play on Sunday, many holding signs of support. And when she scored the first points of the game, a celebration broke out. In fact, the NCAA tweeted “The place went nuts.”
“To reach and touch this many people is amazing,” Lauren said after the game. “Not many people knew about DIPG before me, and now that they do, we can get research going to cure this cancer. I won’t be around to see that, but it’s going to help so many people. That’s why the support can’t end with this game.”
To learn more about Hill’s story, watch the video below.
Although I’ve been living in New York City for over 6 months now, I still get overwhelmed by it — the pushing and shoving on the subways, the constant vigilance, the dirt and grime and overcrowding. But every once in a while a moment pulls me out of the day-to-day chaos and forces me to appreciate one of the benefits of having so many people crammed together: the chance to see humans interacting constantly.
I’m occasionally blown away by the simple acts of kindness I witness.
Last week I was hurrying off the subway when it happened. People were elbowing their way up the stairs towards the exit when there seemed to be a traffic jam. I could see the blockage source was a woman who had a disability or injury. She was making her way up slowly and using a cane.
She was also trying to manage some shopping bags and a rolling cart that was laden with groceries. I was stuck several feet behind her, but I made a mental note to help her with her load as soon as I was near enough. But, because of the beautiful and generous world we live in, I didn’t get the chance.
As I watched, about five people simultaneously came to her aid. One man in an expensive-looking business suit offered his arm, a woman and her young daughter took the bags and several other onlookers took charge of her cart, wrestling it to the top of the stairs for her. When the woman was back above ground with all her belongings, the helpers dispersed immediately. They went their separate ways without so much as a nod to one another.
This was not one of those ostentatious moments of generosity where the smug do-gooder greedily accepts thanks and admiration from the person they’ve helped. This was just New York City transit business-as-usual. In fact, many of them barely even broke their stride to help.
I’ve witnessed this kind of casual kindness before, and it’s always at the moment when I need it most. It’s just a little reminder that beneath all the grime and chaos of this metropolis, there is a collective heart of gold.
I’m so thankful that I get to make my living writing about these small but powerful acts of kindness. They make the world a brighter and cozier place to live in. And since The Mighty is giving thanks all month long this November, I want to thank those people and everyone else in the world who helps their fellow man without thinking twice. And you, for finding joy in these moments, reading about them and sharing them with people you care about.
The Mighty is celebrating the people we don’t thank enough. If you’d like to participate, please submit a thank you note along with a photo and 1-2 sentence bio to [email protected].
There’s a lot of prep and apt timing on our part of getting the costume on (and feeling right). Sometimes only half a costume actually gets worn. There are no wigs, masks or make up. Usually our prep includes several weeks of practice trick-or-treating at both our home and therapy. Due to the fact that in the past Timothy had absolutely no language, there was a bit of explaining at every door by Dad.
“Timothy has autism and doesn’t use words,” which gravitated to just a loud, “Thank you,” to eventually just a wave and smile if we got far enough. By “far enough,” I mean around the block without a meltdown.
While this year, he’s gained the ability to actually say “trick or treat” most of the time, he lacks the understanding and social graces of the average grade one kid. Autism’s kinda like that.
So this year, I’m warning all of y’all in West Brant that you may have a home intruder on your hands. He’s about 3-foot, 11-inches tall, 50 pounds and will be dressed as a charming little Batman wannabe, who may or may not be wearing a mask. He’ll be excited, and he’ll be loud. He may try to run inside your house, but please have patience; he means no harm. His daddy is there and will be watching closely nearby trying to make his night as successful as possible.
Because Halloween should be enjoyed by all kids… kids with autism, Down syndrome, leukemia, cerebral palsy, kids who are walking or in a wheelchair — whatever their exceptionality may be. They are all kids. Please be kind and treat them the same. Different is not wrong or weird. It’s just different.
James Smolka was photographing the effects of Hurricane Sandy in Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey, when he first met Scott*, a man whose home was severely damaged during the storm. Scott, pictured below with his wife, asked Smolka, 28, what else he photographed.
Smolka told him about his project, “Falling Sickness,” a series of portraits and letters from people who have epilepsy. He’d been diagnosed with grand mal seizures in the third grade and underwent brain surgery in high school; today, he takes medication to control seizures. He set out to show the faces of epilepsy — how the nervous system disorder doesn’t discriminate against age or sex, how someone you know may live with it without your realizing.
Scott stood shocked — not because of the project, but because Smolka so openly talked about his epilepsy. Scott rarely spoke about his own experience with it. His own diagnosis felt shameful, like something to hide. A lack of control over his own body wasn’t something he wanted people knowing about. Now, he stood before a person who could say, “I’m epileptic” without hesitancy. For a second it made him smile.
“Falling Sickness” has several purposes. For people with epilepsy, the photo series offers comfort — comfort in knowing others feel the same way about the disorder. Comfort in not being alone. It’s a chance for people, like Scott, to talk about their condition without embarrassment.
“There’s nothing wrong with having epilepsy. It’s not fun. It sucks,” Smolka tells The Mighty. “But, there’s nothing we can do. Each day we’re alive, we have something to be thankful for.”
I never thought I’d be a special needs mom. In fact, the thought of that used to absolutely terrify me. I remember reading about all of the things that can go wrong when we were trying to get pregnant, and just begging God to give us a healthy child. Praying that I’d rather have no child than one with special needs. I was clueless, and honestly, I make myself a little bit sick. I was absolutely terrified of having a kid with a disability. To the point where I literally cried daily when I was pregnant with Knox, just worrying about him. Looking back, I am so glad God didn’t listen to me. I’m so glad Knox is here. Because really, I was the one with the problem, not him.
I had no idea what it would be like, and how could I? I was close-minded and had no personal experience with anyone with special needs, aside from seeing a person with a disability every once in a while out in public. I just didn’t know. In fact, I had no idea. That’s not to say that I don’t wish Knox could instantaneously be rid of autism forever — because, yes, that would be fantastic for him to not have to struggle. But the fact that he has autism doesn’t make him any less of an amazing kid. It doesn’t make me want him any less. If given the choice, I’d choose him exactly as he is, every single time. Because knowing him is so much better that not having a clue.
Autism is a weird thing. It makes me furious one second, makes me laugh the next, and right when I think I have it figured out, it says, “Ha! No you don’t!” This has been a super crappy parenting week at our house. Knox is getting in trouble at school for the first time ever, and he’s being defiant at home, as well. There’s been lots of running off, swatting, kicking and even spitting. I don’t know where this is coming from because Knox normally has the best disposition ever. He is highly stubborn, and my only thought is that he’s just reaching an age where the frustration over his communication skills has pushed him a little over the edge.
Also, I think he just plain misses me. I work full-time, and by the time I get home, I have two hours with him before he goes to bed. Most moms know that the hours between 5 and bedtime can be the witching hours where your kids lose their minds and cause you to lose yours right along with them. I feel like so much of my evening time with Knox consists of disciplining him, and it makes me feel awful. My guilt eats me alive sometimes. I tell myself I need to be this great parent, do lots of fun outings and activities and spend tons of quality time with my children. But then reality hits, and I feel like all I have to offer them are a couple of worn-out hours of my life, where I’m no fun to be around at all. There have been a lot of tears lately (mine) and yelling (me) and hitting (Knox) and frustration (everyone).
And the thing is, there’s no magic answer. There’s no perfect solution. Parenting is always hard. I don’t care if you stay at home, work full-time, have 10 kids or one. Being a parent is the hardest job on the planet. Adding any sort of special circumstance only compounds the stress. I’m learning in all of this, through this hard season, that all I can do is pray and ask for God’s help in all of this. To seek His face and just bury myself in His word. To pray that I don’t screw this up too much. To pray that God removes the guilt from my spirit. To pray that God revives me and gives me the energy I need to keep up with this kid. And to pray a prayer of thanksgiving that He knew all along just the boy He was going to give me.
Because even when it’s hard, Knox is worth it all.
When strangers used to ask Rachel and Sam Callander what was wrong with their daughter, the parents offered a lighthearted explanation: superpowers.
At the time, Evie Callander, who was born in 2008 with a rare chromosomal disorder, clearly experienced the world differently than other 2-year-olds. Certain sensations — the sound of electric sliding doors, for example — overwhelmed and upset her.
But that lighthearted answer — “superpowers” — turned out to be more true than her parents first realized. Because in her short, 2-year-long life, Evie exhibited a deeper, stronger, practically glowing sense of strength and love. It doesn’t get much more super than that.
When Evie died, her parents kept her close to them. Her pictures cover their home. They talk about her often.
“We knew we had been changed for the better because of her and people could see it too,” Rachel Callander, 33, told The Mighty. “They knew it was hard and we were really struggling. However, within all the sadness there was always a sense of pride of who she was and what she brought to the world.”
The entire experienced inspired the Callanders to celebrate other children with superpowers. They began photographing kids with disabilities in New Zealand and surveying their parents. The main question? “Tell us about your child’s superpowers.”
Portaits and quotes from 72 families now make up the “Super Power Baby Project” — an art book the Callanders hope will inspire others to look past disability.
“We want people to see humanity — to see the images and smile and say things like, ‘What a lovely child, how beautiful,'” Rachel Callander told The Mighty. “We want them to be struck by the children’s uniqueness, their innocence, their bodies, their eyes, their deepness — just as they would a stunning image of any child. We want people to see the children as their parents see them — with eyes of love.”
Sometimes, the project even helps parents see their own children in a new way. Callander says, when taking the initial survey, one participant’s mom realized she’d never talked about her child’s disability in a positive manner.
“She said she was no longer afraid to share him with the world,” Callander recalled. “We knew at that point we were onto something important.”
The book doesn’t view superpowers in a turn-yourself-invisible, fight-evil-villians, wear-a-flashy-costume sort of way. Its goal is not to trivialize a life with disability. It’s only out to celebrate and highlight strength.
“These kids really do have a deeper capacity for unconditional love, empathy, compassion, and they do bring out a deeper sense of love in people.They do promote a greater patience in others,” Callander told The Mighty. “When I think of the things the world needs right now, it’s love, patience, kindness and acceptance of others. These qualities are world changers in our opinion.”