The Difference That 5 Seconds Can Make


I only had a moment to run in for an emergency stop at the grocery store. I had so much stuff to try to fit in that day, like trying to find big boy pajamas that buttoned down the front. I had just found out my sweet little boy had to have brain surgery.

mom kissing her son on the forehead
Donna and her son.

During the first few days of learning he had Chiari malformation, an incurable condition, and needed surgery, I had such a hard time being in public. It was difficult seeing everyone go about their lives when it took everything I had to not fall apart with worry about what was to come. The hysterical emotions rocketing through me at that time made it exceedingly hard to fight the urge to scream, cry or both. So a trip to the grocery store was not an easy task that day.

My goal was to get in and get out, and I had almost succeeded when I turned the corner and passed her. She looked me up and down, judgement etched on her face, then scoffed and smirked as she passed. Maybe she was just having a bad day. Maybe she didn’t like the way I looked or what I was wearing. Who in the world knows? I made a beeline toward the register swallowing back tears, refusing to allow them freedom until I got to the car.

The whole incident only lasted five seconds, but in that brief moment, my fragile spirit was crushed. Although it’s been over a year since my son’s surgery, I still have not forgotten the look on her face that day in the grocery store. It woke me up and got me to thinking. We have hundreds of five-second interactions every day, and we really have absolutely no idea what others around us are going through. It made me realize how in just five seconds, we have the power to change things, to go a little further, or to do a little extra for others (even encourage a mom who is carrying a world of worry on her shoulders).

In just five seconds, I can smile and ask how you are doing, or give you a compliment. In five seconds, I can look you in the eye and acknowledge you instead of making you feel less or even invisible. In five seconds, I can give my children a few more kisses or a big bear hug rather than say I’m too busy. In five seconds, I can take my husband’s hand rather than push him away. In five seconds, I can give my loyal furry friend an extra scratch between his ears. In a matter of mere moments I can truly make a difference for those around me and in the lives of those I love so much.

In just five seconds, we have the power to encourage or discourage. What are you doing with yours?

Follow this journey on Families Unbroken.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment you were met with negativity or adversity related to your disability and/or disease (or a loved one’s) and why you were proud of your response — or how you wish you could’ve responded. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


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