How anxious are you to get the tree down once Christmas is over? Are you one of those people who says, “Time for spring! Let’s move on!” — or are you more inclined to sit in the quiet glow of the strings of lights for just a few more weeks?
I bet there is one ornament that will stay in plain view for the rest of the year at Brian Nodolf’s house in Wisconsin. Brian says it represents much more than the holiday season.
"I struggle daily with parental frustration. I feel like I try my best, but consistently fall short.
"Our son Callan has ADHD/ODD. I’m sure most people are familiar with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), but for those who do not know, ODD is oppositional defiance disorder. It pairs commonly with ADHD, and there is no magic drug or cure for it.
"Callan is a very smart fourth grader, but his emotional progress is not at the same level as his intellectual progress.
"There are times when he will lose it. When I say that, I don’t mean like a child throwing a tantrum. I mean he will trash his room, pull everything out of his closet, pull his bedding off his bed, throw the mattress against the door so we can’t enter the room (if we haven’t already), yells, undresses down to his underpants, and more.
"He’ll say things like, ‘You don’t love me,’ or, ‘I should just kill myself,’ or, ‘I don’t have any friends, so I should just die.’
"Even though we know he doesn’t really mean those words and is not fully comprehending what he’s saying, it is still heartbreaking and difficult to hear.
"Callan came home from school just before Christmas with a little brown paper bag. It was an early Christmas gift, and he couldn’t wait for us to open it.
"His teacher came up with a pretty amazing idea, and words cannot express how extremely special she is for doing this project with the entire class.
"Each of the kids were given an assignment to write down something kind or nice about each of their classmates.
"After everyone’s assignments were turned in, Callan’s teacher compiled them into a personal sheet for each child, with all the great things their classmates said about them. They also cut each of these into strips and put them into a clear plastic Christmas tree ornament as a keepsake.
"We put that ornament front and center on our tree as a constant reminder that Callan has a ton of great qualities and so many things worth living for. It was so awesome that this small act of kindness could be hard proof to our son that he has more friends than he realizes. Friends who see so many great things in him.
"When Callan has moments again in the future, we can point to that ornament and all the things his classmates like and value about him.
"Although my wife and I know that kindness matters, and we can talk about it with him until we’re blue in the face, now he is able to see it firsthand. It’s right there, in his face, and it’s undeniable. And it’s amazing."
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nicole J. Phillips, a former Fargo television anchor, is a speaker, author and host of The Kindness Podcast. She lives in Aberdeen, S.D., with her three children and her husband, Saul Phillips, the head men's basketball coach at Northern State University. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.