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Close encounters with the kindhearted


I was watching “Pawn Stars” Monday evening, and an ad for Domino’s Pizza came on during a commercial break. The guy doing the voiceover told me, as well as the countless others watching, this is a time that it is important to be looking on the bright side.

If you read that last sentence and said, “Yeah. Sure thing, buddy,” you’re definitely not alone.

I don’t need to rehash the headlines that have dominated the news cycle over the last week and won’t be going away anytime soon. Civility, kindness, and the concept of just being decent to one another were already in short supply. Think we can’t sink any lower as human beings? Wait five minutes and check the newsfeed on your phone.

I’d reached the point where I wish I could be like Roy Neary, Richard Dreyfuss’ character in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” and put up no resistance as the aliens lead me toward their spaceship and fly away into the cosmos, never to return. That’s a big improvement over a few days ago. I was hoping one of the asteroids that always seem to be coming within a few million miles of earth would change course and put us all out of our misery.

There are times it seems as though the apocalypse isn’t far away here at the Bey house. This is especially true when I feel extremely stressed, which has been nearly 24/7 since mid-March. Nolan will be starting high school in September – hopefully actually at the high school he’ll be attending – having had, in my opinion, less-than-stellar homeschooling from a less-than-stellar teacher. We don’t know the starting date of the summer program he hopefully will be attending. And Cindy and I have to deal with the usual adult problems; namely, an abundance of expenses and the lack of an extremely wealthy relative on either side of our families.

I started wondering if the helpers Mr. Rogers told us to look for in times of trouble really existed. I got my answer.

I received an email Friday morning from one of Nolan’s paraprofessionals at the middle school he attended. She was the first paraprofessional we met when Nolan started middle school in September 2017, and he sat next to her on the bus every morning. She’s kept in touch with us since the schools closed down, sending us a card, videos, and emails to let us know she has missed Nolan. Friday’s email had a bonus: some really good pictures of him that were taken over the last three years, including the one you see here. Maybe the pandemic had robbed Nolan and the rest of the eighth graders of a graduation ceremony, but she wanted to do something to commemorate a special moment in his life. And, she wrote she believes Nolan will do well in high school.

It's nice knowing that she believes that even after the rough days, some of which involved meltdowns and pulled hair. He just has that kind of an effect on people.

Nolan and I were in the front yard Sunday afternoon while Cindy planted her garden in the backyard. He was taking the whole social distancing/moody teenager act to the limit, constantly pushing me away from him as he sat away on the front steps. I was standing by the birch tree in our front yard when the woman who lives next door came over to say hello and tell me how much she enjoyed the smell of our lilac bush.

I’ve gotten to know her husband a little bit in the year since we moved into our house, and their dog, Max, has become my buddy, but I don’t think she and I have said more than 20 words to each other. But she knew Nolan has Autism and is nonverbal, and she told me she had worked with special-needs children in a classroom setting before becoming a nurse. If we ever needed someone to hang out with Nolan so we could go shopping or just take a little while to rest and hang on to what’s left of our sanity, just knock on her door because she’s home most of the time and she’ll be happy to give us a breather.

Later Sunday, I was driving to a small town in the north-central part of the state to pick up something I was buying on the Facebook marketplace when Cindy and I received a notification via Messenger. A friend of ours who has a nonverbal adult son with Autism asked us if we wanted their wooden swing set – all we had to do was help her father dissemble it and they would bring it to our house.

We had to leave behind Nolan’s swing set at our old house when we moved. I still feel sad whenever I drive past that house and see that swing set in the backyard. We bought Nolan a porch swing last year because he liked the one at the organization where his summer program was held. He’s sat in that swing perhaps once or twice, instead choosing to sit on the tree stump in our backyard. I have a feeling that swing set is going to get a lot of use this summer when it gets here and we put it together.

Being trapped at home a lot the last 2½ months has worn me down, and seeing all hell break loose around the nation is disheartening. Simple gestures such as an email, an offer to provide some much-needed respite, and a free swing set so Nolan can burn off some energy mean a lot to me. It proves there still is kindness in this world.

So while there is too much darkness in the world right now, yeah, I’ve seen a little bit of a bright side in my corner of it over the last few days. Maybe I’ll even hold off on boarding the spaceship if it lands here.

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