Happy Birthday Colin

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Much like the 1.9 million fans of this Facebook page, I don’t know much about the soon-to-be 11 year-old named Colin. We all clicked the “like” button because of an inspiring story: Colin’s mom created the page as a social media greeting card after hearing him say that he did not want a birthday party. He said there was no point to planning a celebration because “he doesn’t have any friends” to invite. Something about Colin’s story resonated with us.

Maybe we have known a young person who had difficulty making friends at his age. Maybe we have been to countless kid birthday parties and understand how important they can be. Maybe we like the chance to be a part of a community of empathetic people. Maybe we want to send a message to the kids who refused to let Colin sit with them at lunch, forcing him to eat in the secretary’s office.

Regardless of our motivation, it is truly heartwarming to see the deluge of attention the page has received. Especially touching are the video messages, such as the comedian who got everyone in the club where he performed to say “Happy Birthday Colin!” I also was moved by the army soldiers who sent in their sincere wishes for his big day.

I can’t be alone in hoping that the page gives Colin a bit of “street cred” at his school, and that classmates who formerly shunned him might in the future give him a nod or wave in the halls. It has to help that the messages are from such a diverse audience, including police officers, sorority sisters and people from around the world. One recent post looks like it is written in Farsi, and others from as far away as Australia remind us that Colin’s struggles of isolation are global.

A news interview with the mother from Kalamazoo, Michigan when the page was at a mere 8,000 likes reveals that Colin is shut out from his peers because they do not understand his behavior, which is the result of a disorder similar to Asperger’s. She noted that sometimes it is easier to reach out to someone with an evident physical disability, as opposed to a developmental issue that is not apparent on the surface. Colin’s story is one more reminder for us all to demonstrate kindness without question, because we never know what someone’s story might be. Universal compassion is always a wise policy.

I look forward to March 9th when Colin’s mom Jennifer posts a video of his reaction to the page. I hope Colin feels all of the love behind it, not just from the millions of fans from around the world, but also from Jennifer, who clearly adores her son. My wish for Colin moves beyond joy on his 11th birthday, and becomes more far-reaching as he progresses into adolescence.

Colin, no matter what acceptance you may or may not get from the other kids around you, today or in the future, please know that by just being your unique self, you have inspired many people to be a little more gentle with one another. That is a birthday gift you can carry with you always- but it is also a gift you gave to us. Thank you.

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