I think that at this point, just about everyone else in the world has written about Hallee but me. The last few weeks have consisted of solely trying to keep our heads above water and staying ahead of the next wave of cards..we’re purely in survival mode over here. I’ll tell you what’s been happening, in case you somehow missed it.
In a nutshell, a post about my daughter Hallee went viral. Last year on her 18th birthday, one that she was very excited for and had been planned out for months, we somehow ended up with not one guest showing up. Big deal? It happens to lots of kids? Well, Hallee is autistic and only in the last two years began showing interest in having a “typical” birthday party with friends. Previously they had all been parties at home with just her step-dad, sister and myself. So her asking for a “real” party at a public venue was a huge milestone for us and I was so excited for her.
I didn’t write much about it last year because truthfully, I didn’t think I could do it with much grace. I was angry, hurt and sad on her behalf and those feelings would have been broadcast too strongly, and it wasn’t about me, it was about Hallee and every other person who is conceived as “different”, whether they’re on the autism spectrum or not. For the first time in her life, she felt saddend, confused and hurt by other people.
Trying to explain this to a typically developing kiddo is hard enough, trying to explain it to Hallee, who functions at about a first grade level, was devastating. I know for a fact that all of the invitations had been passed out at school and I wasn’t particularly worried about no one calling to RSVP since the previous year (the first one she invited friends to here at home) no one did either and yet everyone showed up.
Unfortunately that wasn’t the case this time and while I’m sure there was no ill intent, it was still heartbreaking for her. She asked for days to go back to the bowling alley her party was held at in case her friends showed up..it was awful. Fast forward to this year and our niece Becky. She had the sweet thought to post a (now infamous) message on her private Facebook page asking for friends to send Hallee a birthday card this year in the hopes of making up for a really sucky birthday last year. It got shared. And shared. And shared again. 200 times, 500 times, 1,000 times. In a few days time cards began arriving. Radio stations and television stations began contacting Becky. Cards went from a handful in the mailbox to a few crates, to an entire truck, just for Hallee. 10,000 or more a day. A DAY. And there, my friends, is what’s called going viral.
Let’s just talk about the logistics of something like this. Imagine your house right now, exactly as it is. Your garage as well. Now imagine that you have to make room, with little to no notice, for a literal truckload of mail every day. Where do you put it? How do you organize it? Who will open it all? Do you save them? Where? Get a storage unit? You can’t write thank you notes for 200,000 cards. So you start a public FB page to keep people up to date on what’s coming in. Who will run that? Because you’re getting 500 messages at a time from it. You live in the garage now, opening cards and organizing 15 hours a day. And you have two kids, a husband, a puppy and a house to take care of. Your summer vacation plans just changed, big time.
Oh, and don’t forget that your phones ring non-stop, there are reporters are showing up at your doorstep asking for interviews, to talk to your child who doesn’t like strangers, you’re in the clothes you fell asleep in last night, the dog is losing his mind and the kids are fighting. You’d better have a grateful heart, a lot of patience and a good sense of humor, because you’re going to need them. Luckily we have all 3 in spades. (and also, lots of Band-aids..because omg your hands…)
It’s been an experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world. The outpouring of love, support and inclusion for Hallee and people like her has been literally world wide and is still going strong. We’ve cried over these cards, laughed and been continually amazed at the outright GOODNESS in people’s hearts. It doesn’t matter if these folks are for or against Trump, Bernie or Hilary, for or against gun control, leaving or staying in the EU..they’re all FOR Hallee.
We’ve received cards from literally all over the world. Taiwan, France, Sweden, Japan, China, Poland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Viet Nam, Spain, Italy, Saudi Arabia, England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, South Korea, South Africa, Afghanistan, Prague, Latvia and of course right here at home and Canada…it’s mind blowing that these tens and tens of thousands of people are reaching out to make sure one little 18 year old girl here in mid-Maine isn’t sad on her birthday this year.
She’s received letters from everyone from preschools in Spain and entire nursing homes in Aroostook County, to the CIA, Vice President Joe Biden & Jon Bon Jovi. She’s gotten cards from chickens and dogs, amazing letters from our troops at home and overseas that are stationed everywhere from ships in the middle of the ocean to Afghanistan. Police departments, fire departments, sports teams and entire schools all over the world. Beautiful cards from families like ours, organizations that work with autistic people, teachers of special needs children..they’re amazing. I’ve cried over so many of them.
The people on her Facebook page are angels, every single one of them. They’re kind, accepting, tender-hearted and have become a real source of encouragement and strength for me and they are so excited for Hallee and by what we’re creating for her and for people like her. Grateful doesn’t begin to cover it. I don’t think anyone can prepare you for going viral..it’s a once in a lifetime experience and you just kind of have to go with the flow or you’ll get sucked under completely. What I do know is that never in my life have I seen such goodness and kindness. The whole world has come together to celebrate the young woman that I’m lucky and blessed enough to call my daughter..how amazing is that?