Kindness Is The Key To Success

, , , , , , , | Hopeless | February 25, 2019

When I was in high school I was on the board of the KEY Club — a high-school branch of the Kiwanis organization. I was in my Spanish class and had finished my work early, so I decided to get a little paperwork done for my board meeting later after school. My Spanish teacher asked if I could stay after class for a minute, which got me nervous that I was in trouble for something. It turns out she saw my paperwork and realized I was in the KEY Club. She told me that her son, Abraham, was autistic. He could speak, just not well, and things were a little slower for him, but he was improving immensely and his therapist had suggested that it would be beneficial for him to join a service club to help with his socialization. She asked if it would be possible for me to speak with the rest of the board about letting Abraham join.

I immediately said I would, and the rest of the board thought it was a great idea for him to join. We discussed waiving the admittance rules for him — he would have to memorize and recite the KEY Club pledge — but he wound up passing that easily. I’ll admit, I was nervous over how the other members would act around him but I shouldn’t have been.

The other members all were enthusiastic about Abraham; at any activity we did during meetings they all encouraged him, sat with him, and chatted with him, making sure he was having the best time. No one treated him differently or made fun of him. It was really beautiful to see.

But one thing that surprised all of us were his service hours. Members were required to finish 25 hours of service per semester, and we discussed waiving that requirement for Abraham. But not only did he far exceed his 25-hour requirement, he was actually the first member to finish it. We actually started to use him as an example when other members complained about not being able to complete the require hours; if Abraham could finish his hours first then really there was absolutely no excuse.

For a full year, I got to watch this wonderful boy thrive. He loved going to the meetings and hanging out with the club. And at the end of the year we had a ceremony to commemorate the accomplishments the club had done, and one of the awards given was Member of the Year. At the board meeting where we discussed who should be given what award, the president of the club immediately suggested Abraham as the recipient for Member of the Year. The vote on that was unanimous.

I was never prouder when I stood up to give the award, speaking about this member always being the most enthusiastic at meetings, always bringing a smile, always laughing first at every joke, jumping into any activity with real joy, and of course being the very first to complete his hours. I’ll never forget when Abraham’s mother burst into tears when I announced his name; she was over the moon with pride at her son for earning that award. There was never any doubt among anyone in the club he had earned it.

A few years later, I emailed my old Spanish teacher and asked how Abraham was doing. She said he had graduated and was taking courses at a college, and he still talks about KEY club being the happiest time of his life. He still has his award on display at his home.

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