Every teacher has that special student who touches their heart in a way that no other child can. Brett was that student for me. Although he was born with Down’s Syndrome, the gifts he continues to share with the world far outweigh any special needs he might have. In just one year in my classroom, Brett taught me more than I could ever imagine about the sheer beauty of special needs students. His love and sweet energy was palpable and always caused others to smile.
It had been several years since I had seen Brett, so I decided to call him a few weeks ago. I wondered if his loving nature had remained intact, or if the teenage years had morphed him into a new person, as was so often the case with former students. I didn’t have to wait long to satisfy my curiosity as he left the following message on my phone a few hours after my call.
“Hi Mike Sissel. I love you. Call me.”
I couldn’t help but replay his message many times. Each time I listened, my heart returned to the same place ten years ago when Brett would walk into my 5th grade classroom and simply say, “I love you Sissel.” It was clear that even though he was now 21 years-old, his willingness to express his love for others had not changed.
While some will always see Brett as a “special needs” individual, I will continue to see him as a “special gifts” individual. His greatest gift is love. You see, there is no “cool factor” with Brett that prevents him from sharing love or gratitude with others. If he feels it, he shares it. I wonder what the world would be like if we were all able to follow Brett’s lead and express our love for others. This reminds me of a quote that says…”Having gratitude for others and not sharing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it to them.”
This past weekend, I took my oldest daughter with me to see Brett. As you can see from the picture, we both got to experience his gift. Brett may never comprehend this, but he has influenced my entire family in a profound way. I guess you could say he has given us the gift that will keep on giving.