Happy Birthday To You, Colin: A Lesson In Kindness

Happy Birthday to you, Colin!

At Berrien Springs Middle School in Richland, Michigan, seventh graders are going to help wish a boy named Colin a Happy Birthday. But who is Colin, and why does it matter?

Colin is a soon-to-be 11 year-old boy with social disabilities. He has a disorder called Asperger’s, which makes social interaction difficult for him and others who suffer from it. As a result, when his mother asked Colin a few weeks ago if he would like to have an eleventh birthday party, he responded that he has no friends so there is no need for a party.

As any mother would be, Colin’s mother was heartbroken by the response, so she set out to do something about it. She created a Facebook page for Colin, where anyone can wish him a happy birthday. So far, over two million people have “liked” Colin’s Happy Birthday page, and many are sending cards in the mail. Colin’s mother is saving all the cards to give to him on his birthday, which falls on March 9th. But don’t tell Colin–it’s a special surprise!

That’s where the Berrien Springs seventh graders come in. According to WSBT,social studies teacher Alison Arend saw the story about Colin and decided to help out. She asked her students to create birthday cards for Colin, but not for a grade. This is an optional assignment, and many of her students are fulfilling it. They are giving Colin pep talks and words of advice, such as a boy named Max, who wrote, “Trudge through, and if you really think they’re not being nice to you, then ignore them.”

The real lesson here is that all of us know at least one Colin–someone who feels alone in the world, friendless or uncared for. The challenge, according to The Huffington Post, is to teach our kids how to reach out to others by doing it ourselves. Kindness is important, especially in today’s world where it seems to be lacking. Seeing the response to something like Colin’s Happy Birthday Facebook page is heartwarming, but child and teen development specialist, Dr. Robyn Silverman, said this in The Huffington Post:

“Character education does not happen by osmosis,” said Dr. Silverman. “Having compassion for other people starts with questions and talking about it. This builds perspective, empathy and compassion that your children can then use when you are not looking.”

If you would like to tell Colin “Happy Birthday to you,” you can visit the Colin is Eleven Facebook page here.