Guest Post: Inspiration From a Smile by Tim Whitney

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Tim Whitney is the author of Thanksgiving At the Inn. More details after the story.

Back in the spring of 1983 I was a ‘typical’ cocky high school senior, counting the days until I could escape my small home town and run off to college in Boston. My last hurdle before graduation was a volunteer project called the ‘May Project’ where we had to choose a community service to perform and then write a paper. As an athlete and captain of the swim team, I volunteered for the YMCA and the Boy’s Club as a counselor. But the Jesuits had a little surprise for me. Instead of giving me a project in my comfort zone, they assigned me to a school for handicapped children.

I’ll be honest, I led a very sheltered life and had never really been exposed to handicapped children, let alone autistic children. At the time the cases of autism were far fewer than they are today and I was so naive that I did not even know the difference between artistic and autistic. The overall experience was totally overwhelming and I went home exhausted every day. From gaining an appreciation for special needs teachers and parents to developing an incredible appreciation for so many things I had taken for granted in my life it was an amazing, humbling, and enlightening experience. It was a pivotal tim e in my life that changed my perspective on the many things I should be grateful for in life.

On the last day there, I was asked to spend time with a little girl in the class that was severely handicapped, both physically and mentally. Somehow I had managed to become her favorite and her smile touched my heart. We went out on the swings, enjoyed the beautiful spring day, and she spoke to me in basic sign language. Later that day as class was ending, the teachers thanked me for spending my time with her and how much it had meant. Then they let me know she only had a matter of weeks to live. I can still picture that day, the smile on her face, and the range of emotions that swept me up like a rogue wave pulling a drowning swimmer out to sea.

I tell this story because it changed my perspective on life and her smile still etched in my memory 25 years later, was in part the inspiration for my book. We all h ave two choices in life- to be grateful for everything we have, or be bitter for everything we don’t. The little girl’s smile has been a calibration point for my life. With so much adversity in her life, she still had a smile on her face, love in her heart and an appreciation for everyone around her. I learned more about life, gratitude, humility, and laughter in that month than I had in the previous18 years. When I wrote Thanksgiving at the Inn, I wanted to share this message and other life lessons I’ve learned along the way in hope that I could help someone else realize that we all have so much we take for granted when we should be thankful.

Inspiration takes many forms and for each of us it’s unique. For me, it all started with a little girl’s smile.

Wishing you a thankful holiday season,

Tim Whitney
Author of Thanksgiving At the Inn

This post is Copyright 2001-2012 SMS Book Reviews. Do not reproduce anything without permission.
About Kathleen

I've been a nonfiction lover for as long as I can remember. I love children's nonfiction as well and love to share my knowledge and the books I gained them from, with the world. I wish more people would give nonfiction a chance.