CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I have a little favor to ask, though it's not really for me. It's for a special young man from Scott Depot named Timothy Merrill.
The favor I'm asking would increase Tim's workload, but his mom insists he'd be OK with that. Better than OK, actually. The extra work would make him happy.
Tim, who is 23 years old and has Down syndrome, has two chores he does to help around the house every day. One is to get the newspaper, and the other is to collect the mail.
Tim's mom, Kathy Gwinn, told me that every day when Tim gets the mail, "He always looks through it and says, 'No mail for me.'"
So Kathy decided she'd try and do something to change that. She posted notes on both her personal Facebook page and the Down Syndrome of West Virginia page asking people if they'd mind sending a card to Tim.
The response so far has been heartwarming.
One lady said she was going to send him a card a month for the next year. A professor at Bridgewater State University, in Massachusetts, was having her class send Tim cards. A lady from Hawaii. A local elementary school class.
"When the mailman delivers the mail," Kathy said, "we have to read each card at least once, and some twice. To date, we have received 212 cards from 14 different states and 31 different cities in West Virginia. Some are handmade or have touching personal messages, two had Christmas music, another had candy.
"No one can even begin to imagine how much this has touched my heart for complete strangers to send so many cards to my son. This has been the most emotional experience for me, seeing the magic in his eyes as we read each card."
Kathy and I talked about how being the recipient of kindnesses from strangers can change a person in the most wonderful ways. And having her life changed by others was something with which Kathy was already familiar.
"Tim changed my life in the most wonderful ways," Kathy said. "He made me notice things I had totally overlooked before."
Kathy told how she and Tim were driving past what used to be Union Carbide, in Institute, when Tim yelled out "Stop!" Alarmed, Kathy stopped.
"Look," Tim said. He was pointing at the fire coming out of one of the stacks.
"He was totally amazed," Kathy said. "I had driven past those stacks hundreds of times before, and, while I'd seen the fire, I certainly never stopped to enjoy the beauty before."
Having Down syndrome hasn't stopped Tim from being a regular guy. His mom said he loves music of all kinds, enjoys playing video games and going out to eat. He enjoys using his Shake Weight since he wants big muscles. And like most young men his age, Kathy said, "he'd like to have a girlfriend, a big red truck, a tattoo and a motorcycle."
Mostly, though, Kathy talked with pride about the quality of man her son has turned out to be. How he senses when something is wrong and will stay with you, talking in his calming voice, until he knows you're OK. About how he's never met a stranger, doesn't have an enemy in this world, and how he always, always
gives more than he takes.
So now back to that favor I was talking about. I was wondering if I could get some help giving Tim back a bit of that happiness he's been so good at giving to others.
By giving him mail.
"When I first posted this on Facebook," Kathy said, "I thought he might get a few cards. I never imagined it would go this far. Being the parent of a special-needs child -- you want them to be happy, and getting mail has made him so happy. It made his day, and, therefore, it made mine."
Please take a few minutes and join our effort to pack Tim's new post office box until it overflows. The address is Timothy Merrill, P.O. Box 57, Scott Depot, WV 25560.
Reach Karin Fuller via email at email@example.com.