‘To Ella: I Hate You’ — The Christmas Card That Made a Girl with Autism Run Away from Home


Ella Singleton is a nine-year-old girl from Liverpool who is on the autism spectrum. She struggles to make friends, so she was very excited when some of her classmates gave her Christmas cards.

Although Ella’s mom, Jenna Singleton, is aware that the classmates who wrote Christmas cards to Ella are not really her friends on a regular basis, Ella thought the holiday cards meant true friendship too. They gave her a sense of belonging. But when she opened one of them, she got a rather unwelcome surprise.

The card contained only a few words. “To Ella,” it said at the top, followed by, “I hate you” and signed at the bottom, underneath the pre-printed words “Yappy Christmas.”

Understandably, Ella was quite upset about the nasty message she had expected to be something much kinder. She was visibly upset when she got home from school that day but didn’t tell her family anything about it until later.

“She kept saying everyone hates her and how she should go away,” says her mother. “She began lashing out at family members, saying she wanted to die and even tried to run away from home.”

Ella made it a full two blocks before she was stopped by a delivery person and her nan was able to catch up with her. It was only after fleeing and being brought home again that she told her family about the horrible note.

“I told her people could be mean,” said Singleton, “and that she should never go away from me because that would break my heart.”

Sadly, Ella has a long history of trouble getting along with kids her age. She walks around alone during recess and is constantly unhappy about having no friends. Her mom recalls a birthday party to which 32 children were invited and only one showed up.

Kids can be cruel, it’s true. But luckily, not everyone is as mean as the child that wrote the heartbreaking card. After some community members learned about the ordeal, they began reaching out with words of kindness and offering little things they thought might cheer Ella up for the holidays.

“Just Wings restaurant in Southport offered us to dine there for free and they will let Ella make her own milkshakes,” her mom reports. “A gentleman has contacted me offering to pay for a day out to Chester Zoo and Wacky World, offering five free tickets. I really cannot believe how generous people are. I’m overwhelmed.”

As of the writing of Singleton’s Facebook post thanking the community for its kindness, Ella had no idea that two boys from her school were set to come by with flowers to help make her day a little better. It’s just one more small thing that will make a big difference in Ella’s life.

“This will be her best Christmas ever!” says Singleton. The inspiring and touching actions of her community will not be forgotten anytime soon.

Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?
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