Hold Onto Kindness: How a Mom, an Autistic Girl, and a Stuffed Bear Inspired a Movement

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As hard as it can be at times, it is important for each and every one of us to strive toward greater kindness, compassion, respect, and understanding. Goodness knows there’s not nearly enough of these things in the world today. I could go on and on forever about how that is the case, but that’s not the point. The point is, in spite of all that is going on, this world needs to “hold onto kindness.”

And that was the message one teacher, Rebecca Somers, wanted to get across after being inspired by a cancer patient and her daughter.

Cute-as-a-button Lillie is nine years old, autistic, and has a congenital genetic disorder known as 1p36 deletion syndrome, a condition characterized by intellectual disability, weak muscle tone, and oftentimes seizures. Her mom, Nicole Webster, is battling brain cancer.

Photo: Facebook/WDIV Local 4/ClickOnDetroit

Photo: Facebook/WDIV Local 4/ClickOnDetroit

The mother-daughter duo crossed paths with the teacher on a flight from Pennsylvania to Detroit, where cheerful Lillie greeted Somers several times, insisted to her mom that Somers was her Spanish teacher, Ms. Cindy, and introduced Somers to Kindness, her beloved bear.

And as for Nicole?

“I couldn’t help but notice how kind the mother was to her daughter,” Somers wrote on a Facebook post. “She redirected her several times, kept telling her to hold her voice down, and held her hand on take-off & landing.”

However, what struck Somers the hardest was when the mother and daughter were disembarking from the airplane and Nicole said to Lillie again and again, “Hold onto Kindness. Hold onto Kindness.”

Photo: Facebook/WDIV Local 4/ClickOnDetroit: Kindness the Bear

Photo: Facebook/WDIV Local 4/ClickOnDetroit: Kindness the Bear

“Naturally my tender heart wanted to cry out to everyone on the plane… ‘Did you hear what she said? Hold on to Kindness!’ I thought how appropriate,” said Somers.

She went on to say that some may have been irritated by Lillie’s chatter throughout the flight. Some might have been uncomfortable when she went in for a hug or a high-five. “Yet the joy this little girl made me think of our world and how we all just ‘NEED TO HOLD ONTO KINDNESS!'”

That message was further imparted to Somers when she spoke to Nicole after getting off the plane. That was when Nicole told Somers that Lillie was getting surgery on her legs (as she wore leg braces) and that she (Nicole) was dealing with brain cancer and the exhaustion of treatments. According to ClickOnDetroit, she has mere months to live.

“My heart sank,” Somers said. “I assured her that she would be in my continual thoughts and prayers and how she and her daughter taught everyone a lesson today…… ‘Hold on to Kindness……you never know what another person is going thru.’ [sic]”

The story Somers told has won hearts on social media, and #holdontokindness has even turned into a movement. We hope that it inspires you, too.

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A. Stout received a Bachelor of Arts in Writing through Grand Valley State University, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2015. In addition to being a passionate autism advocate, she is a member of various fandoms, a study abroad alumna, and an animal lover. She dreams of publishing novels and traveling all over the world someday.
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