Sunday, October 2, 2016

Bob Cornelius Swan Song: All of this started with a quick on air-conversation with Dana and Scott at KMBZ in Kansas City...this was meant to be a quick thank you note to Dana, but it turned into something more. Our fifteen minutes should have been up already, and I suspect we're almost there...but before the clock strikes midnight, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone that has reached out to my son and shown the kindess and compassion that he, and every other child (and adult) deserves. This is the quick note that got away from me: Dana: While you have expressed that credit is not important in this story, and on some level, I agree, as it's really about the message of empathy and inclusion. However, and I'm pretty sure Scott is with me on this one 😉, it was/is the people of Kansas City that made this global, viral juggernaut happen. Lest you think that I'm guilty of hyperbole, let me just say that in the last 48 hours, I have received thousands of emails from around the world. There has been an enormous concentration of correspondence from England, Italy, Hong Kong, Scotland, Argentina and Australia. However, it is not just limited to those countries...I have had to use translating software to read a good percentage of what we have received. Truly, it has been mind-boggling. The messages range from brief, uplifting notes of support, to pages of heart-wrenching stories of exclusion and bullying. This whole experience has been humbling and amazing. Humbling, because I am just a regular, run-of-the-mill father of three boys. Amazing, because I cannot wrap my head around the amount of love and support we have received. It was an anonymous caller that suggested the card shower (I wish I had been listening at the time, but I missed it). But it was your show that re-posted my words and turned 33 shares into well over 50,000. I love Kansas City....I miss Kansas City. The people of this great city have the biggest hearts. It was true when I lived there in the 90's, and I'm so happy to see it is still true today. Three days ago, we were all opening letters on the couch as we were cheering on the Chiefs as they dismantled the Jets (who play their games 30 minutes away from my house, but I have always been a loyal Chiefs fan). While we were enjoying the game, many of the messages we read were both inspiring and heartbreaking. We want to reply to every single one, but at this point, I don't know if that's possible. If I can't, could you please convey my gratitude and appreciation to everyone that sent us a letter of support? These packages and letters have been/will be read by all of us here, in the Cornelius household. My mother is British, and she taught me manners. The first thing she asked when I told her about the volume of cards was "How are you going to answer all of them?" It is in my heart to want to reply to every single one. However, the sheer volume of what we have received so far, makes that prospect more and more unlikely. Christopher hopes to respond as many as he can....there have been many pen pal requests from children his age, so I think he will stay busy for quite some time! Do you remember Mickey Mouse in Fantasia: The Sorcerer's Apprentice? It feels like that, only with letters, not buckets of water. And please don't take that as a You, Scott and Nancy were the engine that got this going. You and the people of Kansas City. I don't know how to say thank you enough, because, yes, you guys started this, and it has had a twofold effect: One: The card shower is making Christopher feel loved and accepted, and, I suppose, if I were selfish, that would be enough. But it's not. That's not why I wrote my post. Because the second effect has been the most wonderful of all: And that is the conversation that parents and teachers are having with their children. At this point, I'm not guessing....I know. I have received thousands of emails and letters at this point. A large number of them have told me that they have used the post as a springboard for a conversation about empathy, inclusion and compassion at the dinner table, in the classroom, and during assemblies. These are conversations adults are having with children they might not have otherwise had. I just had this conversation with my sons, as I realize it has been a while since I have spoken with them about these things. Even if we're positive our kids have this lesson down, there's nothing wrong with a conversation about real-life examples of actions we have done or could do to make others feel valued and included. Even if this message just hits home with 10% of the kids who hear it, it will make a difference in so many lives (of course, I hope this number is higher). This whole viral tidal wave has been overwhelming for me, personally. I'm just a simple man who wrote about something that saddened him about how his son felt in his world. Christopher has more invitations and calls for friendship than I could have ever prayed for. And that's wonderful. Truly, it is. But there are Christophers all over the country....all over the world. And they are not going to be getting thousands of letters and packages. If I knew who they were, I would forward each one of them one of these wonderfully supportive letters we have received. And they deserve the acknowledgement...they deserve... they need...the love, the support, and the compassion we are all capeable of giving. I would like to say to the generous people of Kansas City, and the rest of the world: Take the love you have shown my son and look around you. Look for the Christopher in your lives that you might not have otherwise noticed. Because he/she is out there. Christopher might take the form of a 29 year old with Aspergers or an 82 year old with dementia.. but Christopher is in your life....somehow, somewhere. You have already been more than kind to my Christopher. My wish is that you be kind to yours. We love you, Kansas City. Don't ever change. Love, Christopher's Dad 2 · September 29 at 2:22pm · Edited

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"No One":
For those of you who don't know, my youngest son, Christopher, is on the autistic spectrum. I went to his back to school night on Thursday and took a picture of one of his projects displayed on the wall, one of many cute little cards that all the kids in his class had filled out. It asked him to list his favorite foods, sport, TV shows etc.
I took the picture hurriedly, and didn't notice all the answers he had filled out at that time. It was only after I got home that something stood out upon closer review.
Do you guys remember, a couple of weeks ago, the massive amount of press that the Florida State Football player got when he sat down at the lunch table with an autistic boy that was eating alone? That player didn't know the boy was on the autistic spectrum when he sat down with him...he just saw a boy eating lunch all by himself and decided to join him. A teacher snapped a picture of the moment and it went viral. That's what made the story great....it wasn't staged...it was just a real moment of human kindness.
The follow up to that story was that the boy no longer ate alone; that the other kids NOW were sitting with him and patting him on the back. That boy now had "friends",B and everything was right with the world.
Something that wasn't right was fixed, and tied up neatly with a pretty little bow of kindness and understanding.
But in my head, I asked "Where were those kids prior to this child being thrust into the spotlight? We know where they were: they're in the picture: sitting at other tables, ignoring him.
If that football player had not sat down next to that child, and if it hadn't become a national news story, that kid would still be sitting by himself today.
And it's not their fault.... that's the saddest part. They were clearly not taught to embrace and accept the differences of others. Not by their teachers, which would have been nice, had they thought to do so, but by their parents. I don't mean to imply that parents that don't have this conversation with their kids are bad people, but only that somewhere in between working, soccer practice, and homework, it never occurred to them to have this particular conversation. I'm sure that if Christopher were typical (that's the word we use instead of "normal" in our world of 'Holland', for our developmentally delayed children), I would have not had this conversation with him either.
Christopher's brothers have had many, many sleepovers over the years, obviously, in front of him, and it has not gone unnoticed.
"Can I have sleepover?" Christopher has asked.
"Sure, buddy....with whom?" As a response, he would flap his arms and stim instead of answeting. He didn't have an answer because he didn't have a name.
Because he didn't have a friend.
He's never had a "real" friend.
Ever.
He just turned eleven.
And because he's had no friends....there was no one to invite.
And I don't have a solution. I don't have an answer. The reality is that I have to rely on the compassion of others to be incredibly understanding in order just to sit next to him, attempt to engage him, and make him feel included.
My son is very smart and has a great sense of humor. Every adult that meets him is drawn to him. However, because he needs the input, he will spontaneously flap his arms and make loud, guttural sounds from time to time. It draws a lot of attention in public. If you're not used to it, it's normal to feel embarrassed, as you will have all the eyes in the room upon you. He will ask the same question fifty times in a short period of time (His latest is "What time do you go to bed?" and "What's your addtess?").
I typically have to tell servers in restaurants just to give him the restaurant's address...as once he has a satisfactory answer, he will usually move on.
Like I said, there's no easy answer for this...at the end of the day it comes down to compassion, empathy and understanding.
But mostly empathy. Not from you guys, but from your children. As far as I know, (save for one time), Christopher's classmates have never been overtly cruel to him. What they have done, however, on some level, is to exclude him. And frankly, I understand this. His classmates are delayed as well, but most not as much as Christopher. They are figuring out how to interact socially every day, and because Christopher cannot engage them in a typical way, he gets left behind...excluded, in his eyes.
Until Thursday, I didn't know how aware he was of this divide, as he does not often talk about his peers. I should not have been surprised as he makes his wants (but not his emotional needs) very clear....but I was. Mostly, I suppose, because I had never seen him put it down on paper. But for the first time, it was staring at me in the face.
I guess I'm sharing this because when asked to list his friends he wrote "no one". Never have five letters cut so deep, and they weren't even directed at me....it was just an overly simplistic statement that spoke volumes.
And because I know him so well, and because I have pretty good handle on him, after raising him for eleven years, I know this disconnect makes him feel lonely, and it makes him feel sad.
Usually, I have to figure out what Christopher is trying to say, as his manner of speaking is very straightforward; very black and white.
This time I did not.
It's clear to me that he desperately wants to be part of the group, but his challenges make it difficult for his peers to include him.
The only solution I can come up with is to share this with you and ask that you have a conversation with your kids. Please tell them that children with special needs understand far more than we give them credit for. They notice when others exclude them. They notice when they are teased behind their back (a lot of times "behind their back" is right in front of them because they think the 'different' child doesn't understand). But mostly they are very much in tune when they are treated differently from everyone else.
Trust me when I tell you this hurts them. Even if it's not obvious to you and me.
For the first time ever, I'm going to ask for two favors, here, on Facebook.
One: Share this post on your timeline. Awareness and empathy are the only solutions I can come up with.
Two: Speak with your children. Show them the video of the Florida State Football player. The Internet is full of feel-good stories about a special needs child being included. Remember the special needs child that was put in the basketball game for the last few minutes of the final game of the season? Very recently, there was the prom king who gave his crown to a special needs classmate. These videos just might make them aware of just how awesome it is to include those who are a little bit different. And I mean this for all children. Not just those that are "diagnosed", but for every child.
Every.
Single.
One.
These stories are newsworthy because they are unusual. We are not used to hearing about kids being kind to those that are different and unique...I would love to see us get to the point where this sort of behavior is the norm, not the newsworthy exception.
I am not so naive that I think this post is going to change the world. But, if, by sharing this, I can make you think about having a conversation with your children about empathy, about going out of their way to include those that are different from everybody else, especially if it goes against the group mentality, especially if it's not socially popular (I'm not so old that I don't remember that this takes bravery...bravery to break from the confines of whet your friends think is cool in the middle and high school worlds), then I will feel like Christopher's voice has been heard.
Because even though he can't say it, he wants to be included.
He wants a voice, that, at the moment, he doesn't have.
And he needs help to find his voice.
And the child that will finally reach out to him, that will help him, that will include him, will be the kindest child: the child that does the right thing by going above and beyond.
And that child will be Christopher's first true friend.
And I will be forever grateful.
Thanks for listening.
Sincerely,
Christopher's Dad
UPDATE:
As I have just leaned that this has gone viral, All of the requests I have been receiving to write Christopher letters or send a care package now make sense. This was an idea that was started by KMBZ radio personalities Dana and Scott, or one of their listeners to be precise, so this "card shower" is on its way.
Many of you have asked to send cards and packages to Christopher. While this is very kind, and, frankly, I thought this card shower was going to be limited to Kansas City, it is not whay the original message was about. However, many of you that have sent messages through Facebook have made it clear that a lot of children want to write to Chistopher, send him drawimgs and tell him that he has a friend out there. This is a kind act. This is a selfless act, motivated, primarily by empathy, I would imagine.
And that IS what the message is about.
In the interests of providing an outlet for the thoughtfulness of these kids, he may be reached at: Christopher Cornelius....96 Valley View Drive...Rockaway NJ 07866.
All this attention is a little surreal. I hope you understand that I have reached a point where I cannot possibly respond to everyone as was my original intent. The messages are in the thousands at this point. But I do answer as many as I can, and I'd like to thank everyone for sharing their stories with me and my family.
In the interests of streamlining and managing your messages more efficiently, feel free to write to me or Christopher at rcorn68@gmail.com.
Thank you all for your thoughtfulness, your grace, and your kindness.
Peace. 👍




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Cliff Hieronymus Bob - I read this first thing this morning and have not been able to get it off my mind today. Amy read it and cried for an hour. We plan to read it with our kids tonight and build it into our daily routine to be actively aware and engaged. Thank you for taking the time to share.
Bob Cornelius Wow...thank you.....I have so moved by the response from everyone today...It's touching and humbling...
Bob Cornelius Tell Amy: Happy tears...Chris is about to get hundreds of letters telling him he has a friend...
Bob Cornelius Celebrating Christopher's 11th birthday last month with my sister, Sheri Cornelius Mandry.
Renee Lynn Sometimes it's easier that my son doesn't understand that. Or maybe he does and he can't say it or write it down.
Renee Lynn Either way, you are not alone.
Bob Cornelius So my good friend Nancy Chartrand, the best public relations person in Kansas City, shared this post and has informed my that the number one radio station wants to interview me on air today at 5:15 EST. I checked, and they do have an app that you can download where I'm sure you can hear it. Type in KMBZ 98.1. The show is called Dana and Parks.
Nancy Chartrand I'm not the best, I just know the best stories that need to be told. This is definitely one!
William Price Shared. You make me proud to call you friend, Bob. Tell Christopher he has a friend in Ohio. With a boat. He has a standing invitation to come sailing. Anytime. He can even bring his dad. If he gets us Young's Jersey Dairy ice cream 
Bob Cornelius You had me at "Young's". 👍
Amy Robey Mierzwa This broke my heart to read. Good for you for putting this out there, and I love the response you are getting with the "card shower" etc. I will share this with my kids and on my FB page. He is lucky to have you for a dad.
Ana Miranda Kreyszig Bob, this broke my heart to read. It's not right. And it's not how it has to be. I'm sharing this on my Timeline. Much love to you and your family.
Adriana Waterston Bob, thank you for sharing this. I read it with Micaela, and she wants to be Christopher's friend. Maybe we can figure out how to do that. Hugs.
Tim Raynewater Very powerful Bob. Shared.
Janette Mendez Black It sounds like you're a good dad! Thanks for helping us be aware that we need to educate our kids
Dennis Eimer Do you know what I like best about your post, Bob? You have simply stated several truths about what is like and what each of us can easily do. I love that. 
We are in this together! We should courageously step up our game!
Thank you brother!
Kelly Cosbar Seanor OK - I have seen this posted on 2 friends pages who don't know you....its gone viral - and GOOD FOR YOU!!! You'll have more coming....
Trish Racioppi Rogers I just saw it posted in my private ASD boimed group
Rob Katsel There have been a number of times in my life I have seen friends in the news unexpectedly and I can honestly say I have never been prouder to say 'yes he is my friend and fraternity brother'. So simple a message that people too often choose not to hear, well done brother!
Bob Cornelius Swan Song: All of this started with a quick on air-conversation with Dana and Scott at KMBZ in Kansas City...this was meant to be a quick thank you note to Dana, but it turned into something more. Our fifteen minutes should have been up already, and I suspect we're almost there...but before the clock strikes midnight, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone that has reached out to my son and shown the kindess and compassion that he, and every other child (and adult) deserves.

This is the quick note that got away from me:

Dana: 

While you have expressed that credit is not important in this story, and on some level, I agree, as it's really about the message of empathy and inclusion. However, and I'm pretty sure Scott is with me on this one 😉, it was/is the people of Kansas City that made this global, viral juggernaut happen.

Lest you think that I'm guilty of hyperbole, let me just say that in the last 48 hours, I have received thousands of emails from around the world. There has been an enormous concentration of correspondence from England, Italy, Hong Kong, Scotland, Argentina and Australia. However, it is not just limited to those countries...I have had to use translating software to read a good percentage of what we have received.

Truly, it has been mind-boggling. 

The messages range from brief, uplifting notes of support, to pages of heart-wrenching stories of exclusion and bullying. This whole experience has been humbling and amazing. Humbling, because I am just a regular, run-of-the-mill father of three boys. Amazing, because I cannot wrap my head around the amount of love and support we have received.

It was an anonymous caller that suggested the card shower (I wish I had been listening at the time, but I missed it). But it was your show that re-posted my words and turned 33 shares into well over 50,000. I love Kansas City....I miss Kansas City. The people of this great city have the biggest hearts. It was true when I lived there in the 90's, and I'm so happy to see it is still true today.

Three days ago, we were all opening letters on the couch as we were cheering on the Chiefs as they dismantled the Jets (who play their games 30 minutes away from my house, but I have always been a loyal Chiefs fan). 

While we were enjoying the game, many of the messages we read were both inspiring and heartbreaking. We want to reply to every single one, but at this point, I don't know if that's possible. If I can't, could you please convey my gratitude and appreciation to everyone that sent us a letter of support? These packages and letters have been/will be read by all of us here, in the Cornelius household. My mother is British, and she taught me manners. The first thing she asked when I told her about the volume of cards was "How are you going to answer all of them?" It is in my heart to want to reply to every single one. However, the sheer volume of what we have received so far, makes that prospect more and more unlikely. Christopher hopes to respond as many as he can....there have been many pen pal requests from children his age, so I think he will stay busy for quite some time!

Do you remember Mickey Mouse in Fantasia: The Sorcerer's Apprentice? It feels like that, only with letters, not buckets of water. And please don't take that as a

You, Scott and Nancy were the engine that got this going. 

You and the people of Kansas City.

I don't know how to say thank you enough, because, yes, you guys started this, and it has had a twofold effect:

One: The card shower is making Christopher feel loved and accepted, and, I suppose, if I were selfish, that would be enough.

But it's not.

That's not why I wrote my post.

Because the second effect has been the most wonderful of all:

And that is the conversation that parents and teachers are having with their children.

At this point, I'm not guessing....I know.

I have received thousands of emails and letters at this point. A large number of them have told me that they have used the post as a springboard for a conversation about empathy, inclusion and compassion at the dinner table, in the classroom, and during assemblies. These are conversations adults are having with children they might not have otherwise had.

I just had this conversation with my sons, as I realize it has been a while since I have spoken with them about these things.

Even if we're positive our kids have this lesson down, there's nothing wrong with a conversation about real-life examples of actions we have done or could do to make others feel valued and included.

Even if this message just hits home with 10% of the kids who hear it, it will make a difference in so many lives (of course, I hope this number is higher).

This whole viral tidal wave has been overwhelming for me, personally. I'm just a simple man who wrote about something that saddened him about how his son felt in his world.

Christopher has more invitations and calls for friendship than I could have ever prayed for.

And that's wonderful. 

Truly, it is.

But there are Christophers all over the country....all over the world. 

And they are not going to be getting thousands of letters and packages. 

If I knew who they were, I would forward each one of them one of these wonderfully supportive letters we have received.

And they deserve the acknowledgement...they deserve... they need...the love, the support, and the compassion we are all capeable of giving.

I would like to say to the generous people of Kansas City, and the rest of the world: Take the love you have shown my son and look around you.

Look for the Christopher in your lives that you might not have otherwise noticed.

Because he/she is out there.

Christopher might take the form of a 29 year old with Aspergers or an 82 year old with dementia.. but Christopher is in your life....somehow, somewhere.

You have already been more than kind to my Christopher.

My wish is that you be kind to yours.

We love you, Kansas City.

Don't ever change.

Love, 
Christopher's Dad

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