I attended a Lakes Area Professional Business Women’s meeting Wednesday, and had the privilege of hearing one of the organization’s members, Monica Klimek, share her personal story about parenting a child with autism.

During her presentation she made the comment that “the world needs to be a kinder place.” My immediate reaction was, “Yes, it absolutely should be.”

If only wishing it could make it reality.

Monica talked about her 10-year-old son, Eli, who has autism. She talked about the struggles this challenge has brought to her family. But that wasn’t her main message. The message I believe she wanted to send was that her family – and many others like them – can rise to the challenges that come their way, but simply ask for support and understanding from everyone else in the process.

We all have struggles. We all have challenges. And when we are facing them, they sometimes seem overwhelming. But if you take a minute to look back at the challenges you have faced in your life, I think you will find the ones that seemed the most insurmountable were the ones where you simply felt alone or unsupported.

Monica made a comment to which any parent can relate. She said parenting is hard. It most definitely is. And that brings us back to the ancient concept of “it takes a village to raise a child.” Parents need support and understanding and compassion, not disgusted looks or unkind words or judgment.

Monica asked those in attendance at the meeting what they think when they are out in a public place and someone else’s child throws a tantrum. What do you think?

Do you wish the parents would quiet their child down, or maybe discipline them? Are you annoyed at the disruption? Do you assume that the parents are “bad parents?”

In a “kinder world,” no one would think these things. In a kinder world, people would share a warm smile with the child and his parents, or better yet, offer some assistance.

And yet the idea of being “kind” sometimes puts people out of their comfort zone. What? Go over to these strangers and offer to help? What could you or I possibly do in a situation like this?

First of all, the simple offer of help is something. Even if the parent turns down your offer, they may be uplifted by the simple kindness shown in the words, “Can I help you?”

But you may be able to do more, and if so, the parent will let you know that.

Right now you might be thinking, “How would I know if the child has autism or another special need?”

My question for you is, “What difference does it make?” My children didn’t have special needs, yet they threw some pretty good tantrums when they were younger. (Actually, they still throw some good tantrums as teenagers too!) There were times when I was the recipient of some judgmental looks or some unkind words. There were times I was made to feel like a bad parent who didn’t know how to discipline my kids.

There were times when a warm smile or an offer of help from a complete stranger would have been welcomed.

We don’t know other people’s stories. We don’t know the challenges they face. And that doesn’t matter. We don’t need to know those things.

To make this world a kinder place, we simply need to be kind. We need to show compassion. We need to offer support and encouragement when we can, and accept it from others when we need it.

Those are the keys to making this world a kinder place. Think about that the next time you find yourself annoyed by something or someone in a public place, and try a different approach. You may find it soothes your soul as much as the person to whom you reached out.

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“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.

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