Reflecting on joy and kindness this holiday season

A columnist expresses gratitude for the ways people have contributed to her life

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by Alyssa Silva |

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As I check off the last item on my long list of gifts for the family I adopted this Christmas, I say a little prayer that they’ll feel utmost joy and kindness this season.

I’ve been adopting families for many years now. It’s my way of saying thank you for all the joy and kindness people have extended to me throughout my lifetime. Living with SMA takes an army of support, even when it’s in the most minuscule of ways.

I’m always reminded of this at Christmastime. Keeping me alive and thriving isn’t a one-person job. I’d like to think I can handle it all on my own, but the truth is that many people in my support system deserve credit, too. Medical professionals have saved my life more than once. Caregivers, family members, and friends take care of my physical needs every day. And even strangers sprinkle little dustings of joy into my life to keep me propelling forward.

Recently, my mom told me a story from 30 years ago about a stranger’s kindness. Though I’ve heard it many times, I always love it.

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A Christmas angel

The story begins when I was about 3 years old and all I wanted for Christmas was a Baby Alive doll. It was a hot-ticket item among little girls that year, so my mom couldn’t find one in any store. She was distraught. The days of online shopping hadn’t arrived yet, but she thought she’d found a solution after hearing that the local shopping center was getting a new shipment.

My mom said she waited in line for over an hour that day to get the doll. While in line, she started talking to the woman in front of her and told her all about me and SMA. All my mom wanted that year was to get me this doll. But when the woman got to the counter, she bought the last one. My mom’s spirit was crushed.

But a moment later, the woman turned around and handed my mom the doll. She said her kids were spoiled (that part of the story always makes me laugh) and that I deserved the doll more.

After all these years, my mom still gets emotional when she tells the story. Back then, we were living in a darkness of unknowns about SMA and didn’t know what my future held. My mom feared it would be my last Christmas, so she wanted to make it extra special for me by giving me that doll. To this day, my mom calls the woman her Christmas angel.

This stranger’s act of kindness still resonates with me. I loved that doll. Now as an adult, I love her gesture more. Whenever I reflect on all the little ways that so many people have contributed to my life, I’m reminded of the Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” In the movie, the main character neglects to see the imprint he’s left on the world until an angel arrives to show him what life would’ve looked like if he hadn’t been in it. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t pretty.

That’s how I feel about every person I’ve encountered. My life would have turned out so differently if they hadn’t been in it. Whether it was a doll from a stranger or a doctor who brought me back to life, my gratitude for every one of them remains unwavering.

Living with SMA isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s through the hearts of others that I find the courage to press on. I can only hope to give this same feeling to others.

Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.


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