You’ve just finished shopping and are waiting in line to check out when you feel someone touching your hand. Your first reaction is probably nervousness and maybe a little fear as to who would be doing this socially unacceptable act. However, when you look down at your hand you see a young, innocent child whose attention was drawn to your jewelry. What do you do? If I told you the child in this situation was “special needs,” would it change your reaction? Keep in mind that your initial reaction can have a good or an adverse affect on this child.

My niece Saray, now 10, was adopted from Guatemala by my sister and brother-in-law as a baby. To look at her was to love her. She arrived in the United States with olive skin, a little round belly, lots of hair and a great sense of rhythm when music played. But for Saray, everything she needed to develop into a healthy child was difficult.

You see, Saray suffers from many problems that affect her health, speech, motor skills and development. Thanks to love, family and a school support team at Summit Educational, she will be blessed with a full life. However, simple things we take for granted, like shopping or making choices, can be very difficult for her.

Recently, my sister and Saray went to get dessert at the Village Bake Shop in Lewiston. The dessert was a promise for doing well in school. My niece was given the opportunity to select what dessert she wanted. However, she can be overwhelmed when picking one item from many choices.

The lady behind the counter looked on as my niece touched almost every part of the glass showcase as she searched for her dessert. When her decision was made, she asked the lady for the “pink dessert.” The lady began to pull out pink desserts one at a time for my niece without success. Staying patient, pleasant and adding humor to the situation, she finally came across the right one.

As they proceeded to the cashier, a gentleman walked out of the back room and began to converse with the lady. My niece’s attention was immediately directed to the man’s jewelry on his wrist and she began touching it. Before my sister could react, the man nodded to her acknowledging that he understood what was going on. Saray then noticed his smart phone and began to touch it. Without missing a beat the man began to show her the phone’s capability, including how it takes great pictures.

When my sister told Saray it was time to leave, the kind gentleman offered her a cookie if she listened to her mother. It was then that this gentleman informed my sister that he was the shop owner. My sister was emotionally overwhelmed. These people had shown compassion, kindness and understanding toward Saray. This is not often the case for my niece, where stares and glares usually take place.

Saray’s perception of people’s reactions is spot on with a unique ability to see good in others. Although she doesn’t know why people react the way they do, she often feels their reactions as negative. These business people, like others we have encountered, demonstrated empathy by paying close attention to her needs and reactions. These people, who display human decency and understanding, make you believe that your child will be OK in this world. It’s a comfort to know such people exist and share their kindness and understanding with those who need it the most.