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Spreading Kindness Around the World

Her twins showed her what can happen when you dare to dream big.

Miriam, Delilah and Nathenial Adams are surrounded by military care packages; photo by Todd Plitt
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“Mom, we want to write a book,” my five-year-old twins, Delilah and Nathenial, announced one day.

“Sure, I’ll get some paper,” I said. My kids had made so many “books,” I had all the supplies at the ready.

“No, Mom,” Nathenial said. “We want to make a real book.”

I looked at my kids curiously. “What do you mean?”

“Like this,” Delilah said, holding up some picture books from their room.

Are they joking? I thought. I don’t know the first thing about getting a book published. Still, I didn’t want to squash their creativity. “Okay…what do you want it to be about?”

“An envelope that travels all over the world spreading kindness,” Nathenial said, his eyes shining.

Over the next few months, my kids dreamed up more of the story. The main characters were a pair of twins just like them. I wrote down everything, making sure not to miss a detail. The kids even sketched scenes with colored pencils.

I was impressed with the twins’ ability to think big. But was their dream too big?

God, I don’t want my kids to be let down, I prayed. I really need your help with this.

The theme of Delilah and Nathenial’s story was being kind to others, no matter how little you might have. I wondered if that was partly because I’d told them what my life had been like when I was their age.

I remember the burnt orange suitcases my dad carried as he walked out the door. I was five when he left. My mom, younger sister and I ended up on the streets, sleeping in parks and homeless hotels for more than a year. I found myself standing in any line I could to get donated food.

Despite—or maybe because of—our hardships, I tried to help others. I handed out snacks to people who were homeless, took in stray animals and helped give out donations at a church where the woman in charge would send me home with food.

In fact, churches felt more like home to me than our apartment. I would seek them out and sit in the pews, feeling welcome and safe. My faith in a loving God grew. So did my conviction that the most important thing God asks us to give is kindness.

I finished school, married young and ramped up my efforts to help people around me. Food pantries, coat drives, job fairs, days out for nursing home residents. I wanted so much to be a mother. I was 32 when I gave birth to our twins. I vowed not only to teach Nathenial and Delilah to be kind but also to make sure they knew that anything was possible.

I guess I did a pretty good job, because here the twins were, at age five, wanting to publish a book. They’d come up with great ideas before, but those had all been things I knew how to do. Like the time they said, “We want to bake cookies for soldiers!” That added a new dimension to the volunteer work they’d been helping me with since they were old enough to talk. Delilah and Nathenial made cards and care packages for these heroes. A local group shipped the packages to soldiers overseas.

Writing and publishing a book was way out of my comfort zone. I spent months learning. I looked up information online and watched videos. I joined first-time authors’ groups and asked questions. Self-publishing seemed like our best option. Still, all the steps it would take were daunting.

Even after the kids and I finished writing the story, I wasn’t sure. Can we really turn this into a book? I thought, flipping through the draft. I stopped on one page: “Mama was proud of her son and daughter for always being so nice to each other, to other kids and to everyone.” Yes, this was a fictional story, but I was proud of my kids—for their big dreams and big hearts. Just as God had led me to give the gift of kindness, he had called on my kids to do the same. I could trust that he would help us make the book happen.

I found an illustrator to complete the twins’ sketches and an editor to tie it all together. We self-published The Magical Envelope last Veteran’s Day. The kids decided that 10 percent of the proceeds would go to The Major Stuart Adam Wolfer Institute, an organization that donates to service members in honor of Maj. Wolfer, who was killed in action in Iraq in 2008.

The twins, now eight, continue to amaze me. They’re creating a coloring-book version of The Magical Envelope. They’re setting up a Facebook page to share what they’re doing and get others involved. They plan to open Delilah and Nathenial’s Magical Cat Café one day. They remind me we can always think bigger, do more. That anything is possible if you believe.

My kids know where I come from, the park I used to sleep in, the hardship I endured. Not long ago, I was watching them make sandwiches for people in desperate need, people who were willing to stand in whatever line they could to get food. All I could think was, I was one of those people.

“Are you okay, Mom?” Delilah asked.

I blinked back tears. “Yes,” I said. “My heart is full.”

Full of faith, hope and big dreams.

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