Kay Kirby of Boiling Springs, S.C., recently shared a photograph to Facebook of her 16-year-old son Andrew Kirby. Though it was a “back to school” picture of sorts, it certainly wasn’t the type you see flooding your own social media feed at the start of every school year.
Instead, Kay’s picture was a great big Thank You. The happy mom wanted to publicly thank her son’s classmates for showing him an act of kindness he had yet to encounter in all his years in school. They invited Andrew to sit with them during lunch.
“He normally eats alone and it breaks my heart,” wrote Kay on Facebook. “But as soon as he got in the car after school he said ‘Mom, I didn’t eat alone! Some student council members asked me and 3 others eating alone to come sit with them, and said we could eat with them again tomorrow too!’
This simple, kind, offer meant a lot to Andrew, who had been struggling to make friends. “These students may not have thought this was a big deal, but it was an answer to prayer and a great encouragement for Andrew,” wrote Kay on Facebook. “THANK YOU to those students, you made a difference today!”
Kay’s Facebook post went viral, and she landed on Good Morning America where she revealed Andrew’s background. She and her husband Tyler Kirby had adopted Andrew after fostering him as a baby.
It turned out that Andrew had been born with a drug addiction as well as neurofibromatosis, a genetic condition that causes tumors to form in the brain, spinal cord and nerves. Andrew has had multiple surgeries as a result of his condition, which also made him shy and reserved.
As a result, he often sat by himself during lunch throughout middle school. “He’s more of a loner,” Kay explained on Good Morning America. “He’s a good kid, but he’s just different. It doesnt make him odd or bad. He’s very loyal and everybody that meets him, loves him.”
Kay also said that she’d often text Andrew during lunch to see whether he was eating with any friends. “When he’d say, ‘No,’ I would have to turn my head a lot of time [and try] not to cry,” said Kay. “He would say, ‘Mom, it’s ok. I get on my phone, so I don’t notice.'”
But things turned around for Andrew on his first day of junior year. The student council noticed Andrew and several other students eating alone, so they invited them to sit together. “It may seem small to them, but they made a difference in his life,” said Kay.
The happy mom’s Facebook post racked up over 17,000 likes and nearly 5,000 shares on Facebook, with many praising the student council students for their initiative and simple act of kindness.
The post was even noticed by U.S. Senator Tim Scott, who also thanked the students in a video posted to social media. “You took the time to make someone feel special,” Scott said in the footage.
“We’re just blown away,” Andrew’s fatherTyler Kirby said on GMA. “High school is hard. We’ve all been there. They didn’t care about what their peers thought and they still invited these kids to sit with them at lunch. I applaud them that they would do that.”
“Every day, Andrew comes home and you can tell that this has been a great encouragement to him,” he added.
It just goes to show you: One simple act of kindness can truly change a life.