A few months ago, something terrible happened.
In early September, my son and I were suddenly and violently attacked by three dogs, about a minute after my 7-year-old Noah stepped off his school bus. With his forehead ripped open, Noah had to undergo emergency plastic surgery. He spent two days at Levine Children’s Hospital, where he began the long road to physical and psychological healing. I was also injured while trying to protect him — my arm and leg punctured by the powerful jaws of the attacking dogs —but my heart is what hurt the most.
Despite the range of feelings we experienced, from fear and anger to sadness and anxiety, this traumatic incident also reminded me of humankind’s profound ability to do good.
So many people—friends, family, and strangers —have reached out to us to help.
Do not believe anyone who says your actions don’t matter or can’t make a difference. They do.
Liz Rothaus Bertrand, whose son was badly injured by bull terriers in September
There are good people out there, everyday heroes who make a huge difference. Sometimes it’s a professional calling, people who have made rescue and healing part of their daily lives. But just as often it is someone who makes an extra effort to do something kind, generous, and restorative.
Fred Rogers, the beloved children’s TV host, summed up these types of heroes well: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”
Thinking back on this challenging autumn, there are an extraordinary number of helpers to whom I want to express my gratitude. They have given me hope for a better world—people of all backgrounds, differing politics, from preschool aged kids to 95-year-olds. Their instinct to do good reassures and reminds me that each of us has within us the capacity to help, heal, and improve the world.
We will never forget what people have done for us during this difficult time and I intend to pay it forward for the rest of my life: in daily actions, in choosing to do and help rather than shake my head in frustration; in reaching out when there is a need.
Do not believe anyone who says your actions don’t matter or can’t make a difference. They do. They can change the world—starting with the very first person you reach out to help.
Acts of kindness
I am grateful for…
▪ The man who appeared on our doorstep, offering his tickets so Noah could see his first Carolina Panthers game
▪ The custodial worker who loaned her cell phone charger to my husband in the ER
▪ The Child Life Specialists who eased Noah’s worry before each new step—sewing stitches on the forehead of a stuffed toy alligator to cuddle, showing Noah how to spray Mama and Papa with syringes filled with water, giving him a certificate of bravery when he had to return to the ER for rabies immunizations
▪ The bus driver who gave Noah a heartfelt card and gift, sharing her own worry and sorrow over what had happened, and who ensures his safe arrival home with such love each day
▪ The hospital chaplains who held my hand and listened
▪ The dear friends who saw a need and jumped into action organizing meals and funds to help with medical expenses
▪ The firemen who came by a week later to check on Noah and invited him to tour the firehouse when he felt better
▪ Friends, family, and strangers who sent cards, emails, texts, and messages of encouragement
▪ Those who sent Legos, puzzles, magic tricks, books and more to help Noah recover
▪ The paramedics who showed such calm and reassured Noah at the height of his pain and panic
▪ The Missouri school teacher and her students at the French immersion school who heard about what happened and sent Noah a care package full of well wishes and gifts
▪ Folks who appeared on our doorstep with cookies, gifts for the kids, and soup
▪ Friends and strangers who thoughtfully sent notes and gifts for Noah’s 4-year-old brother Matéo too
▪ Our caring pediatrician and her staff who supported us immeasurably and even made a house call
▪ Friends who told us how important self-care would be and offered support in multiple ways
▪ My sister and brother who dropped everything to come help
▪ An elderly woman who saw Noah’s story on the news and sent him a care package filled with superhero mementos
▪ A school counselor and school psychologist who went above and beyond, visiting Noah at home and ensuring his positive readjustment to school
▪ Handmade cards from Noah’s schoolmates as well as from other local kids
▪ The Animal Control Officer who stayed with us at the hospital, long after his shift ended, to ensure our safety and the police officers we never met who scoured the surrounding neighborhoods for the attacking dogs
▪ Friends who sat with us in the hospital and made sure we ate something
▪ Neighbors who sprang into action—on the scene and in the days that followed
▪ Reporters who showed compassion
▪ Friends who helped with childcare in our most challenging hours
▪ A principal who called Noah at the hospital
▪ Nurses who eased Noah’s worry (as well as our own) and made him comfortable during his hospital stay
▪ Teachers who came to visit, called Noah, read to him, and checked on our family repeatedly
▪ A surgeon whose superior technical skill was matched by his ability to relate and empathize with his patient and parents
▪ Cousins, aunts, uncles, and dear friends who reached out from across the US and around the globe
▪ Mental health professionals who have helped us stay afloat and progress
▪ Those who lovingly prepared meals and sent gift cards, cleaned our house, or did our laundry
▪ Our parents who ran errands, sent thoughtful gifts, entertained the children, gave hugs from near or far, and provided shoulders for us to lean upon
We are forever grateful for your acts of kindness.