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Kindness is Contagious: Boy with epilepsy turns mean joke into act of kindness

Nicole Phillips

I recently talked to the father of a Minnesota boy who could very well capture the attention of the nation and change the way the medical world uses marijuana.

Brett Solum is a 13-year-old boy who, in many ways, is like a lot of other teenagers. He goes to Moorhead Middle School where he’ll soon be starting seventh grade. He likes the Green Bay Packers and hopes they’ll win the Super Bowl. He hangs out with the neighbor kids, and his 6- year-old sister thinks he hangs the moon.

But there is a difference between Brett and the other kids at school. Somewhere between 45 and 100 times a day, Brett has seizures.

They started out as absence seizures, a short period of time when he would just blank out and stare off into space. Lately, he’s been having grand mal seizures, lasting between 15 and 20 minutes each.

Brett’s father, Paul, tells me that all of his son’s medical options have been exhausted, so Brett will never drive a car or even live on his own unless someone discovers another way to control his epilepsy.

The Mayo Clinic may have a Plan B. Doctors will soon give Brett marijuana drops as part of a study on the drug’s effects on young epilepsy patients.

So now that you’ve got some background information, let me tell you a little more about Brett and what he goes through every day.

Brett arrives at a special entrance to his school where he can enter without the noise and chaos found at the other doors. He immediately turns left and heads directly into his classroom where he spends most of the day with other kids with disabilities.

He has an incredibly kind heart, and while he is totally communicative, his mind does not comprehend sarcasm or teasing. So when a student from another part of the school invited Brett to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese, Brett gladly accepted.

His dad took him to Target to buy a gift and then headed to the restaurant. They waited 15 minutes before asking an employee about the reservation, only to find out that there was never a party planned at all. It was a joke. A mean joke by someone who was picking on Brett.

Two weeks later, it was Brett’s birthday. His parents told him to invite some friends to go bowling, but it wasn’t until they got a phone call from a stranger that they realized how their boy had turned that hurtful fake-party experience into an act of kindness for others.

Brett’s parents got a call from a mom asking if they would pick up her daughter on the way to the bowling alley. They picked up the girl at Churches United for the Homeless.

Brett invited kids with severe disabilities, kids who were homeless and kids who just plain felt rejected. He invited kids that no one else ever invites to parties.

We can’t control how people treat us, but we can control how we treat others. Brett knows that truth well, and his actions go far in proving that we are not limited by our limitations when we look outside of ourselves and into the hearts of others.

Brett, I don’t know much about the medical marijuana controversy, but I do know about kindness. You have shown great kindness to others, and on behalf of everyone who has ever felt left-out, thank you. I’m praying you are touched by a miracle, my friend.

You can follow Brett’s journey on his Caring Bridge site, www.caringbridge.org/visit/brettsolum.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND, 58107.

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