My friend Sarah’s admirable quality of patience has helped her through all the challenges she’s had to face in her life. It took a long time until she finally found her soulmate. After that, she had to wait several more years to become a mother.

When Sarah and her husband, Jeff, were blessed with a pair of fraternal twin boys, they were overjoyed. Prepared to have their hands full, the couple didn’t realize what still lay in store for them. Nathan was born healthy, but his twin, Michael was diagnosed with cerebral palsyMichael, was among the 8,000 to 10,000 babies a year who are diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Sarah met this new challenge as she had all the others in her past—with great patience, deep faith and constant love.

Now that the twins are 8 years old, Michael is fully aware of the painful fact that he and his brother are different in many ways. Nathan is a bright third-grader and successful in his studies, a well-coordinated boy who plays sports with ease.

Michael struggles to keep up with all the things his twin takes for granted. His school developed an Individualized Education Program for him, and he has a full-time classroom aide. His vision problems require him to wear thick-lensed eyeglasses. In his active, baseball-loving family, Michael runs awkwardly and is frustratingly unskilled at sports. He can’t help feeling different from other boys.

Sarah’s motherly heart aches for her son and the challenges he already needs to face at his young age. Then came the heartbreaking night that she will never forget.

“Mommy, why am I different from Nathan?” Michael asked tremulously, tears gathering in his dark eyes.

“Sweetheart, no two people in the world are exactly alike,” Sarah tried to explain. “Not even twins. G‑d made each one of us different. Some things we can do easily, and other things we find hard.”

Then, her son held in her loving arms, she wept together with him.

Fortunately, Michael’s teacher, Emily, is sensitive and understanding of his needs.

Yesterday she shared a story with Sarah that brought her to tears. Yet this time they were tears of gratitude and joy.

During “Mommy, why am I different from Nathan?”one recess, Emily said, the kids in Michael’s class were playing a fierce game of kickball, with many of the boys becoming extremely competitive. Michael’s turn to kick the ball came at a key moment in the game. His team was tied with the other team. So Emily was completely amazed to see the most competitive boys on the other team go after the ball slowly and clumsily, deliberately allowing Michael to get to first base.

Then she watched as another boy purposely dropped the ball and went chasing after it. Michael’s teammates yelled for him to run to second base, which he managed to do. Amazingly, Michael made it to third base. By then, everyone on both teams had caught on to the plan and were shouting their encouragement.

“Keep going, Michael!” they called excitedly.

“Try for a home run!”

“Go! You can make it!”

Watching in delighted astonishment, Emily realized that this plan was completely the kids’ idea. Carried out so tactfully, Michael hadn’t even realized what they were doing. Beaming with joy, he was beyond thrilled by his first-ever home run.

With so many Michael made it to third base!heartbreaking stories about bullying and abuse in schools these days, Sarah was touched and deeply grateful for the compassion shown to her son by his young classmates. She feels that the term “special” should refer not only to children with challenges, but also to those sensitive to the needs of others. At their young age, those boys had performed an act of pure chesed, lovingkindness.

Without being told, Michael’s young classmates had figured out that life is tougher for him than it is for them. They realized that it’s much harder for him to do all the things they take for granted, whether it’s reading out loud in class or kicking a ball across the schoolyard. Instinctively, they knew the importance of showing him that they were on his side. In his own way, Michael had opened their eyes to the challenges he faces and what life must be like in his shoes.

“Parents like me, who also have kids with disabilities, will understand that sometimes I have middle-of-the-night terrors about the possibility that my sweet boy will be bullied,” explains Sarah. “I keep praying that bullying will be one challenge he’ll be spared. Michael really struggles with feeling isolated and different sometimes; he just wants to be one of the kids. At that moment in the game, he was fully included as one of the gang, a regular kid. This was a gift of pure joy to my heart.

“I would like to say ‘thank you’ to the parents of the other kids in his class for raising such sensitive, kind children who support and care about my son.”

Michael’s classmates had filled the “special need” that all of us have—the need for empathy.