Looking for a Land of Empathy and Wonder


I’d like to live in a land where my son Tucker is one of many, and the many each have a variety of differences. A land in which none of those differences are considered afflictions, special needs, disabilities, or developmental delays. In this land, people’s quirks and differences wouldn’t be noticed. They wouldn’t be important. Everybody’s uniqueness would be celebrated.

The only thing important in my imagined land is a person’s heart. His empathy.  His ability to find wonder. To experience joy while blowing bubbles on a breezy spring day, rather than worrying about a deadline, a job, an overdue bill, or a disease.

A place where every resident is able to abandon her phone and follow her son on his quest to best imitate the flight pattern of an erratic butterfly. To experience wonder. Joy.

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I’d like to live in a land where skin color is as notable as the color of a person’s socks.  A place where couples who fall in love are automatically a family, regardless of the opinion their neighbors, or their governments hold.

Where a person’s actions towards others is noticed. Appreciated. A place where the cost of her handbag, or her shoes, is not.

I’d like to live in a world where I can take my son to the playground and the fact that he’s playing amazingly well with an unknown younger friend is what’s noticed rather than the fact that his new, younger friend is miles above him in language.  In knowing how to play. In, well, everything.

I’d like for all of us to simply bask over the joy seen on two boy’s faces bonding over finding an abandoned ball.

I’d like for all of us to simply be.

Can you imagine?

I can.

I see that joy and wonder on my little boy’s face every single day.  He sees magic.

He makes me want to get back to seeing the magic.

Because this land of mine would also allow me to see my son’s recent school photo and not analyze it.  It would hold me in the warm arms of the belly-laugh moment my husband and I shared when we first saw it, and thought, “Oh my…he looks so mischievous!  So grown up! So beautiful.”

Instead, I studied that photo late at night, alone, and wondered whether his school photo looks like autism.  Whether my little boy’s beautiful eyes all squinted up as if he’s hiding something meant, instead, that he was at an “I need a break” point.  That he may have been intimidated or overwhelmed and didn’t have the words to say so. That he may have been frightened.

I’d like to live in a land where empathy and wonder rule.

Where our differences don’t.

You know what the best part is?  This land exists.

It exists right now. It exists in you.  We, my friends, have the power to transform our worlds, our wanna-be lands, and our homes into places filled with empathy and wonder.

It starts with you.  With me.  With our children.  It starts with how we choose to spend the next five minutes. The next hour. The next year. The next rest-of-our-lifetimes.

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It starts tomorrow, when we’re stressed, overwhelmed, busy, and annoyed.  Take a moment and don’t look away.  Attempt eye contact with the boy who makes you uncomfortable. Say hi. Give his tired mom a smile.

Give her a smile that conveys the message that we’re all in this together.

Your smile may just be the one thing, today, that lets her know that there truly is empathy and wonder.

And it’s Everywhere.

About the writer

Kristi Rieger Campbell's passion is writing and drawing stupid-looking pictures for her blog, Finding Ninee. It began with a memoir about her special-needs son Tucker, abandoned when she read that a publisher would rather shave a cat than read another memoir. Kristi writes for a variety of parenting websites including Huffington Post Parents, has been published in four popular anthologies, received 2014 BlogHer's Voice of the Year People's Choice Award, and was a proud cast member of the DC Listen to Your Mother show. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.


I have one too 1 year ago

I respect all the comments. We just need to remember that, to educate people, we need to explain what people are seeing. My son has a complete alphabet soup. We will get to a place of non-judgment when we say these things in person and not just a blog of people who already get it.

Ilene Evans 2 years ago

We DO have the ability to transform our worlds and live from our hearts and only see the beauty. Few do. Few even think about this. Without knowing you all that well (but adoring you – simply adoring you), I have grown to love how you give us these amazing insights through your experiences with Tucker.

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    Ilene – I adore you right back.

TheMissusV 2 years ago

I wish the same for my kids and all the kids in the world.

    Kristi – Finding Ninee 2 years ago

    Me, too, MissusV.

Lance 2 years ago

empathy, kindness, compassion, and love’

where do I sign up?

This is what I wish for my children, too

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago


Darcy Perdu 2 years ago

When Liz Lemon on 30 Rock hears of something she wants VERY badly, she gets a VER intense look on her face and says: I.want.to.go.there.

That’s how I feel about the world you describe:

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    I. Want. To. Go. There. Too. 😀

Kristi Rieger Campbell 2 years ago

Me, tool Alyson. Me too. Although it's Earth if we make it so right?

Jennifer@Outsmarted Mommy 2 years ago

I needed this today. We all need this reminder. I read this with tears in my eyes and at the end I took a deep breath and thought she is so right. We are in charge of making this world what we want it to be. I love this post. Everything about this post.

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    We are, indeed, in charge. And thank you so much for your kind words.

Alyson Rennick Herzig 2 years ago

Please send me the address, I need to live here too.

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    Ah, sweets. It’s Everywhere, Earth, once we make it so…

Kristi Rieger Campbell 2 years ago

Please, let's do stick together Jennifer. Life with a diagnosis is hard enough. Wondering what it is? We need the land of empathy and wonder.

Kristi Rieger Campbell 2 years ago

Thanks, Deb. Better here, somehow. <3

Deb @ Urban Moo Cow 2 years ago

As I said above – just as beautiful, true and inspiring as the first time I read it. So glad it is here so more people learn from you.

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    XO Deb. I replied without it being tied here. But yes. Better here at Scary Mommy somehow, huh?

Debra Cole 2 years ago

This post is just as beautiful and just as true as I remembered it. xo

Jean 2 years ago

Just lovely Kristi. I’ve never been comfortable with the whole “If I just reach ONE person…” idea and the sentiments you expressed in this post should travel far and wide and reach many people.

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    Thanks Jean. I agree. It should reach many. And I say that in a weird “am I a jerk?” way…but I do feel like it should reach many…

Lisa @ The Golden Spoons 2 years ago

So glad to see this here Krisit & Jill!! I love the concept of Our Land and I hope & pray we can ALL live there someday!

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    Thanks Lisa! So glad you’ve been a part of it!

Anita@ Losing Austin 2 years ago

How happy I am to see you featured here where Our Land can spread- isn’t that the coolest part of it, that there is room for all?

<3 <3 <3

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    Definitely that there is room for us all. That’s the bestest. Of the best.

Jennifer Steuer 2 years ago

I have shared this post with friends. I, too, have a child that has no 'physical' disability. His is also neurological. We must stick together. Thank you for posting this beautiful article.

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    I messed up my reply (Don’t have nested comments in my blog sadly) but said:
    Please, let’s do stick together Jennifer. Life with a diagnosis is hard enough. Wondering what it is? We need the land of empathy and wonder.

Considerer 2 years ago

This post, this Land (Our Land) makes me happy very deep down in my heart, and it glimmers and shines of HOPE. I love how passionate you are about bringing Our Land to people’s attention – making it a part of their consciousness, and inviting everyone to join you there.

It’s a place where people can be who they be, and be loved and accepted and nurtured and encouraged, no matter what. It’s smart; it’s kind; it’s VITAL!

The best thing of all is that we can join it RightNow! No waiting. No need to move home – just start LIVING it. Following your lead, seeking to Do Good, trying to spread empathy and compassion and glitterbombs.

You. Are. Awesome.

And I don’t care how dorky you get about it – I love seeing you here too – hope you come back again and again.

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    Ah, Lizzi, my friend. Thank you SO MUCH. I agree that Our Land is a place where everybody (well, maybe not the bigots or the haters because ef them, although they have stories as well) belongs and is accepted. I love it too. And I love being here. Hope to spread more glitterbombs. Thanks. Huge.

      Considerer 2 years ago

      See, even in your parentheses, I *knew* that you’d ‘get’ this. Wow.

      The more I get to know you, the more awesome I think you are.

      Glad you’re there, that you started it all and made it happen. Glitterbombs will undoubtedly be spread.

      And for you, for Our Land – you’re always and every time welcome :)

Rachel 2 years ago

Such a beautiful post to have grown into a beautiful series. I’m not surprised that such a beautiful boy inspired such a beautiful mommy to bring it to a very lucky world, including me.

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    Thanks Rachel. And thanks for being part of the series! You should submit to Jill. She’s pretty f###### amazing.

Natalie – The Cat Lady Sings 2 years ago

I want to live there, too.

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    Me, too, Natalie. Me, too.

Jeannine Walker 2 years ago

Thank you for sharing! My favorite part “Give her a smile that conveys the message that we’re all in this together.” Because we have all needed this on those tough days and it is always appreciated and reminds me that I am not alone.

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    There have been so many times that I’ve felt so alone. And the thing is – I’m not. There are so many people, parents, non-parents, parents of special needs kids and parents of typical ones…who just need a smile. A reminder that this world is beautiful and amazing and so are the different people who live on it. Thanks much!

Joanna 2 years ago

Well, of course I just met you Kristi Campbell but I like you already!
This is rather beautiful piece of writing! Thank you very very much!

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    Well see, I like you already too. It’s like we just internet smiled at each other. The world’s better already.

Jessica Smock 2 years ago

I loved reading this again! Just beautiful. I’m so happy to see it posted here, Kristi.

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    Thanks Jessica! I’m so happy to see it posted here, too. EEEP.

HD 2 years ago

Thanks for today’s post! You’re right, we have this world now, we just have to make it so. Thanks so much for the post.

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    Thanks so much for your kind words.

Tamara 2 years ago

So darn beautiful. That land does exist – in possibility, and enough in practice that we all go on believing in the magic.

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    Let’s make the magic and believe in it. What do you say?

Laura 2 years ago

My kids may be grown (with nary a grandchild in sight, alas), but I can still smile at children I see. And it’s quite amazing how often a smile at a child brings a smile not only to the child’s face but to their parent’s as well. Just a moment of human contact in the midst of a busy, faceless society. Yes, we need more empathy, it works wonders for all of us!

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    Here’s hoping for grandchildren! You’re right though – a smile in our often faceless society makes a gigantic difference.

Sabrina (the other one, not the mommy yet) 2 years ago

It’s amazing what a smile can do. It doesn’t matter what kind of day I’m having, a smile from a child or even an adult stranger who somehow just sensed that I needed it, can completely alter my mood. And, I can’t help but pay it forward.

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    So true about the power of a smile, Sabrina (the other one).

WhenCrazyMeetsExhaustion 2 years ago

I love seeing you over here, Kristi!!!! xo

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    Thanks so much. Is it dorky of me to say that I really love seeing me over here too? 😉

Debbie 2 years ago

A smile can truly make someones day. We are all in this world together and when we learn to celebrate our difference instead of judging them it can be a beautiful world.
Thank you for a beautifully write post Kristi.

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    Thank you so much. You’re quite right – we are all in this world together and we should celebrate our differences. Appreciate the comment!

Isabel 2 years ago


Have you read “Wonder” by RJ Palacio? You would adore it! It should be required reading for parents and their kids.

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    I haven’t read “Wonder” but will definitely check it out. Thanks so much for the recommendation.

Stephanie @ Mommy, for Real. 2 years ago

You know how much I love this post, and the entire series that has grown from it. So happy to see it here on Scary Mommy! xo

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    Thanks friend. XO back at you.

Stephanie 2 years ago

You are right, we all have the ability. Now if many (some? any?) of us would take a moment to start behaving differently towards another we could certainly affect change. And that would be a good thing.

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    I agree. Affecting that change would be a Big Very Good Thing.

don 2 years ago

I’d take umbrage with calling Kristi semi-lapsed in anything. She’s fully lapsed, I’m sure.

Still, I love this post and I love it when a stranger smiles at me or smiles back when I do it first. All the kids that I’ve met in my neighborhood are so sweet and supportive of each other. I don’t know at what point we lose them to the stress of life, but if we could fix that, the world most certainly could be a better place!

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    Fully lapsed, huh? I’m not sure I even know what that means so I’ll pretend it’s a compliment. Cool?
    And yeah, kids can be amazing. I wish we never lost their sweetness and supportiveness to stress, or anything else.

Pam 2 years ago

So beautiful.

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    Thank you, Pam.

Kate 2 years ago

I just adore this.

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    Thanks Kate!

Kristi Rieger Campbell 2 years ago

Thank you so much for allowing me to share my words among your most excellent pages here. I really appreciate it and am so excited! The photo you chose is absolutely perfect!

Janine Huldie 2 years ago

Loved this when I first read it Kristi and a=seriously so happy you got to share this here on Scray Mommy today. Way to go and am hopeful that your vision of the world we live in would happen someday soon!

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    Thanks, Janine! I’m pretty excited that I’m here today as well! Whoot to Scary Mommy! :)
    And yeah, I’m hopeful as well…

Jen @ Ginger Guide 2 years ago

This is beautifully written. I like this place you speak of and the world would be a better place if we could reach a point where we do celebrate our differences and family was family, no matter what.

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    Thank you so much. And I agree. I like this place, too.

Emily 2 years ago

I’m so glad to see this post here on Scary Mommy, where it will gain exposure and make people think. I agree that the land of empathy and wonder is everywhere and within each of us to perpetuate. I’ve discovered through my own parenting and life challenges that empathy does not come naturally to all…sometimes it’s not until a person experiences their own difficulties or trauma that they realize they too need empathy. Once they receive it, they’ll know how to give it back. But, I also believe that through sharing stories like yours, we can build that caring land for our children and ourselves that we all desire.

    Kristi Campbell 2 years ago

    I agree that empathy doesn’t necessarily come naturally to everybody. But it starts somewhere right? I’ve really changed a lot regarding how I look at people since having Tucker. I try to never look away any longer, even when it’s not always comfortable. You’re right – once we receive empathy, it’s much easier to give it to others. Thanks so much!


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