I finally found one. Standing in line at the post office, I saw a small green heart sitting on the counter staring up at me.
I’d heard of the Peyton Heart Project and their efforts to spread small knitted hearts around the world, but I hadn’t been lucky enough to see one yet.
There is a sad, yet inspiring, story behind these hearts that are finding their way across 46 countries, including Australia, South Africa, Ireland, the U.S. and Canada.
— Peyton Heart Project (@PeytonHeart13) April 17, 2016
Peyton James was 13 when he took his own life in October of 2014. According to his dad, Peyton was a very caring kid, who struggled with depression and anxiety and faced bullying through much of his young life. I recently had the chance to talk with Peyton’s father, David James, for an article I wrote in the upcoming issue of I-am Magazine.
Classmates would make fun of Peyton’s appearance – he had red hair and freckles and his teeth were slightly discolored. In 5th grade, someone hit him so hard they ruptured his ear drum. And the bullies weren’t just other boys. Once, a group of girls stole Peyton’s watch – it was especially upsetting to him since it belonged to his grandfather.
Peyton hid his pain and mental anguish well. Even though he had been taking medication for anxiety and depression, and had talked about killing himself, his suicide still took David by surprise. I guess you just never expect that something so awful could really happen. Peyton’s family is still healing and takes some comfort in the fact that they were able to donate his heart, lungs, kidney, liver, pancreas and corneas.
Not long after Peyton’s death, a woman by the name of Jill Kubin and her daughter became interested in Peyton’s story. They began making small knitted hearts with inspirational quotes attached to raise awareness about bullying, end the stigma of mental illness and honor suicide victims. David James was thrilled that Peyton’s memory and name could live on in this way, and now he and Jill Kubin together manage the Peyton Heart Project and it’s associated Facebook and Twitter pages.
With their efforts, they are reaching people all over the world, through simple gestures and positive messaging. You can join the Peyton Heart movement by contacting them through social media.
— Peyton Heart Project (@PeytonHeart13) August 10, 2015
As the mother of two teenagers, I know all too well that these can be difficult years. My heart breaks for all of the parents out there who have lost a child to suicide. Our kids are facing a lot of pressure these days – from school, teachers, parents and friends. They are trying to find their way between being their own person, yet fitting in, getting good grades, attending the right social functions and getting into the best colleges. It’s stressful.
Think of your child’s mental health as a wall that protects them. Every day, there are cracks in that wall – a failed test, a break up with a boyfriend or getting cut from the school volleyball team. At the end of the day, that wall is weak and needs some reinforcement. As parents, that’s where we come in.
We need to let them know our love is unconditional – we are the soft spot where they can land after a really rough day.
A wise councillor at Montgomery County Youth Services recently told me that hugs and physical touch are so important for our kids, especially teenagers. Hugs help to repair all the little fractures that happen to their mental health wall. So, go ahead, give them a hug. They may push you away at first, but they really do long for that physical and emotional connection.
Sometimes as we rush through our day to day life, we’re too busy to notice the small miracles happening all around us. Slow down. Open your arms and your eyes… a heart may appear when you least expect it.