From the moment she was born, we could tell she wasn’t quite like the other children. This little lady is a little more social, a tad bit funnier, quite a lot rockstar, a grundle of smarts, and a boatload of mischievousnesses. Some call it Williams Syndrome; we call her Bella. As Bella’s aunt, I have taken part in her development, and I have always held a special “Bella” place in my heart. There are times when she has made me laugh so hard I thought I would crack, like when she shut the power off to my whole house after I swore to Jon there was “nothing she could hurt downstairs.” There are other times when she made me cry, like several times when she was acutely aware of being the only one without an invitation to a birthday party.

I have always looked to Bella to brighten my day because she gives the biggest hugs, dances longer and harder than anyone I know, and says some of the wittiest things I’ve ever heard. But lately, Bella can only connect with people by “going live” on Instagram, and crying quietly until one of her friends or family members log on to say hello.

In some ways, I see myself in her. People are not used to seeing either of us sad, so when it happens, it throws everyone off. Feeling happy most of the time makes you want to hide the days you are unhappy. There are so much unrest and anger, ridicule, and loss in the world right now. And when we can’t connect with loved ones, it makes it even worse.

If you are like Bella and you need a big online hug, someone to talk to, or some loving support, please let someone know how you are feeling.

Last weekend, we saw Bella for the first time in about seven months. We danced, sang, laughed, and hugged. We all left with our hearts a lot fuller, and I’ll never forget how happy we all were to be together. Regardless of what side of the mask debate you are on, please take the time to look around and love. You may believe you are helping someone else, but you might actually be helping yourself.