I honestly had never met a social-media superstar (let alone lived with one) until Dec. 26, 2022, the day my 32-year-old son Erik posted a brief video of my 29-year-old son Brandon unwrapping and opening a box of Duplo LEGO blocks on Christmas Day.
As of this writing, the video had been viewed over 4.1 million times, generated 241,000 reactions and thousands of heart-felt comments — some written by people living as far away as Australia.
A lot of the comments were written by parents of special-needs children; others from people who were simply touched by the unfiltered joy Brandon expressed when he realized a box of his beloved Legos was waiting beneath the wrapping paper.
Many of the comments moistened the eyes of those who know Brandon best, his dad included.
How did a minute-long video ignite such an outpouring of emotion from people (99.9% of whom we’ve never met) around the globe?
As Paul Harvey would say, here’s the rest of the story …
Passion for Legos started early
Although Brandon’s 30th birthday is fast approaching, he has severe cognitive impairment and autism that have left him with the intellect of an 18-month-old child.
His brain was ravaged during the early years of his life by thousands upon thousands of daily seizures beginning at 7 days old, the cause of which have never been determined by medical professionals at three different hospitals.
Thankfully, a University of Michigan doctor eventually prescribed an anti-seizure medication that significantly reduced the frequency of the nightmarish events. Unfortunately, the damage to Brandon’s brain has proven to be irreversible.
Physically, Brandon is fine, although he didn’t learn to walk until he was 2-and-a-half years old.
During a months-long reprieve from the seizures in his toddler years, Brandon began to sit up, crawl and develop an intense love of Duplo Legos. We’re not sure if it was the Legos’ bright colors that sparked his passion or the way they snapped together.
Even when the seizures returned at age 3, his love for the colorful blocks was not diminished.
It became crystal clear to our family that Brandon loved Legos more than anything — and they quickly became our go-to gift for his birthdays and Christmas.
Which brings us to Dec. 25, 2022.
Memorable Christmas present
Handed the box wrapped perfectly in holiday-themed paper, Brandon shook it and heard the unmistakable clanking sound that multiple Legos make when they collide in close quarters. The minute-long sequence was captured perfectly by Erik’s iPhone.
If Brandon’s smile had been any wider when he pulled the Legos out of the box, the outer edges of it would have touched his earlobes.
Erik’s video was packaged perfectly with Daniela Andrade’s “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” serving as subtle background music and an eloquent message Erik added, describing how Brandon’s joy in the wake of a rough year for him (and many of us) should be used as a lesson in perspective.
Here was a 29-year-old man, Erik wrote, who had lived a tough life, yet a simple box of multi-colored connecting blocks brought him unbridled bliss.
And here’s the icing on the figurative cake: In his message, Erik casually tagged Legos, never in a million years thinking it would lead to what happened next.
Thank you, LEGO
Not long after the video started spreading rapidly across social-media channels, Erik received a message from the global toy-making company, letting him know they wanted to send Brandon two large Duplo Lego sets — the opening of which sparked even more off-the-charts happiness.
For a company as large as Legos to take the time to brighten a young man’s life like it did, well, it warmed our hearts.
There are few easy days for severely cognitively impaired people and their parents, but there are countless heart-warming moments.
Some of which, as it turns out, end up spreading viral levels of happiness.