Every day last autumn when mail was delivered in Baytown, Texas, one six-year-old boy found a letter addressed just to him. “It would make me happy when I wasn’t feeling too happy,” says Lance Brunson, who is confined to his home with complications from a severe skin disease.
The letters were from an “older” friend, seventh grader Sarah Ferguson, affectionately called “Little Miss Sunshine” by Lance’s family. Sarah has been creating and sending letters to Lance since mid-October 1988. “She has really been a bright spot for us,” said Joy Brunson, Lance’s mother.
Sarah first learned about Lance’s condition from her mother, Melanie Ferguson, who had taught Lance in Primary in Baytown Ward, Houston East Texas Stake. Sister Ferguson and Lance’s classmates put together a card to send to Lance after his illness forced him to be homebound. Sarah liked the idea and decided to send one, too—and has kept sending them ever since.
“I try to give Lance something to do, something to make him happy,” Sarah said. She admits she finds some of her ideas in card shops, but her letters are original, with handmade cards, puzzles, quizzes, riddles, and art lessons.
The rare skin disease Lance has is caused by some of his internal organs—kidneys, pancreas, spleen—not functioning to capacity. It causes severe itching and burning and deep peeling to the point that Lance can’t stand to wear any clothes and can only wrap up in a sheet or blanket.
His mother says, “Last fall Lance couldn’t sleep sometimes for two or three days. He would lay for days in the fetal position. We had to carry him to the bathroom. This lasted for almost six weeks. It was his worst time. And during this time Sarah’s letters arrived daily. Sometimes Lance was too sick to look at them, but he would smile when we showed him the letter. And most often that was the only smile we saw from him all day.”
“We didn’t get mail every day, but we’d at least get Sarah’s letter,” Lance said. “Even when she was sick!” he exclaimed. A siege with the flu did not cause her to miss a single day.
Lance’s gratitude to Sarah is spoken with childlike simplicity, “Thank you for sending me all these letters. I love you.”
What does Sarah think about her acts of kindness? “It’s no big deal, really,” she shyly comments. However, the community of Baytown feels Sarah’s heroic efforts are a “big deal.” She was featured in a local newspaper story, and honored by a service organization which awarded her a plaque that now hangs in city hall.
Ask her why she kept sending letters daily for those first few months, she answers, “Because Lance’s mom appreciated it so much and said it made Lance happy. Besides, I know how it feels to be sick and at home. My dad has been sick ever since I can remember. I know how he feels. It gets boring and you need something to keep you busy.” Sarah’s father, Ira, has been going through operations and skin grafts for the past nine years after suffering third-degree burns in an industrial accident.
Sister Brunson expresses her appreciation for what Sarah has been doing for Lance. “She is sacrificing her time, talent, and energy for my child,” she said. “The humble spirit of an incredible young Beehive has richly blessed my household.”
Lance is feeling better now. He attends school and church some of the time, and he was well enough to participate with Sarah and other ward members in the road show last spring. But his trials are not yet over. He has days when he is in great discomfort. And, although he sees Sarah more often now, he still gets a letter at least once a week from her.
Because of the six-year age difference, Sarah and Lance don’t have a lot to talk about with each other. But one night last spring after road show practice Sarah softly said, “Bye, Lance.” And Lance turned and smiled at her and simply said back, “Bye, Sarah.” Lance’s mother comments, “You could see this bond—a look in their eyes that they have shared something. A great deal of love passed between them.”