Every day for the past year, Julie Clarke has sent her 6-year-old daughter Amelie to school with a note in her lunch box. “Amelie was starting kindergarten and I wanted to do something special,” Clarke told the Parent Toolkit. “She likes getting this colorful piece of love out of her lunchbox.”
Clarke began posting the notes to Instagram for family and friends to see, but soon gained a following outside the family. The notes have covered a variety of life lessons, from the importance of asking questions to why we all need to think before we speak, and are usually focused on helping Amelie solve a problem she is experiencing.
“I don’t think the message is getting across all the time,” said Clarke, noting that 6-year-old Amelie’s reading level means she can’t always read all the words on the page just yet. “But I hope to save them for later and can use them to teach her lessons in the future.”
The future came fast for Amelie when on May 1, her father suddenly died from bee stings. The tragedy stunned the family, as well as the close Florida community which quickly moved to support the family. A classmate of Amelie’s wanted to help, and wrote a lunch note with sympathies. “It [sic] okay to be sad,” wrote 6-year-old Alice. “Chear [sic] up Amelie.” Followers started to worry something was wrong. Clarke asked Alice’s mom to post the note on the Instagram feed as a way to let the community know about their loss and that triggered a flood of lunch notes with messages of support.
From Instagram followers and community members, to Amelie’s elementary school teachers and friends, over 70 lunch notes have been shared so far, with more coming in daily. “It is very hard to not have your father right there with you,” one of them reads. “Each morning, think of something he said that made you laugh, and you will feel him laughing with you in your heart.”
Through the power of social media and local news articles, total strangers have found out about the family’s story and have sent along their own notes of sympathy. Julie Clarke says all of the notes are a wonderful way to show Amelie that there are other people who care about their family.
“People from all over the country are making notes to her,” said Clarke. “Those are going to be very valuable tools for her to know that there are people out there.”
On Monday, Amelie went back to school for the first time since her father passed away. And just as she had for the past year, Clarke included a special note for Amelie’s lunch box. “You are so loved!” it read. “Don’t forget, love is most important. More than money or things. Did you know you are rich? You are rich in love!”
And it’s this love that has kept the Clarke family strong during this challenging time. “It’s really touching. The whole thing is pretty overwhelming especially when people that I don’t even know are doing this,” Clarke said about the outpouring of support. “People are good. People are thoughtful and they care.”