BISMARCK, N.D. – There are some stories that are so incredible, they’re almost hard to believe. Stories of people who have suffered a loss, a tragedy or a triumph tug at our heart strings and inspire us.

Photo courtesy: Christina Johnson

Nathan and Christina Johnson insist they are not one of those stories. They call their family ordinary, even boring.

But sometimes, those ordinary stories are actually pretty extraordinary. The Johnsons, in their very ordinary way, have figured out how to teach compassion, acceptance and kindness.

Nine-year-old Isaac Johnson is happiest when he’s wrestling with his siblings.

“Usually I win,” he said.

He’s got a long list of wrestling moves he relies on to pin his brother and sister.

“The half Nelson, the pancake and the chicken wing,” said Isaac.

These wrestling matches are a regular part of life at the Johnsons. And each match brings a smile to parents Christina and Nathan’s faces. You see, they weren’t sure this would ever be possible. Isaac was born at 33 weeks and had a stroke in utero.

“He is diagnosed with cerebral palsy in his legs, and cortical vision impairment and optic nerve,” explained Christina, Isaac’s mom. “Basically, his optic nerve never fully developed. In short terms, his eyes can see but his brain can’t process what he sees.”

None of that slows him down. From day one, Isaac’s parents chose to treat him just like they treat their other kids.

“He doesn’t get any leeway,” Christina said with a laugh.

But what they didn’t realize, was that by doing that, they were setting an example for their other kids to always include Isaac.

“He can’t do a lot of things, so I look out for him that way,” said Carter Johnson, Isaac’s older brother.

“Carter is always looking for ways for Isaac to be involved,” said Christina.

“He’s starting to understand he’s not like everyone else. He can’t play football with his friends. He’s noticing that. We’ve always told him you might not be able to play but you’re the coach,”
said Nathan, Isaac’s dad. “Isaac has helped them grow just as much as they’ve helped Isaac.”

One wrestling match at a time.

The Johnson kids have continued their kindness at their schools. Carter is in sixth grade at Simle Middle School this year and his mom is a special education teacher there. She says Carter never hesitated to interact with her students. That’s led to a sort of ripple effect. Carter’s actions have shown his friends how to do the same, and the kindness is spreading, one kid at a time.

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