"I thought it would last a few weeks, maybe a few months, and she'd tell me to stop doing it or that I would forget to do it," the father said. But since then, the messages have not only helped his daughter but have also inspired people across the country.
When Dr. Chris Yandle uprooted his family and moved from Georgia to Louisiana, he noticed that there was something different in his daughter, Addison Yandle's behavior. "She was more reserved than normal, and she was anxious about going to school," Chris told PEOPLE. "We'd later learn that she was being bullied by a supposed friend of hers." This was back in August 2017, when Addison joined her new school as a fourth-grader. Back then, the father was already feeling bad about making his family move. And after seeing his daughter's plight, the father knew he had to do something to let Addison know that daddy was there for her.
So the 39-year-old father decided to write her a lunch note. "Be nice to others," the father wrote. "Not everyone will look like you. Learn to spot the unique and special things in other people. You have the power to change someone's life!"
As he explained why he wrote the note, Chris said, "In my mind, I thought having a note from dad scribbled on her sandwich bag might make her smile or brighten her day. To me, it was my way of saying 'I'm here,' without actually sitting next to her at lunch." That first note was the beginning of something big that Chris never imagined would happen. He continued writing notes to the now-13-year-old girl and gave her tiny pieces of reassurance.
In the beginning, Chris couldn't even tell if Addison was really reading the lunch notes or whether it made any difference to her. But one morning, Chris understood the impact it had on her when she reminded him to write a note even though they were running late that day.
"It has definitely strengthened our relationship," he shared. "Writing these messages and potentially helping Addison build her character and her morals, that's more important than any grade she brings home... I'm a proud #GirlDad and she loves when I am able to drive her to school and we can spend a few extra minutes together. We do homework together at night. Things might change in high school and college, but for now, I couldn't ask for anything more."
About 691 notes later, Chris can today proudly say that he is the author of a book, titled Lucky Enough, that was released in 2018. The same book is now slated to be released in Korean soon.
Over the years, the heartwarming gesture has been seen and appreciated by people across the world. It grew to become something far bigger than what Chris imagined because he started the special ritual with his daughter thinking it would be temporary.
"I thought it would last a few weeks, maybe a few months, and she'd tell me to stop doing it or that I would forget to do it," Chris said. "After a few weeks of sharing her messages online with family and friends, the response from the notes and the messages behind them was overwhelming."
Now that he is a published author, Chris would be more than happy to see even one parent being positively impacted by his book.
As he watches Addison grow with strength and confidence, Chris is also considering the idea of starting the ritual with his son, Jackson. "I'll be writing messages to Jackson as he starts middle school," he shared. "He's been asking me for a year when I would start writing to him, and initially, I wanted to have something separate from Addison. However, I will be doing the same for Jackson because ultimately I want my kids to be better than me."
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