Facebook fuels birthday generosity for Cusseta man with Down syndrome

For a moment, forget what you've heard about Facebook.

Forget about fake girlfriends, controversial status updates and social media addictions.

Now, meet 23-year-old Zack Prince. He has Down syndrome and lives in Cusseta, Ga. He loves checking the family mailbox.

So last year his mom, Jerrie Worrell, put out an open call on Facebook for cards as Zack's March 25 birthday approached. She posted the mailing address on the social networking site. The result: 130 birthday cards via "snail mail."

This year, Worrell posted the Facebook request again. At press time, her post had garnered over 700 Facebook "shares." Zack has already received almost 200 cards for his upcoming birthday.

"I have no idea what to expect," Worrell said when asked if there's a target number of cards she'd like Zack to receive.

She knows some of the senders this year, but she said the majority are people with whom she has had no previous personal interaction. Some of the birthday cards come from the Chattahoochee Valley.

Others hail from states like Indiana, Pennsylvania and Missouri. "It renews your faith in people," Worrell said.

The effort marks a collision of two seemingly opposing universes: using electronic messages to fuel a method of correspondence that technology has supposedly replaced. It shows the human spirit hasn't been reduced to mere pointing and clicking.

Cards are signed, sealed and delivered with a sense of compassion that a digital "like" still can't convey.

Then, of course, there's the issue of gratitude. Worrell writes Facebook posts thanking many of the people who send Zack cards.

Some cards are sent without return addresses -- reinforcing a belief that the movement is about pure generosity, rather than being credited for an act of kindness.

Zack doesn't entirely understand the social media movement that's producing his birthday cards. He simply visits the mailbox, looks for cards and enjoys the treasures he receives.

Worrell said they read each card and display the mail.

"It doesn't just make his day. It makes his year," Worrell said.

The rest of us are left feeling a little more hopeful about the power of social media.

Yes, people sometimes lie on Facebook. Sometimes in the digital world, we fall victim to an altered reality that shakes our ability to trust others. But that can happen in real life, too,

The generosity surrounding the birthday cards in Cusseta teaches us an important lesson.

This is what happens when you hand-deliver each day, instead of simply mailing it in.

Want to send Zack a birthday card? Mail it to Zack Prince, 467 Manta Road, Cusseta, GA 31805.

Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at ssorich@ledger-enquirer.com or 706-571-8516. Visit ledger-enquirer.com/sonya to read her columns.