The letter the janitor wrote changed the little boy’s life.

Ian Greenarch knows what it’s like to be bullied. And while those days may be long behind him, they’re not forgotten.

So, when the night janitor at White Heath Elementary in Illinois discovered a letter written by a bullied boy to his classmates, his heart broke a little.

Ian had been that boy in fifth grade. The one mocked and ridiculed by his peers. The one who just desperately wanted to fit in, to be liked and accepted. To not feel so alone.

Ian decided he needed to do something to let the boy know that there was someone who understood what he was going through. That he had been there too. So, he wrote him back.

And his letter? Not only changed the boy’s life but it inspired an entire community as well.

The Heartbreaking Letter the Janitor Found

Ian was picking up papers from the floor when he found Daniel’s letter in a moment of pure serendipity.

“Somehow, someway his letter reached the top of that trash pile flipped around with the words on top,” the school janitor told WCIA 3 News.

At first, he thought it was someone’s homework but once he started reading it, he realized it was a letter addressed to the other kids in the class. And it was heartbreaking.

“Daniel had written a letter when he was feeling down apologizing to a lot of his classmates for some misunderstandings and not fitting in, and being bullied was a very big part of this,” Ian said.

It was a letter Daniel never shared and ultimately ended up tossing.

Knowing how much it would have meant to him if someone had reached out to him back when he was in school, Ian immediately sat down to write Daniel back.

“Back when I was in his grade I also had people bugging me, messing with me all the time,” Ian shared.

“I never had anybody that had reached out and helped me through that process and I really just wanted to be that person for him.”

Ian Greenarch

The Power of the Written Word

In the letter, Ian introduced himself as the night-shift janitor and explained that he had found Daniel’s note.

“I want you to know that I’m thinking about you buddy. Feeling alone is a very scary thing to deal with and it’s something I’ve dealt with bud,” he wrote.

“I know most have trouble feeling like they don’t fit in with other classmates, but in all honesty, being yourself and being kind to others in any situation you’ll experience will take you so very FAR!”

Ian continued, “Daniel, classmates will love you no matter how you treat them. We are human, homie, and we all make mistakes, even if some are big. Please don’t ever feel like you are alone, because you have parents, siblings, teachers and friends who love Daniel for who he is!!!”

He ended the letter by writing, “I hope you find who makes you feel like you belong in your class,” and even included a bit of money so Daniel could treat himself.

When Daniel shared the letter with his mom, Katie Gambrill, they both cried tears of joy.

Katie said it came at exactly the right time.

“I knew of some of the struggles that Daniel had been having. I had even gotten in contact with the school a couple days before,” she said. “We were working on setting him up with a counselor. I felt like the letter from Ian was sent from God. It came right when we needed it the most.”

A Community Comes Together in an Outpouring of Support

5th grade boy with his school janitor

Katie posted the letter to Facebook asking for help in finding Ian to say thank you. It worked.

Just a few hours later, after being inundated with messages, Ian responded with a Facebook video clip in which he humbly thanked the community for their outpouring of support. He also explained his backstory and how much he could identify with Daniel’s struggles.

And then, like the TRUE HERO he is, Ian said that the one who really deserves all the praise is his friend, Daniel, for having the courage to write his letter in the first place (I think I have something in my eye. Welp.)

“Daniel, you have no idea of how much of a superhero you are to me…Just know, I’m in your corner, big guy. You deserve the world, you really do.”

The duo got the chance to meet a couple of days later and have become fast friends.

“Daniel is awesome,” Ian said. “He is almost a mini-me in some ways, and I think that is the best part in all of this. He’s funny, kind, smart, and loves the video games I do, which is amazing. He is a great kid with a great personality.”

They even have their own Facebook group — Ian and Daniel — so you can follow along as their story unfolds.

With one simple act of kindness, Ian gave Daniel one of the greatest gifts a person can give — the knowledge that he isn’t alone. While it may seem simple, it truly can be life-changing.