Most years at Christmas, I write a column about an especially gifted person with a moving message that fits the season. This year’s column features an indomitable 10-year-old boy, Christopher Duffley of Manchester, New Hampshire, who in 2001 was born permanently blind, weighed 28 ounces, spent seven months in a hospital, and later was diagnosed with autism.
A Youtube video featuring this improbable singing talent at last check had more than 160,000 views. (now, almost 10,000,000 million views through 2021.)
“(Christopher) is the child of my brother and his girlfriend,” said adoptive mother Christine Duffley in a telephone interview. “On September 11, 2001, the State of Florida took custody of Christopher away from his mother, who had been a drug user.”
Around that time, she said, God seemed to place her little nephew on her heart. She asked about him with the State of Florida, learned of his many physical challenges, and met ten-month-old Christopher in early 2002. By then, he had double pneumonia. The Duffleys ended up adopting Christopher later that year.
“Without sight, you can’t process the world like everyone else,” said Duffley. “Christopher had a developmental delay and he repeated sounds. He didn’t talk in conversations until first grade. Music therapy is what opened those doors to greater communication. (Even today) you don’t hold ‘normal’ conversations with him, but you can have one.”
The music therapist discovered Christopher had perfect pitch: for example, he could sing on key and play simple piano tunes without being taught. At age 7, he began singing for crowds and ultimately performed the inspiring song so many visiting Youtube have heard: “Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord.” You can access the song here on You Tube.
Said Duffley, a devout Christian, “People seeing and hearing his singing often are overwhelmed, amazed, and have tears of joy. It’s not so much because he’s blind, but also it’s his story, the (singing) gift he possesses, and he helps us focus through his singing on what really matters in life.”
It was only two years ago when a doctor first diagnosed autism. Just last year, Christopher met his birth mother for the first time and emotional healing has begun taking place on that side of the family.
What does she like best about her talented son? “What I like best is his unconditional love,” she said.