Being able to communicate with others is a gift that many of us take for granted.
Clara Daly, a 15-year-old from Calabasas, California, started learning sign language about a year ago. Since Clara has dyslexia, she found ASL to be easier to learn than other languages, but she hadn’t had many opportunities to put her new skills to use. Then, on a flight home from a trip to Boston, Massachusetts, Clara’s original flight was canceled and she found herself in the right place at the right time.
She was called upon to help a fellow passenger using ASL, and now her act of kindness has gone viral.
Tim Cook was wrapping up a visit with his sister and was traveling by himself from Boston to Oregon. Since Tim is both deaf and blind, the only way he can communicate is to spell out words using ASL on another person’s hand. Lynette Scribner, a fellow passenger aboard the Alaska Airlines flight, described the first moment she saw Tim in the airport. She says from the start, everyone on board was trying their best to help and communicate with him.
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Lynette wrote on Facebook:
I saw this gentleman, Tim, in Boston’s Logan airport with the sister he’d been visiting. It appeared he was both deaf and blind, as I observed her signing into his hand for him to feel her words. When he came aboard the plane he had been assigned the middle seat of my row. The kind gentleman who had the aisle seat graciously gave it up for him. At this point Tim was traveling alone.
The flight attendants sincerely wanted to assist him, but had no way to communicate. I watched as they didn’t flinch when he reached out to touch their faces and arms. They took his hand and tried so hard to communicate with him, to no avail.
Finally, the flight crew decided to make an announcement over the PA system, asking if anyone on board knew ASL. As soon as Clara hear the announcement, she didn’t hesitate to step up.
“So then I pressed the call button,” Clara explained. The flight attendant found her and said “‘So we have a passenger on the plane who’s blind and deaf, so do you know how to fingerspell?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah I totally know how to.'”
Clara sat with Tim and began to speak to him by signing letters into his hand. Tim told her he would like some water and asked how much longer was left in the flight. After Clara had returned to her seat, she was surprised when Tim asked for her again. This time, however, the lonely man just wanted companionship.
“He … didn’t need anything. He was just … lonely and wanted to talk,” she said. “I was thinking ‘wow this is really cool, I hope I don’t spell anything wrong!'”‘
Many passengers took note of the sweet young woman who devoted her time to help her fellow man. Lynette says seeing how strangers all worked together to make Tim more comfortable did her heart good.
I don’t know when I’ve ever seen so many people rally to take care of another human being. All of us in the immediate rows were laughing and smiling and enjoying his obvious delight in having someone to talk to. Huge kudos to the flight attendants of Alaska Airlines who went above and beyond to meet Tim’s needs. I can’t say enough about this beautiful young woman named Clara who didn’t think twice about helping her fellow passenger. It was a beautiful reminder, in this time of too much awfulness, that there are still good, good people who are willing to look out for each other.
At the end of the flight, Clara helped Tim off the plane and gave him a huge hug. A representative from Tim’s senior living center was there to meet him and take him home, and he now claims that his trip home was the best flight he’s ever taken — all thanks to one extraordinary teenager.
“I was very moved that you would come talk to me. Maybe it was meant to be, who knows,” Tim said.
Clara’s parents, Jane and Bill Daly, were understandably proud of their daughter. It was Jane’s post on Facebook that brought Clara’s kindness to light, and it’s now been viewed and shared by millions of people.
As Clara’s dad said, we can all learn a valuable lesson from this young woman: “To open yourself up. To be there for others. And to look past our differences.”
Read Jane’s beautiful words about watching her daughter communicate with Tim below, and be sure to share to spread this message of kindness, empathy, and service to our fellow man.
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