When Shanell Mouland boarded the plane with her autistic daughter Kate she had no idea that the stranger in seat 16C was about to give her one of the most unforgettable days of her life.
It all began when Shanell decided to put Kate in the middle seat, thinking it’d be less distracting for other passengers if Kate didn’t have easy access to the window shades she loved pulling up and down. Shanell new full well that her decision would put a stranger next to Kate for the 2-hour flight, something she feared might be annoying because of Kate’s restlessness.
Shanell nervously watched passengers walk down the aisle, hoping she’d get a “Grandmotherly woman” next to Kate. But then a businessman named Eric Kunkel sat down with his briefcase. It wasn’t 3 seconds later that Kate started to rub his arm and said “Hi, Daddy, that’s my mom.”
Shanell recalls her thoughts about what Eric did next:
“You could have shifted uncomfortably in your seat. You could have ignored her. You could have given me that ‘smile’ that I despise because it means; ‘manage your child please.’ You did none of that. You engaged Kate in conversation and you asked her questions about her turtles. She could never really answer your questions but she was so enamored by you that she keep eye contact and joint attention on the items you were asking her about. I watched and smiled. I made a few polite offers to distract her, but you would have none of it.”
All Eric did that day was take the time to acknowledge a beautiful little girl who wanted nothing else than to have fun. He could have done work, for sure, but that paled in comparison to the ability to make Kate’s day just a little better.
Here’s our takeaway: Next time you’re next to a stranger for more than 30 seconds, consider how you might acknowledge them and do something that will make their day better.
Watch the amazing interview with Shanell and Eric below and please share this wonderful story about one simple act of kindness that made a world of difference. You can read Shanell’s full blog post here.