Ever been touched by the kindness of a stranger and wanted to let them know? Shanell Mouland did just that in an open letter, “Dear ‘Daddy’ in Seat 16C Flight 1850 From Philly,” to the businessman sitting next to her daughter on a recent flight from Disney World.
According to the article in Buzzfeed, Mouland didn't have high hopes of the man who sat next to her autistic daughter, Kate. But her preconceptions were confounded when he engaged with her.
Instead of ignoring her or making a rude remark—especially when little Kate called him daddy—the man chatted with her and seemed to take genuine pleasure in the interaction. As a parent with a child on the spectrum, I can appreciate just how rare those encounters are.
You get used to cold, confused looks. You get used to not being invited places. But you never really get used to the hurt.
It's a special someone that opens their heart completely to a person with a developmental disorder. This stranger was that someone.
Even toward the end of the flight when Kate became overwhelmed, screaming for her mother to open the plane door, he patiently tried to distract her with her dolls, when most people would have thrown daggers with their eyes, urging Mom to keep your kid quiet. As if any of us enjoy seeing our child in distress.
It could have ended there, with a heartfelt blog, but a funny thing happened next—the mystery businessman read the post and got in touch with Mouland. Thanking her for her words, he insisted he "didn’t want any recognition."
Mouland hopes that if anything comes of her letter, it's that people realize it is possible—and rewarding—to engage with children who have autism. I couldn't agree more.
"[Kate] doesn’t really know what you’re saying," said Mouland. "She’ll get confused and maybe talk about Ninja Turtles because that’s her thing, but just go with it. I wish people would just be more free with it."
Another moving random act of kindness.