During a recent trip to the airport to fly out to give a speech, writer Russell Lehmann's flight was delayed, and he missed his connection for the second time in two days, resulting in what he called "the worst meltdown of my life." But thanks to an airport employee named David, Lehmann said, his flying experience became much more manageable.
Lehmann wrote in a submission to the Love What Matters Facebook page that as he began crying and hyperventilating, David, who works for American Airlines, approached him and calmly asked what was wrong.
"I was barely able to get any words out," he wrote. "I believe I mumbled the words 'I don’t know. I can’t think, I have autism.'"
"He crouched down beside me and let me know that there was still a way I could get to Cincinnati late that night, therefore making it possible for me to give my speech the next day," Lehmann wrote.
Not only did David offer to reroute Lehmann's flight, he even offered to buy him a slice of pizza for lunch, and personally helped him onto the plane.
"David offered to reroute my flight, and he gave me some time to think about it, for I told him that I was afraid of exacerbating my symptoms by boarding another flight, i.e. a tightly enclosed space filled with vast amounts of stimuli," Lehmann wrote.
"After about 10 minutes, David approached me again, this time accompanied by the pilot of the plane I had the choice of boarding," he said. "David had notified the pilot, along with the entire crew, of my situation, and he took it upon himself to clear out a whole row of seats so that I would be able to have space to myself during the flight."
The post, Lehmann said, wasn't about his having autism — it was about someone who had gone above and beyond to show another person compassion in a highly stressful circumstance. The experience taught Lehmann that each of us have a responsibility to take care of each other, and to reach out to help someone even if they're a total stranger.
"Show what you’re made of," he wrote. "Give a damn. Stand above all the fighting and arguing. Be brave and open your heart. Fulfill your moral duties as a human being. Be like David."
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