I wrote the following for today's post at Hopeful Parents. Check out the amazing writers when you have a chance!
I wanted to share a story of a recent trip our entire family took to Kauai. It was a wonderful trip for the most part, that could have easily been overshadowed by the craziness that was our experience of trying to get home.
We had a red-eye flight booked and were nervous enough about the prospect of the kids only having five hours in which to get their night's sleep. When the flight was delayed until nearly midnight, we tried to put on a cheery face and make the best of it by returning to our resort for an impromptu, moonlit picnic on the beach where my youngest fell into a deep slumber on one of the lounge chairs.
Kids are so lucky to be able to fall asleep like that; tolerating transfers to and from rental cars, and even managing to stay asleep through security...and for the next four hours that we were trapped in the Kauai airport before they finally called 'uncle' and decided it was time to shuttle us all to a local resort...the same resort we'd been staying at for the five days prior.
My older son, M, has severe autism. This makes for an added layer of excitement when traveling. Oddly enough, he did much better on the long flight to Hawaii than his typically developing little brother did; a fact we commended him on many times throughout the trip. And to our surprise, he was a total champ with the flight's delay and even finally fell asleep in his chair as we waited--and waited--for the news on whether or not the mechanical problem they'd reported to us as we were literally a step away from boarding the plane, was going to be fixed or not.
I think all 130+ of us did a relatively good job of remaining calm and lighthearted through this annoying wait. My husband quietly chanted, 'Go, Sully!' after the captain told us he was a husband and father of five and a (chuckle) 'safety guy.' (Gosh, I hope all pilots are 'safety guys!) I mean, none of us wanted to fly over the Pacific ocean on a faulty plane...but there did come a point where we all realized we weren't getting on that plane that night, so why didn't the airline come to the same conclusion before 2:45 in the morning??
By this time, some people were getting restless. The not-very-customer-service-oriented airport workers didn't quite think their plan to get us to the hotel through very well. They decided to let the first class, platinum status, and people with special needs leave the gate area to collect their baggage first. Oddly enough, our family fit all three criteria...we were on our way to getting the hell out of there, finally!
But they didn't give us time to actually wait for our luggage on the carousel before they let all of the other people out too...and so, the free-for-all ensued as people rushed and pushed, attempting to grab their luggage before the rest of us so that they could get a better spot in line for the shuttle.
The other half and I were holding about 90 lbs. of sleeping children, two carry-ons, and pushing a cart with three pieces of luggage. Our backs hurt. We were tired. And when about 20 people...none with young, sleepy children, mind you...cut in front of all of us and refused to acknowledge the few passengers who were willing to stand up for what was right and tell them to get to the back of the line, I started to feel that burning in my throat I always feel when I get myself upset about people behaving unjustly and unkindly to their fellow humans.
M must have felt the unrest, too, because he woke up in the other half's arms at this point, very confused and upset by what was going on around him. The other half quickly wisked him to sit on the sidewalk away from the line as people stared unabashedly at him. Now the burning in my throat was turning into tears as I held back from screaming at these people, 'You have no idea what this amazing little boy has accomplished by holding it together for these past four hours!!' So instead of making my own scene, I decided to be proactive...I approached the airport employees and told them that my son with autism had done amazingly well thus far, as had the other small children patiently waiting at this ungodly hour with their families. I told them that I knew this situation wasn't their fault, but that they had to take control and allow the people with special needs and young children to get on that bus (wherever it was) before the rest of the passengers.
I took my place back in line and noticed a woman rushing over to the same airport employees. This same, kind-faced woman had been smiling at M much of the time we were in the waiting room. She asked the employees where the little boy with autism was, and they awkwardly pointed to M who was still wailing and confused with the other half. My husband came over to me after that, handed me M and took B in his place and said, 'This kind lady is going to take you and M to the hotel so that you can check in before everyone else gets there.'
I lost it. Totally, freaking bawled my eyes out, right then and there. In this crowd of people--many of whom couldn't give two shits about anyone but themselves--this woman made sure to help out someone she knew needed it. I gave her a huge hug as I attempted to collect myself and get us into her husband's car.
It turns out that this couple was from Texas--or the mother ship, as I refer to it. The place where I am from, and where my heart still longs for at times like these. Her husband is a traveling orthopedic surgeon and they were living on the island for a year. Nancy, the woman who 'saved' us, told me that she worked with kids with special needs for many years.
I gave them both enormous hugs--hugs that felt like I was hugging my own parents--and thanked them from the bottom of my heart for helping us out. M had gained his composure by this point, as had I, and we were able to check into our hotel room before the long line of passengers arrived.
I still can't recall the story without getting a little choked up. It sounds like such a small thing, but it was really an enormous gesture that helped restore my faith in humanity a tiny bit.
So, to Nancy & Dave of Cedar Hill, Texas...bless you. I hope you know how much your kindness meant to my family.