November 23, 2009

The Kindness of Strangers

At the end of last week, I took a quick trip to visit some family members who live out of state. My husband took off work to stay with the older kids and I took Cameron with me.

Due to traffic control problems, my return flight was delayed for almost four hours. All of the passengers on my flight were in really good moods when we finally boarded the plane at 10:30pm. The trio sitting directly behind me served as notable exceptions to the rule. They were all in exceptionally good spirits, due in large part to the extraordinary number of alcoholic spirits they had consumed at the airport bar earlier that evening.

Cameron fell asleep shortly after takeoff only to be jolted awake a few minutes later by a round of obnoxious laughter bellowing from the back seat.

One of the rioters was using her toothbrush to comb her neighbor's hair.

If that's not funny, I don't know what is.

Cameron woke up from his nap fussy...and with a fever. I was rustling around for supplies in the diaper bag when he threw up all over himself, me, and the empty seat next to us.

A pattern is developing.

The Good News: The sight of so much vomit silenced the revelers.
The Bad News: There were 2 1/2 hours left in the flight

I dealt with the unfortunate circumstances by locking myself and the baby in the airplane lavatory. And cried.

I emerged from the lavatory with a whimpering infant and eighteen paper towels stuffed down my shirt.

When I returned to my seat, I found the woman who had been sitting in the middle seat in the row across from me wiping down my seat and personal effects. The sight of a complete stranger elbow deep in my son's vomit made me cry harder.

Without a word or a wrinkled nose or a rolled eye or a long sigh or a snippy comment or a piece of helpful advice, the woman cleaned up the mess and returned to her seat, where she proceeded to pick up her novel and read it as if nothing had happened.

I have had plenty of interactions with strangers that I hope that someday I will forget.

This I hope I will always remember.

77 comments

Marissa said...

You're creating an awful track record for flying, but what a wonderful woman. Thank heaven for those tender mercies.

Jill said...

Pay it forward. That's all I can say. I, too, have receive kindness from total strangers. The best way to give back is to pay it forward. What a wonderful woman! She will be blessed.

Angie C said...

What a wonderful example of selflessness. Thank you for sharing your experience. I hope your baby is feeling better.

Christine said...

Those are the kind of people that I wish I was more like. I'll remember that :>

Lindsey Mac said...

I <3 that women.

Ber said...

The charity of that women brought tears to my eyes!

~j. said...

She knows/remembers what it's like, as you do/will. Good on her.

Thanks for sharing this.

stewbert said...

what a wonderful thing for her to do! so sorry the other passengers weren't as kind.

Beck said...

Such a GREAT story, what a kind woman! As a mother flying is a nightmare! I've done it, it is stressful, it sucks. Hope your baby is feeling better <3

MissMVK said...

Pretty sure you are trying to make a pregnant-with-twins woman cry very hard tonight! You really *are* the meanest mom!!!

I'm sorry about another puke incident on a plane but glad the riotous folks behind you were too faint of heart to continue their shenanigans!

Pippa said...

what a great story. I hope that that the woman reads this one day and realises how much it meant :)

reen said...

Awww, I bet she is someones mother. Sorry Cameron got sick.

Karen said...

Wow...that made me cry. I hope the partiers behind you took note. Angels are brought into our lives just when we need them...I truly believe that.

Stina said...

that's wonderful. i am always amazed when someone is kind to me. isn't that sad? i grew up in the northeast where people are mean and always in a hurry. take care.

Janelle said...

That is so sweet! She's who I want to be when I grow up. I'm glad you had some help from a kind stranger.

tootertotz said...

She probably flew that same kind of flight with a little one of hers in years past...what a treasure!

It reaffirms my belief in the hearts of others when I hear a story like that. I'm glad you were the benficiary of her kindness!

And definitely...pay it forward. I think I will do that myself...there ought to be plenty of bedraggled, stressed out parents we could help this holiday season with kids driving them to the brink.

Parenting Ink said...

Can I be her best friend?
I know that someday, I'll hold someone's fussy baby on a plane for her while her toddler throws a tantrum. I'll also help carry on car seats, diaper bags, and strollers.
And you, I'm sure, will clean up someone else's child's vomit.

Vanessa said...

That brought tears to my eyes. May I remember to be that kind of person to someone in need.

Geezees Geezees Custom Canvas Art said...

What a great example of paying it forward!
Great job!

Erin said...

That was so sweet! I hope she reads your blog.

Sandra said...

I agree with the other commenters...pay it forward. This year has been a hard one for me and my husband and my new favorite phrase is "the kindness of strangers"...I can never repay the kindness shown to me, so I try to pay it forward when I can. If we all do that, how much better this world will be.

Anna said...

I am tearing up over your son's vomit, too. :)
What a sweet woman. Must be someone's mom or grandma.

Gina @ MoneywiseMoms said...

Oh, bless her heart! That really made me smile this morning.

The Mommy said...

Great example of "the kindness of strangers". I hope Cameron is feeling better!

Quick story: Disney World, Feb 2008. Cheerleader Conventions. Fantasmic at Disney/MGM (a night show). VERY chipper group of cheerleaders in front of us - doing the wave. They yelled to the other side of the stadium "Send it Back!" And my Oldest Boy puked all over them ( he was 5 at the time). No, it shouldn't be funny. Yes, my DH and I laugh every.single.time we tell the story...

LeMira said...

This story motivates me to be more selfless and aware of what others could use. I never would have imagined a "vomit" story would get me into the holiday spirit, but it has!

Nate and Stacia said...

That is truly cool!

Carrie Stuart said...

{{{Kind Strangers}}}. It's been 15 years since I've dealt with a baby on a plane, and this still brought tears to my eyes because you never forget what that's like. And mine didn't even puke! You poor thing! I hope he is feeling much better and that you are, too! Take Care!

Lori said...

I've been there, I totally believe the Lord puts people in our path on a daily basis to help us in our needs. We may be that person one day and I continually look for that opportunity to "pay it forward". Mine was a 18 hour flight with an 18month old. On top of those 18 hours we were stuck on the plane on the ground for 3. I will never forget the people to helped me and my child. They and this woman will forever be blessed for their kindness.

Confessions of a Mother, Lawyer & Crazy Woman said...

I think next time you should take the train? As for that woman, there should be more people like her in this world.

mamagale said...

I'm used to laughing when I read your blog--the tears are throwing me off. Beautiful.

Brittany Ann said...

That's so awesome. I'm glad that someone was there to help you. And I hope Cameron is feeling better!

Jen@Scrapingirl said...

What a kind women. I'd probally cry also. I agree with Jill "Pay it forward" seems to be the thing to do. I hope your baby feels better before Thanksgiving.

Tutus and Choo-Choos said...

What a wonderful stranger! I would have cried too and thanked her numerous times.

Kelli said...

What an awesome story! :) God bless that woman for her kindness. This is closely related to my blog installment for today. Hope you get a chance to read it, too.

Emmy said...

How absolutely wonderful that she did that. There really needs to be more people like that in this world.

Emz said...

awesome. love knowing there are still awesome people like this out there. maybe I'm not looking hard enough but I have yet to fine one [on an airplane] ;)

Thanks for sharing.

Sherilyn -The Dominee Huisvrouw said...

What a lovely thing for her to do. And the fact that she did it w/o saying anything to you, makes it even better.

midnight hysteria said...

tender mercies ... you will remember becaus!

Dondi said...

Thanks so much for this one. I absolutely needed to be reminded that this does still happen.

And btw, I left something for you at my blog

Momfever said...

Ah, the kindness of strangers. That is such a sweet story.

Mr. Bailey Jackson said...

What a Blessing! Lets all take a page out of that book!

Jo's girl said...

ahh don't cha just love good people!?

Gaythee said...

Thank you so much for sharing this event. I love that lady for you. I read your blog all the time and this is the first time I am leaving a response. I really enjoy your entertaining relay of life experiences. But I enjoy more when we bless each other, like the woman in your story.

Robin said...

Thanks for sharing this story. I actually got teary. Bless that kind lady, and I'm glad you survived. Traveling + kids = Pain, lot of it. Somehow I forget how bad in between each trip because I keep flying.

Working Mommy said...

I always try to help those in need because I know if I needed a helping hand, I would hope that someone would help. After my daughter was born I decided on a mall-walking trip. Not more than 15 minutes into our walk, she woke up and started screaming bloody-murder. I sat down on a couch next to an elevator and tried to maneuver holding her (a wiggly one month old) and making a bottle to feed her. A woman with two older children came to my rescue and offered to make the bottle for me. She joked that it had been so long since she made one that she forgot the ratio of powder to water. We both had a laugh.

Kari said...

The great thing about such terrible experiences is that they build compassion. Next time you see a momma in dire straights, you'll remember that plane ride and jump in to help!

Thanks for sharing. I want to be that kind of stranger!

Christine said...

Thanks for that story... I really needed that today.

Staci said...

What is it with amazing women and baby vomit? My one-year old vomited all over her car seat as we were waiting to board a plane. These three fabulous women, whom I hope to be more like, jumped right in and helped me take that whole thing apart and clean it like new - seatbelts and all. With few exceptions, I have never been so moved in my life. Women can be so wonderful!

Skubaliscious said...

That post made me cry with you. What an amazing woman.

Pam said...

Your story gave me goose bumps! Here's to hoping I can be that selfless someday.

Ashley Welling said...

How sweet! What a wonderful example of kindness.

Laura said...

Maybe it's the events going on in my own life this week, but this post brought tears to my eyes.

Nothing warms my heart more than the kindness of strangers.

Krista said...

This story makes me happy. Not the throw up part, but the ending.

Julie said...

What a wonderful story--horrible for you, though! Sometimes the kindness of strangers is overwhelming...

So glad I found your blog today--not by accident, however! My mom is good friends with your MIL--me, too, actually! They were talking today, and Susan told her about you and your blog--so here I am, and I'm really enjoying it.

I'm your newest follower (of VERY many!) and will check in often--love your writing!

metaphase said...

Ok, so your blog has never made me cry- 'till now. I felt so sorry for you while reading this. I have flown with my 2 two year olds alone and know how craptastic it can be. Hearing that you were crying in the bathroom breaks my heart. Then, reading about the lady helping you sealed the deal- tears! I'm just glad she was there for you.

Janille said...

I always hope I will be that kind of woman.

Connie said...

What a great example that woman is to all of us. I would like to be like her. I think I will always have a pair of latex gloves in my purse just in case I'm in that situation!
Hope Cameron is doing OK.

Rachel said...

When I read that he threw up AGAIN, I about cried for you. But I don't think there could be a happier ending to the story than that sweet woman sitting across from you. You deserved the help, I'm so glad the right person was there for you.

Renny said...

I'm so glad she did that for you. Angels all around us. I hope her example taught a lesson to those drunken revelers too.

Mandy and Alex said...

It's always nice when you discover that God put a real live angel on the plane right next to you.

Mary Ellen said...

It's nice to know that there are people out there willing to help out other people. Just because. On a different note: what is up with you always getting puked on in airplanes???? Poor you!

Too Many Hats said...

What an angel she was.

Becky said...

That is a touching story and one to remember and appreciate. Thanks for sharing. I have been reflecting a lot on the kindness of strangers - it is incredible and I hope I can do my small part to pay it forward.

Carolyn said...

I just have to say this--I am sure I am one of many women who wishes you could be my neighbor--what a wonderful stpry--and right before Thanksgiving!

Anonymous said...

Only the mom of a baby would understand just how cool this was. Only the mom of a baby would be sitting her balling even though it didn't happen to her. :)

Go Moms!
MaLeah
Mom to Marin, 7 months old

http://marin.mrorex.com

Anonymous said...

Only the mom of a baby would have used the word "her" instead of "here" even though she proof read her comment at least 3 times before hitting send.

MaLeah (again)

:)

regina said...

when i have been out with my disabled children, it is the smile, pat, and some kind words that make me keep going out in public with my kids. it changes you and makes you look at the world differently.

Silvina B. said...

I usually laugh out loud when i read your entries, but this one made me tear up....

Deborah Non Blogger said...

Empathy is a wonderful thing!

I once helped a woman with a baby who vomited on a tour bus by helping her clean up, and giving her a complete set of my toddlers spare clothes for the baby.
...but the nicest thing I did was NOT ask her...What sort of mother goes on a 3 hour scenic bus tour without a change of clothes and wet wipes???!!!

Kyle and Alli said...

I love seeing the kindness of others who quietly walk through life performing good. You too are one of these wonderful strangers and my family is grateful to you for your kindness!

Fad Othman said...

Strangers could be some sort of person that we owe much because of their good deeds. Sometimes we don't even have a chance to say thanks.I adore these kind of strangers.This story undoubtedly left a big impression on me.nice one.

Summer said...

We need more people like that in our world!!!

SaysWho said...

Wow, now there is someone to be thankful for.

Jason said...

This post was passed on to me by one of your readers because this 3 minute viral video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_IDxaMTmZQ reminded her of your great story.

Pass it on and spread a more positive spirit...travel gracefully! Join the movement.

http://www.stepbackfromthebaggageclaim.com

Fool said...

Sad tip of the day:
Be helpful to strangers but only in a safe way. A crying pregnant woman asked me for a ride to the subway from the dr. office. Of course I obliged! But then she robbed me of my cash.

jyothisethu said...

touching............
happy to note that there are such people on earth....

Angela Noelle said...

I want to BE that lady one day.