April is Autism Awareness month and all around me I am seeing and hearing the discussion of Autism and its impact on families and communities. Hooray for positive dialogue! Today I want to spotlight a specific company and the individuals who went out of their way to bless a little boy with Autism. They were aware and they chose to care and a little boy named Jonah experienced abundant joy because of it! I am speaking of Delta Airlines and the employees that were on March 28’s Flight 1484 from MPLS/St. Paul to Spokane and April 4’s Flight 2072 from Spokane to MPLS/St. Paul. These people deserve some serious recognition!
I have a friend with a son named Jonah. Jonah is on the Autism Spectrum, is mostly non-verbal, attends Occupational Therapy with my son, G-Prime, and he likes Delta Airlines. I mean reeeeeally likes them. He draws their logo and makes Delta costumes and gets massively excited when he sees their name. He is their SUPERFAN! When his mother heard I would be flying Delta, she asked if there was any way I could get a selfie with a plane in the background and maybe some of their cookies. Easy-peasy!
On my flight to Spokane, March 28th, I ran around the windows at my gate taking pictures of Delta golf carts, Delta planes, and Delta baggage carts and when I explained what I was doing, the Delta employees working the gate let me take a selfie with them in the background. Once I was on the plane, I spoke with the male flight attendant in my section and asked if I could take pictures of him and get some packets of cookies for my buddy, Jonah. Not only did this gentleman oblige me, but several of the passengers behind me passed forward peanut and pretzel packets and wished me and Jonah the best. (YOU FELLOW FLYERS ARE AWESOME!) I landed in Spokane, snagged a picture with the flight attendants and pilots and was satisfied that I had not only done as his Mom had asked, but had extra goodies for him. Yes!
Then Saturday, April 4th came. I got to the airport early, checked in, found my seat and settled in for a 3 hour flight, but the flight didn’t happen. There was a mechanical issue and the part needed to fix it had to be flown in from Georgia. We would have to de-board the plane and wait for 6 hours until the next flight would be leaving. People were stressed out, disappointed, angry and to Delta’s credit, they handled things beautifully. Pizza, snacks, board games and activities were provided for those forced to wait and the rest of the passengers were helped to find new flights and make necessary connections. I understand how hard this delay was for most of my fellow flyers, but for me it was the perfect opportunity to get a few last shots of Delta planes, baggers loading luggage, and best of all – the pilot of the plane agreed to record a special video message for Jonah!
“Jonah, thanks for flying Delta.” Video
That 4 second, 5 word video meant the world to Jonah. His Momma messaged that he was jumping around and we had made his day! Everything I sent had been downloaded onto his iPad and he was gleefully going through the pictures and videos over and over. Mission accomplished?
I sure thought so, but Delta wasn’t done. A certain flight attendant named Nicole had been on both the flights that I had been on and had heard me talking about Jonah and his intense interest in her employer. Later that day, during the flight, Nicole sat down next to me and asked me questions about Jonah and my son, what Jonah would like best from them and then….and then….that sweet woman brought me a swag bag with a Delta coffee cup filled with goodies, a snack box, a lunch box, baggies and extra packets of cookies.
Some people may not get why this was a big deal. It was just a few pictures. The video was only a few seconds long. The items donated aren’t that expensive. All those things are true, but for Jonah it meant so much more. This boy struggles to learn, grow and connect with others on a daily basis. The world assaults his senses in a million ways and he doesn’t have the words to communicate all of his needs. He works hard to overcome this. His mother works hard to help him. And those few pictures, videos and goodies told Jonah and his mother that they matter. They are important and people care! It communicates they are not alone in this journey of Autism. And that makes every little effort given worth more than you may know.
Thank you, patient passengers. Thank you, kind Captain. Thank you, Nicole. Thank you, Delta.