It had been one of those dreadful days of traveling. The airports were slammed and I had taken a crowded flight out of Cincinnati, only to find that my connecting flight to St. Louis had been delayed nearly four hours. As I sat there, tired and bored, listening to the grumblings of disgruntled passengers (some of them taking their frustrations out on the hapless gate agents) I noticed, across the corridor, a young mother sitting on the ground next to the airline counter. She seemed oblivious that her young daughter was running wildly around the area, further annoying many of the already annoyed passengers.
After what seemed an eternity, our flight arrived and I had just taken my seat in the first-class section of the plane when the young mother walked past me carrying her child. Only as she passed did I notice that her make-up was smeared and her eyes were red and puffy from crying. After everyone had boarded and the flight attendants were making last minute preparations for take off, the young man seated across the aisle from me suddenly bolted from his seat and ran to the back of the plane. A flight attendant shouted at the man to return to his seat then, when he didn’t, chased after him. A moment later, the flight attendant returned followed by the distraught young mother who sat down in the seat the man had left vacant. The young man had given this woman his first-class seat.
The woman was still crying and struggling with her daughter, so, after take-off, I handed my iPad to the little girl then asked the woman how I could help. After gaining her composure, the woman said to me, “I’m sorry I’m such a mess. My husband died last night. My little girl doesn’t understand. She keeps asking for her daddy.”
I don’t think it was a coincidence that she ended up next to me. Having spoken to grief groups for many years, I spent the next several hours consoling and counseling the woman. By the end of the flight the woman leaned over and hugged me and thanked me for being there. All I could think was that the real Samaritan had been the young man who had given up his seat. So, after disembarking, I waited for the young man*, stopping him as he stepped out of the jetway. I asked him if he knew that the woman he’d given his seat to had just lost her husband.
“No,” he said softly. “She just looked like she needed some help.”
Perhaps it was a small gesture, but it was a beautiful one. In the midst of chaos and frayed tempers, this young man had reached out beyond himself to help a stranger in need. It’s inspiring to know that that kind of goodness is still alive in this world.
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Richard Paul Evans is the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Christmas Box and the Michael Vey series. If you haven’t read Richard’s works we recommend the internationally bestselling The Walk series, the story of a man who, upon losing his wife, home and business, decides to walk across America looking for hope.
* The young man’s name is Ali W. Palmer. He’s the founder of a company called LifeCon and is a life coach. You can contact him by clicking here: Ali W. Palmer. Or connect with him on Facebook by clicking here: Ali W. Palmer .