Strangers can change our lives in extraordinary ways. When someone reaches out to us in a moment of need or distress, it can turn our whole perspective upside down – or, right side up. Different people handle stress in different ways. Autistic people in particular have a hard time dealing with stress.
When stress piles on, it can be difficult to remember that there are people around us who would take a moment out of their day to help us out. Russell Lehmann discovered one such person while he was trapped in an airport during a stressful travel, and he was so moved that he spoke out about it.
Russell Lehmann is a motivational speaker. He talks about his experience with being autistic, which means he has a spectrum disorder involving symptoms such as difficulty with social situations as well as being overwhelmed by things that other people might not be. It’s a different way of experiencing the world, and Russell was on his way to give a speech about just this.
Unfortunately, he was having a terrible travel experience. He was trying to fly to Cincinnati to give a speech the next day, but was being met at every turn with missed connections and flight delays. It was starting to feel like he was never going to make it out of the airport at all. Russell was having a hard time handling the stress.
Autistic Man Begins To Cry At Airport, Then Airline Worker Shows ‘Utmost Compassion’
Finally, he just couldn’t hold it in. Russell started crying and had a total meltdown sitting there in the airport. Russell had managed to curl himself up behind an unoccupied ticket counter. He was hyperventilating and his muscles were shaking as he rocked himself back and forth, a common self-soothing method for autistic people.
He never expected anyone to approach him, but that’s just what one American Airlines employee did. The employee, named David, slowly approached Russell and asked him what was wrong. Russell was so distraught that he could hardly speak. Finally, he managed to get the words out: “I don’t know. I can’t think. I have autism.”
David could have simply walked away, but instead, he extended some much-needed compassion. He crouched down next to Russell, speaking to him calmly. He also explained to him that he would still be able to make it into Cincinnati that night. That flight would allow Russell to make it to his speech the next day.
David offered to help Russell reroute his flight. However, Russell was cautious and afraid of causing another meltdown after boarding another plane. After all, it would be a very tight space with a lot of stimuli and no way for Russell to shut it out or walk away if he needed to (which can greatly help someone who is autistic). David allowed him time to calm down and think about what he wanted to do. In fact, he even offered to buy Russell a slice of pizza!
David gave Russell space to calm himself down and think about his next move. Ten minutes later, he returned again. This time, David brought with him the pilot of the plane that Russell would be boarding if he wanted to reroute his flight. David had taken it upon himself to notify not only the pilot, but the rest of the flight crew about Russell’s situation.