On my flight to Orlando today, I had the pleasure of traveling with Jonathan, a nine-year-old from Plainfield, NJ, on his first visit to Disney with his parents. Jonathan suffers from severe Cerebral Palsy, so as you can imagine, it was difficult getting him onto the plane, in his seat, etc.
What struck me —and I think an important and meaningful lesson we all need to periodically remind ourselves of, is the amazing kindness and generosity of all kinds of folks to people in need. I was moved by the woman wearing Muslim garb who checked Jonathan in at the gate and welcomed him so warmly. Two wheelchair attendants, who otherwise I would have been afraid to walk down a dark street at night from their rough and muscular exterior, were as gentle as they could be as they buckled Jonathan into a smaller wheelchair and carefully transported. One of the men softly said to him don’t worry, I am going to carry you all the way. The special treatment extended onto the plane where an Indian couple moved their seats so Jonathan and his parents could have more room for their trip. The flight attendants gave him snacks and even the pilot came out of the cockpit to welcome him. They made an announcement on the loudspeaker that Jonathan was visiting Disney for the first time and people clapped and cheered.
So what does this have to do with public relations….Oh so much. Jonathan can’t speak…but he can give a faint smile. The power of his eyes opening wider, his mouth slightly opening sent a powerful message. Moreover, he brought out the best in everyone around him. Hardened New Yorkers who would not otherwise give most of us the time of day, tended to him. So when I think about the power of a message and delivering tangible results —in this case Jonathan brought out the best in those around him. It shows us that sometimes the power of our words need to succumb to the strength of our actions. At times we are so frustrated by mankind, it is refreshing to see what we can be when we do the right thing.
I hope the story of Jonathan today is as uplifting for you as it was for me.