Up in the air encounters

I had a 4 hour wait at the airport yesterday morning, after my blogging trip up north. I bought a handful of magazines for the flight, jotted down notes of things I didn’t want to forget from the workshops and did some people watching as I waited to board. A man caught my eye, with his neon coloured shoes, a denim vest and a limp as he walked. He walked past a young family, stopping for a moment and smiling at them. They awkwardly turned their backs, uncomfortable with his presence.I boarded the plane and took my seat in 51K. I’d changed my seat at the last minute so that I had a window seat, and the last views as we made our way home. The man with the neon shoes sat in front of me. A lady walked towards me, with a puzzled look upon her face. It turned out I was in her seat and my assigned seat was next to the man with the neon shoes. I moved forward and buckled up.

“I don’t want to go home,” the man slurred, holding his arm.

We talked for those 3 hours up in the air. He {I later learned his name was Pip} shared that he’d just spent a week in Cairns and didn’t want to go home. He had a physical and mental disability and his parents were his carers. He wanted to be independent and didn’t want to go home back to live with his mum and dad.

As we chatted in depth about our lives, Pip would sometimes pause. “My stomach is doing flips. I don’t want to go back. Turn the plane around.”

He told me that he was born this way, his wrist and leg both challenging him physically. He couldn’t work. He couldn’t write, and he couldn’t read. He was difficult to understand, his speech was unclear and as he spoke he dribbled. We talked the whole flight home.

“Do you think I’m normal?” he asked me.

My heart jumped into my throat, “Yes, I think you’re normal.”

“No one talks to me,” he sighed, “They all think I’m weird. They stare at me.”

“You’re not weird,” I assured him with a smile, and a lump in my throat.

He wasn’t weird. He was lovely. He was sweet. “When I flew up here, no one talked to me. You’re talking to me,” he smiled.

“I don’t want to go home,” he groaned again.

We talked about body piercings and computers. We talked about the weather and music. I guessed that he liked heavy metal and he laughed when I told him I liked Prince.

“I wish I could be normal for just one week,” he wished. “I just want to feel what it’s like to be normal, only for a week. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. It’s hell.”

Tears streamed down my face. The girl from across the aisle glanced my way and quickly returned to her book. “Why are you crying?” asked Pip.

“It’s just not fair,” I told him, “If I want something, I can get it. I’m frustrated that it’s harder for you.”

“Please don’t cry,” he pleaded, obviously uncomfortable with my tears. I wiped them away and assured him again with a smile.

He had a look in his eyes, that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. A sweet man, just 42, trapped in a body that didn’t work the way he wanted it to. I could see that he had the sweetest heart and he wanted more, and I hated that he couldn’t have it.

We hit turbulence and the plane bumped, dropping slightly over a period of about 15 minutes. The pilot asked everyone to return to their seats and to buckle up their seat belts. A sensitive flyer, I grabbed the seat in front of me.

“Are you okay?” Pip asked, concerned.

“I’m okay. I just don’t like when it bumps like this. I’m okay.”

“You’re not okay,” he told me, with a look of worry in his eyes, “I’ll get you some help.”

I was okay. Just a sook. I didn’t need help. Eventually the turbulence ended, and lunch was served. I ordered my lunch, he ordered the same and insisted I have his chocolate. I opened his drink for him and helped him when his wrist brace repeatedly came loose.

“I wish I could find someone like you. I want to get married and have kids. I’ll never find someone. If it doesn’t work out with your husband …” he trailed off. “Can we be friends?” Pip asked, “Can we keep in touch?”

“Of course,” I said, reaching for my handbag to get some paper to write down his number.

The plane started to descend and Pip groaned loudly. He was agitated and sad that the flight was actually going to land, and not turn around to take him back to sunny Queensland. “I don’t want to go home,” he sighed for the last time, “Turn the plane around.”

We got off the plane, Pip stopped the other passengers who were eager to depart and get home so that I could get off with him. We chatted as we walked down the aero-bridge and I told him how nice it was to meet him. I planned on introducing him to Hubby and Lacey, but as Lacey ran towards me Pip limped off and onwards to grab his next flight.

I was excited to see my little family, I soaked up their hugs. As soon as I got to the car I burst into tears, a mess of mixed emotions. After spending a week feeling like a princess, with people at our every whim, I was back to normal. I was back to my almost perfect little life, and Pip was reluctantly heading back to the home he didn’t want to go to.

Those 3 hours up in the air have changed me. Forever changed. I talked to my little sister about it all. I’m a thinker {those that know me well, know that I process everything, perhaps too much} and sometimes I have to unravel it with those I love. “This was meant to happen,” she told me, “You changed your seat for a reason. You were meant to learn from him. And perhaps you’ve changed his life too. You made his day by listening and talking to him and that might just be enough.”

It’ll never feel like enough. But I know I’m lucky. Lucky to live this life where I can do as I please and take care of myself. Lucky to have met Pip, in seat 51J.

Have you ever had a chance encounter that changed you? Do you think everything happens for a reason?

187 thoughts on “Up in the air encounters”

  1. These kinds of things happen only to the people who have open eyes and open hearts. I am SO GLAD Pip got you, as his seatmate. So glad.

    Wow hon. What an amazing end to an amazing trip.


    XXXX eden

    • Thanks Eden. I can't stop getting sad and teary about him. I know he doesn't want my pity, but it just feels a bit crap. I think I might just call him today and say it was nice to meet him and see that he got home safe. x

    • On his extra bad days he will remember your kindness and it will help him get through. Everyone should have at least one Pip in their lives.

  2. That is so touching, you're such a lovely person. I can guarantee he will never forget what you did for him.
    I'm so glad there is still such kindness in the world xoxo

  3. This is so beautiful! It brought tears to my eyes. I do believe everything happens for a reason and I also believe you made difference in Pip's life as you did his. X

  4. Hi…i am a doctor,GP,and i just wanted to tell you…really ,this is the way we should behave and treat people who were not as lucky as some of us..people who are different but still humans.Bravo…i hope your story will make others as well understand that in the end we are all just different…and nothing more.

  5. Thank you, Chantelle, for sharing this with us. I'm enriched for having read your post and challenged to be as willing as you were to listen to and be a friend to a stranger in need.

  6. Thats a truly wonderful story, thank you for sharing your expereince. My son works with disability services as a community facilitator your response to Pip will warm his heart.

    And YES things do happen for a reason……….


  7. I do believe God takes us where we are needed, whether its for a minute, a week or a life time. We are here for each other or at lease we should be. You were blessed by seeing the opportunity you had with Pip, but some times just making eye contact and smiling at someone change be just what that person needed at that moment.
    He (God) needed for you and Pip to spend that time together, you both walked away with something good.
    Thanks for sharing that story!

  8. Tears here too, and yes, I think these things happen for a reason. Please phone him today – keep the friendship up, as these things are so important. My guess is it's important for both of you. Thank you for letting us share your journey x

  9. I've read your blog for quite some time, but never commented. My aunt has Down Syndrome, and it saddens me that often, people will turn a blind eye if she talks to them — different doesn't need to mean scary! You are a kind person with a kind soul – don't change that about yourself…you would have made such a difference to his life.

  10. Chantelle, I too am an over-thinker and in my teens had the pleasure of working and living with persons like Pip for a week.The experience helped mold the personality I have.What little kindness and generosity we have, we give and that makes all the difference. I wish Pip well wherever he is. Thank you for sharing and reminding.
    These moments happen for a reason.


  11. Such a lovely post Chantelle. Having worked with kids and adults with physical and intellectual disabilities for the last 10 years I know how much you taking the time to talk to him and find out about him would have meant. It just shows how lovely a heart you have.
    Thank you for sharing, I think it is so important that people realize that people with physical and intellectual disabilities are people just like us, with hopes and dreams just like us.

  12. My neighbor has downs syndrome and we often catch the bus to work together. We sing. And when people look at us, we sing loudly.

    Thanks for your story. You 're a beautiful lady.

  13. I'm not much of a crier, but your story brought tears to my eyes. I truly believe there are no chance meeting in our lives, Pip was meant to meet you, and you him. It's so important to be nice to everyone – everyone is going through some sort of struggle (whether internal or external) and a kind word can make such a difference. I hope you will keep in touch with him, he sounds like he needs a good friend 🙂

  14. nothing happens by chance – it's synchronicity – it's all about the bigger picture – i love this stuff – beautiful blog post – justine

  15. Oh Chantelle. Your morning coffee was clearly made with the milk of human kindness. What a beautiful story about two beautiful souls. This story will stay with me forever.

    I've always taught Boyo to smile and say hello if I spot him staring at someone who is a little left of centre. It takes a few moments out of our lives but I hope it makes everyone feel a little happier. I get far more out of it than anyone else which is selfish of me.

    • That is not selfish at all! It is beautiful that is probably gladdens them AND enriches you, you too have a lovely soul xx Mel B

  16. Oh get out…. you made me cry! Thankyou for being so lovely to this man… I believe he was meant to meet you so that it could reignite his faith in people (maybe not everyone wants to judge him/ be frightened of him). People with disabilities suffer greatly however i think their worst battle is loneliness. So sad but such a great reminder to us all not judge others & to do our best look for the beatiful soul within.

  17. Lovely post Chantelle, and I am sure that Pip was happy that you spoke with him for so long.He will more than likely live on his story of his holiday and meeting you for ages and tell anyone that will listen to him many times over 🙂
    We can all learn from your thoughts here and even though many of us would already know that people with disabilities are the same as us on the inside,it doesn't hurt to have a reminder every now and then.
    I tend to think you ended up sitting next to Pip for a reason !

  18. Oh get out…. you made me cry! Thankyou for being so lovely to this man… I believe he was meant to meet you so that it could reignite his faith in people (maybe not everyone wants to judge him/ be frightened of him). People with disabilities suffer greatly however i think their worst battle is loneliness. So sad but such a great reminder to us all not judge others & to do our best look for the beatiful soul within.

  19. Thank you so much for sharing this with us! I truly feel that sometimes we are put in a certain place at a certain time to help and learn from each other! You are so awesome for having given him someone to talk to since others have clearly not been as nice. I don't understand why “we” have to judge others so harshly. You never know what another person has gone through or why they are the way they are. I sincerely hope I have raised my children to be the type of person to help another as you have!

  20. From someone who educates kids with special needs – thanks so much! Moments when those in the special needs community can be heard and understood are so rare.

    High five for you! Let's all do the same next time we are in this situation! I bet we will all be surprised by the enlightened, friendly, whimsical, insightful people that we meet.

    The more I work with special needs children, the more I realise we are all on the continuum and should be gracious to all regardless of anything.

    Snaps for you lovely. Snaps for you!

  21. The take-away for me from this story is that I probably walk past a dozen Pips every day, but these conversations don't happen because I don't take the time to sit and listen.

    Thanks for the reminder xx

  22. This was uncomfortable to read, I must admit. My 6 year old daughter had a disability much like Pips and when I think of her future it makes me sick to my stomach. You gave him respect, kindness and understanding and on behalf of his mother ( unknown )who has a forever broken heart. Thankyou.

  23. Beautiful post Chantelle….

    I work with autistic adults & I'm always trying to explain to people how ” normal” they are. If you look past the things you percieve as ” different” you find so many similarities. You just have to give them a chance, the same way we expect others to give us a chance.

  24. Your time with Pip changed you as did his time with you change him. He has memories of a lady who talked with him, listened and shared. All any of us want is to have someone who listens & shares stories. You treated this man with human kindness & dignity. What an encounter…and as you say “a life changer”
    Love Denyse

  25. Adored this post. I am so glad you took the time to talk to Pip – there arent enough people in this work who give people with disabities the time of day.
    You both made a difference to each other on the plane.
    And your writing – the way you told that story – it gave me shivers

  26. I believe it happened for a reason chantelle. You were meant to meet him and he was meant to meet you. You are both changed after your encounter! I am a massive believer in these types of things happening. After my brothers horrific accident last year I boarded a one way flight to cairns to look go and look after him and I also got chatting to the lady sitting on the other side of mia. It turned out that she was a specialist in an area that dealt with people and their families after a big accident. We talked about how I was feeling about everything and told me some coping mechanisims to use for myself and my brother. I was so glad to meet her and knew it was meant to be. Cassie van baak xx

  27. What a wonderful story. Thank you so much for sharing. I think we should all take the chance and talk (and listen!) to someone who maybe appears to be a little bit different.

  28. As the mother of an autistic teenage boy, I can only say thank you. I can only hope that someone would be so kind if he were traveling by himself and needed someone to talk to. It would be nice if we lived in a world were people realized that we are all different is some way, or that everyone was someone else's weirdo.
    Maybe someday…
    Until then, I'll hope he comes across a Chantelle or two along the way.

  29. Oh Chantelle. You are just such a beautiful person. I am so glad Pip met you on the plane. This post reminds me of something I read the other day “Measure your life by the impact you have on others”. I think you and Pip have both had a lasting impact on each other's lives.

  30. Chantelle … this post was the best thing I could have read to start my week off. Ive been stressing all weekend about the things that I am starting and deciding on … starting back at part time work, worried I wont have as much time with my almost 6 mth old. Really wanting to commence on some arty projects, wanting to de-clutter our house as 'stuff' is taking over. But all of this means that I am ABLE to do 'normal' things and live my very good 'normal' life.

    Your flight companion didn't just change you, it's changing me too!
    x So thank you.

  31. Fabulous story. I seem to have had several incidents like that in my life. I think I also perhaps attract these situations. It's the best thing though. Really enriches your life and reminds you if what's important and how lucky you are! 😉

  32. Thanks so much for sharing this story. You truly moved me! I think people get caught up in their everyday lives and don't think about how lucky they are (me included!) And how just taking time to listen to another person can really impact them. I ran across your blog yesterday for the first time, but your heartfelt story has really inspired me!

  33. This is do beautiful! Tears came to my eyes as I read this. The world needs more good people like you- people willing to listen. What a wondeful and good thing you did

  34. Thank you so much for sharing. Such a special reminder that we should spare some time for people who maybe are not as lucky as we are, and teach our children to do the same. A smile and a hello costs nothing and can brighten someobe's day.

  35. Every time my daughter cries, and I look into her eyes – she's telling me the same thing. She's confused and doesn't know why she's different, why she can't talk and why things are this way. All I can is hold her hand, and cry with her, lately.

  36. I weeped while reading this.

    I hope that my boy is never in the same position as Pip. That by the time he reaches adulthood people like you are the norm and not the exception.

    And that he wouldn't dread coming home to me. Heh.


    • I learned a lot, to be grateful for what I have, that I am blessed, that when I think I have it tough – that there are others that have it tougher.

      I learned that sometimes I think I have it hard as a mum, but I imagine his mum. Always worried about her boy.

      I learned that without riches and possessions one can still be rich. Pip was happy with sunshine on his face and a Def Leppard song on his iPod.

      I learned that I want to live with an open heart, that I want to be the person that listens when someone needs to be heard and seen.

      I called Pip today. He was happy to hear my voice. He was sad to be home.

      I don't know where to from here… but something inside me has shifted – I can't quite explain it – but it has.

    • I just watched a sci-fi show that talked very clinically about discarding the misfits, low achievers, the hopeless, all for the “greater good”. Very Aryan race stuff. Very disturbing. But then I guess in real life, that undercurrent does exist. I feel I've been socialised to avoid certain types of people, places, situations, to avoid those that are really different. Often it's from fear and awkwardness, sometimes, I'd have to admit with a tinge of prejudice. The media reinforces these messages too. It seems so normal to write people off, when often they just need a go. Understanding and compassion can go a long way. It seems to have melted your heart. I hope it can continue to melt mine and many others.

      It is lovely that you called Pip again. I hope he remains deeply moved by the experience and something special opens up for him in due course too.

    • Beautifully said. Being grateful is a difficult task, these are more and more my thoughts as I fall asleep each night. I hope Pip has now found the kindness in strangers and he can move easily through his day. My sister has a wonderful neighbour with special needs and this is teaching our children joy in the every day and hopefully a smidge of gratefulness. Txo

  37. I totally understand you getting sad & teary for Pip but look at it another way.Put a smile on your face knowing you put a smile in someones heart.
    I used to foster a boy on weekends,he was in the same pre school class as my girl.I was teary & upset everytime we took him back to a home where you couldnt see the floor for filth.
    I said to the Family Services lady,I couldnt see that we were helping him by coming to us then going back to that way of life,because we were just showing him what he didnt have & she said… no you are showing him how it can be.
    He is now 18,keeps in contact & thanks me everytime for everything I ever taught him.My heart explodes when he says “I love you.”
    You have shown Pip how it can be.That there are kind hearted people in the world who do see him as a person.That would mean so much to him.You should feel so very proud of the precious gift of three hours of you that was so freely given to him.That gift is worth more than anything that money could buy.xx

  38. i'm crying too, because life isn't always fair but it is always there for us to learn from. What an amazing adventure you've been on, sounds like its just only beginning. x

  39. What a beautiful heart you have. I feel inspired by the reminder that we are all humans, deserving of respect and dignity, and that just giving time can make such a difference.

  40. Why is it we are always afraid of something different, when we are all different in our own ways anway?! I agree with your sister sometimes we need a humbling experience to make us see the world as big and varied as it is it gets us out of our little box.

  41. I would have found it hard to talk to him, I am ashamed to say, not because it would be awkward but because like you I'm overly empathetic and I would have ached with pain at seeing his and I probably would've tried to avoid the agony of facing his existence. It was SO selfless of you to let him in and hear what life is like for him. I'm such a sook too – am crying just reading about Pip. Thanks for sharing this – you have inspired me to be brave next time and be open and friendly and not run away from the hard facts of some people's lives. Reality is hard but it's better to be real than blissful in ignorance. Nxxx

  42. A lovely story. A reminder to us all to value the life we have and always treat others as we would like to be treated.

  43. This is one of the most beautiful stories I've ever read. If only everyone was so accepting of differences and disabilities…what an amazing place the world would be xx

  44. So SO beautiful. And yes… I do think things happen for a reason. Just think how much comfort and reassurance Pip got from you for the rest of his journey. Hopefully knowing SOMEONE believed him to be 'normal' and treated him as such gave him faith in humankind again.


  45. This was so touching to read, i'm actually crying!! I wish everyone was just like you, talking to strangers even when they are a bit “weird”! I really hope I would have done the same thing 🙂

  46. Thank you for sharing your encounter with us. It is you & us that will grow from your experience. Pip will probably only meet a handful of people like you in his life, but if he has changed you & you have changed us, maybe we can make a small difference to te lives of others that are just like him.

  47. I have never been as blessed to have such an encounter, but it warms my heart to know that you rose to the opportunity so wonderfully. And I am certain that Pip is also forever changed, because now he knows that not everyone sees his differences as “weird”.

    And, yes, I do believe things happen for a reason. The reasons may not always be immediately apparent, but I think that it was somehow destiny that your last minute seat change brought you to Pip.

  48. I think that everybody no matter what can be happy.
    I am sure that Pip can find friends and maybe a woman to marry…he is lucky enough that has his parents.
    If he could meet someone in worse position he would appreciate what he has..
    He is lucky to have you as a friend…i think you can help him to think positive…
    Everything is in our minds…so, we can make it better…
    You already show him how to start over..

  49. I'm glad Pip got to meet someone like you Chantelle. It really isn't hard to stop & talk. It puts life into perspective. What we moan & groan over sometimes sooo insignificant. Hope you had a lovely time in QLD. xxx

  50. Chantelle, I am teacher, a special needs teacher, firstly thankyou for showing tolerance and patience, I understand it is hard and omg the tears streaming down my face….. that is an amaizing cognitive conversation with a man with special needs. I hope that he is able to tell his parents that he CHOOSES to move to QLD…. My job is to empower my kids to have the skills to CHOOSE their way….. havin a CHOICE is all we ultimately have….I applaud you for listening caring and crying… it is a tough reality for many many people xxxx

  51. I don't know what to say Chantelle. I'm sitting here with tears running down my cheeks – this is the most beautiful post ever. You're a wonderful person Chantelle, thank you so much for sharing this story. xx

  52. I do believe everything happens for a reason. And I think maybe you were meant to tell this story. Meeting Pip has changed you, and his story and these words in turn are changing the way others see, act and think xx

  53. chantelle – you not only made his day, you made my day, too. thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story. and thanks so much for being so beautiful to pip. he´ll never forget. sure. m.

  54. There is so much I wish I could say in responce to this post, but nothing really that I can put into words. I kind of just want to give you a hug. The world really needs more people like you. xox

  55. I don't know where to start. I have mental illnesses and a lot of people don't want to know me, won't talk to me, and won't hire me. It's people like you that keep me in this world, and you really are one in a million. I know what it's like to be judged because of appearance, and because of what I have, it doesn't make me any less of a human. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article, it touched me in ways that are hard to describe. I wish there were more people like you in this world. Again, awesome blog. ^_^ Xoxo

  56. My sister in law has mental and speech difficulties, and I know how sad and frustrated the look in peoples eyes make me feel as they see her heading there way she is luckily a bundle of energy and mostly happiness, but she has her bad days when she is upset no one wants to try to understand her.

    Thank you so much for sharing this story, it has made me a sobbing wreck but I feel lightened that there are more people in the world who do not look at the people with differences with contempt and fear. xx


  57. Thanks much for sharing this story. Pip really touched your heart and by sharing your story you have also touched many other people's hearts. We all should be more kind and accepting and don't judge people so quickly. Thank you.

  58. I saw a saying the other day that gave me pause – something like 'We are so busy running around believing that everything happens for a reason that sometimes we forget that stuff just happens…' Yeah maybe…but I still believe everything happens for a reason! Call me an eternal optimist? Maybe I need to believe… but encounters like this… they happen for a reason…you blessed his life and he blessed yours! That's a truly eternal moment. You will never forget it! And I dare say, neither will he…(*You were lucky! I always get the non-talkers on flights!) This was a blessing sent from above and you have reached and touched MANY because of it, you will never know how far that ripple effect goes! Thanks for sharing!

  59. I was lucky enough to work with young adults and children with physical and mental disabilities and all I can say is that the general public should be more tolerant, understanding and know that all they ever want to is to be treated with the same respect and dignity you would offer out to “normal” (hate that word) people, just because they have a different physical or mental attribute to you doesn't make them all that different from you, they have the same ambitions, desires and needs. Be patient, be respectful and above all just be normal with them. Have a laugh, have a chat! Lovely piece, thanks for sharing x x x

  60. I do believe situations like yours happen for a reason and I think it's important to point out that both of you were put in the other's life…not just a one-way street. I usually get on the plane, buckle up and open my book so I don't have to talk to anyone…I may have missed opportunities like yours. I'll definitely think about that the next time I get on a plane. What a great story!

  61. Wow such a powerful message! A little reminder for us all to appreciate the good in our lives and give a moment of kindness to those we encounter, it may just make their day as it seems you did! Great post!

  62. beautiful post, its so touching. I haven't had an encounter like this personally, but my sister in law, who also changed her seat pre flight and who was going through a horrendous brakeup did…and she met her husband. so I would say she is changed forever.

  63. Chantell-This was such an amazing post and so glad you shared it with us. I was so moved reading this and so touched by the way you treated Pip. Most people would have never spoke to him and maybe been asked to move seats or rolled their eyes or stare at him but you just treated him like you would have anyone else. I know Pip will never forget the way you spoke to him and treated him and I wish him well.
    You are such a kind and wonderful person. This world needs more people like you!

  64. This story brought tears to my eyes. Your willingness to talk with him speaks volumes about your character. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and I agree with your sister – you both learned something from each other during those 3 hours. Wishing you a happy heart as you process all of this 🙂

  65. If only we could all remember that God has made every one of us and thinks we're all special. Maybe then we wouldn't be so unkind towards those who aren't exactly like us. Wonderful story, thank you for this. Great start to my week. 🙂

  66. I read this post this morning, logging on to check facebook it was the first thing I read for the day.Tears streamed down my cheeks as I read about your beautiful experience on the plane trip home. I have been thinking about it all day!There are so few times in our life that we get the opportunity to stop and “smell the roses” and realise how wonderful our lives really are- we take time to gripe and moan about such trivial problems and not enough thought is given to the beauty and happiness that surrounds most of us everyday.I have really thought about how genuinely blessed I am, a wonderful life,beautiful house, perfect “normal” kids, an amazing husband,supportive friends, a job! I am sorry to say that I think I sometimes take it for granted.

    I love your blog and am a regular reader and your posts are always fun and often give me a good giggle…but this post truly touched my heart…thanks, I hope maybe I'll do the same for someone else someday! xx P xx

  67. This was so touching. I agree with your sister. I'm a big beliver that everything happens for a reason. Great post 🙂

  68. Wow, I'm teary just reading this!

    Whether you wanted it to or not, this post said a lot about your character. I think this story of Pip will stay with me as well just as I imagine he'll cross your thoughts fairly regularly too.

  69. AHHH!! This had me in tears, what a truly beautiful story, thank you for sharing. Your sister is right, you were meant to sit next to him. It's amazing how humbling it can be to just talk to someone for a few hours, and get a glimpse into their lives. Bless you for being you, and being sweet to this man, who so obviously needed to hear the words you spoke. This is an amazing post, the world needs more people like you.

  70. Dear Chantelle, it made me so happy to read this. It makes me believe in human*kind*, putting emphasis on that last syllable. I too believe things happen for a reason, and I am sure Pip will float on the kindness of your actions for a long time. 🙂

  71. As someone who would give anything to feel “normal” again, after having to to adjust to a “new normal” not of my own choosing due to health, I can relate to Pip. What you did was lovely, because you listened!! That's really all anyone wants in life, to be heard, to know they matter. You have a generous heart and you gave a beautiful gift to Pip. Trust me, in the bad times he will always remember that flight and the wonderful lady who made him feel “normal” if only for a little while! I have a story to share with you, but I am too emotional to write it here now. I will email it to you later.


  72. Oh.My.God. I do not know where to begin… Thank God for people like you Chantelle. You likely made the single most biggest difference in Pip's life thanks to your actions that day, just as much as he did you. God bless you and your gorgeous heart x

  73. This brought tears to my eyes, I can imagine how you felt. I'm so glad you are sharing this. We need to be more open and less judgemental (and that includes me). There is more to people than what our eyes see. Thank you for opening my eyes and heart.

  74. I have not the words to share how this made me feel. I will leave an very inadequate WOW just to let you and Pip know that you have touched me.

  75. What an amazing experience. I like to think we are all given a light bulb moment in our life. A moment to stop & take stock of what is really important to us, what really matters but especially what we don't need to be stressing over. We all whinge & complain about the little things in life – the weather, the kids, work, family – but there are people out there who have real problems. In our cushioned little world too often we don't open our lives, minds or hearts to these people. We can learn so much from them but are often too quick to judge by appearances. This man may have changed you for ever but I bet you have also changed him by showing kindness & letting him know there are people out there who care.

  76. I am a support worker for people with disabilities and reading this gives me hope that there are other people out there like you. As a society we treat people with disabilities like freaks and second class citizens in both overt and covert ways. I am so glad you blogged about this so that others perceptions and thoughts towards people with disabilities may change.

  77. I had a conversation like this with one of my own children recently. It's heart breaking. I think the world gives us opportunities to accept our own brand of “normal”. I'm glad you were able to help Pip and Pip was able to help you.

  78. You know what you did? You gave Pip a voice. You let him be seen. You saw him. I wish more people would take the time to do what you did.

    A little kindness goes a long way. x

  79. This breaks my heart and makes me smile. There are hundreds of people in the world who feel this way and, even if you don't realize it, you touched his heart in a way I'm sure he won't forget. You have such a kind heart Chantelle and it really shows! Just that little smile can brighten someone's day…it's so true.


  80. Thanks for caring for all of us and sharing your story. You not only heard Pips story you witnessed all that he was and all that he might be…that takes an huge emotional toll.

  81. Wow, what a flight, and what a life lesson for you, there was obviously a reason you changed your seat. Thank you for sharing this amazing story with us, you are a real wordsmith and by reading this I felt like I was sitting next to Pip and spilling those tears. Perhaps we have all sat next to a Pip at some stage, its just whether we have chosen to validate that Pip or not, clearly you did more than validate him, you embraced him.

  82. I don't really talk about this much but in between my writing gigs, if money is a bit tight, I relief teach special needs kids. They are hands down the best people on the planet.

    I firmly believe that being unkind is learned behavior, and people who have special needs are just too busy getting on with life to learn it.

    It's up to us 'lucky' ones to make sure our children are always kind.

    It's just like the song in South Pacific

    You've got to be taught
    To hate and fear,
    You've got to be taught
    From year to year,
    It's got to be drummed
    In your dear little ear
    You've got to be carefully taught.

    You've got to be taught to be afraid
    Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
    And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
    You've got to be carefully taught.

    You've got to be taught before it's too late,
    Before you are six or seven or eight,
    To hate all the people your relatives hate,
    You've got to be carefully taught!

    Lacey has a beautiful, beautiful mother and will grow up to be a very kind woman.


  83. This is a really beautiful post. So much so that it brought tears to my eyes.

    I think sometimes we meet people and in that moment something can be changed forever and it is both a scary and a beautiful thing. I think that you took notice of that moment goes to show what a kind and thoughtful person you are and that alone will ensure that Lacey has the same qualities.

  84. My husband has primary progressive MS and since his condition has worsened, I have watched with a deep ache in my heart, how invisible he has become when out in public. All it takes sometimes, is a smile. What a wonderful post!

  85. I feel like I have been changed by your experience. Definitely put things into perspective as I was preparing to head into an exam at uni. Thank you!!

  86. Such a beautiful post and read.

    Its like one of those “pay it forward” moments. Like you said it was a life changing moment for you and yet something so little as talking to a person, you have definitely changed his life also. I agree with above comments that there should be more people like you, more people who show respect but just people who take the time to care, listen and get to know someone. Everyone has a story to tell and if we all just listen, it gives your life a reality check most of the time.

    I hope you get to speak with him again and again I loved this read. Gave me serious goose bumps!

  87. I am a big huge believer in that everything happens for a reason! It was meant to be. He was meant to met you and you were meant to experience a moment in time that will change you forever 🙂
    It was so nice that he got on a plane with someone that was willing to listen! So nice that he got a moment in time to share his journey.
    And it will become clear what this is all about. Take care xx

  88. Chantelle, thank you for sharing your story. We live in a very small town & we have a few students at our scho with special needs, from cerebral palsy & down syndrome to autism. My kids have gone to school with these kids all their lives & we don't think twice about it. When we go to the city, they don't stare if they see people with special needs, they are accepting and wouldn't think twice about doing what you did – I'm proud that they have that confidence! Awareness & compassion, that's what we need to teach our kids to make a better world. It's sad that family turned their back on Pip, they haven't taught their kids anything.

  89. Thanks so much for sharing this. It makes me think that i should pull my headphones out and begin to take in the world again. I can only hope that i would have showed the same kindness in this situation. I will from now, thank you.

  90. I came back to read again. I cried again. There are moments in your life that change you. Sometimes it's a flippant remark or it can be a deep and meaningful exchange. You beautiful ways are what parents strive to teach their children. Thanks for being you. Thanks to your Mum for help getting you there. xxx

  91. Wow! Amazing Telle!

    I had a sort of similar experience when I was about 18 and catching a train from Gosford to Coffs Harbour (8hr journey)… I was standing on the platform at Gosford and this Israely guy started talking to me he was just a little older than me… he said he needed to go upstairs but didn't want to leave his back and would I mind it… I didn't hesitate. He wasn't the most approachable looking guy either.

    We got chatting when he came back and got on well, he couldn't hear that well and he explained to me it was because he had shell shock from being in the Israely army.

    We got on the train and he changed his seat as I had a free seat next to me and we played cards and he told me how he had been in the army as they are conscripted at a young age and teenage girls are too. He said he had spent a while on the 'battle field' so to speak and was partly deaf due to many bullets passing by his head. He also lost his best friend during his time and he had died in his arms…

    This guy was all of 22 and been through all of this and I normally wouldn't have struck up a conversation like this with someone I'd just met but I still remember it all these years later and after our almost 9hr journey together I was so thankful for the life I had in Australia and also thankful for meeting him… (Being 18yrs old I was impressionable and probably still working out who I was)

    I think he is probably one of the people that made me thankful for everything I have today and also making me such a positive thinker… I like to complain about little things here and there but what gets me through is others have it so much worse or so much harder than I do and I don't need to complain, if you know what I mean.

    eg: people ask how did I survive with hubby away for 7 months with the ADF last year and being home alone with 3 girls under 6… my response… People have it much worse than I do… some mums do it full time… some wives have husbands in complete war zones (mine wasn't)…

    It's amazing how some people can change your life.

  92. I'm in tears reading this Chantelle.

    This post just highlights how amazing you are. Your compassion, empathy, beautiful nature and ability to have a conversation or tell a story in the most incredible way.

    Thank you for being an incredible role model.xoxoxo

  93. what an incredible person Pip must be for causing such a shift in you and you for being open to receiving it … the stars were aligned 🙂 there is beauty everywhere, if only we have the eyes to see it, right? love hearing about these moments when “God Winks.”

  94. Here I am crying my eyes out from reading your beautiful post. What a kind soul you are, Chantelle … God bless you!

    Love reading your posts as you're an amazing story-teller.

  95. This post hit a nerve with me and had me crying and wondering what I would do should I be placed in the same situation. Thank you for sharing.

  96. OMG, i am in tears.
    I am humbled by your selflessness.
    Im not comfortable with strangers or crowds of people so I am ashamed to admit that i would be one of the people who looked away from Pip, and after reading your story it makes me kind of sad:( What a wonderful connection you had and the update when you rang him just mad me sad all over again.
    All i can say is thank goodness people with an open kind heart can out weigh those of us who are shy and uncomfortable with new people. I, for example wouldn't just go up to anyone and say hello:) And that you changed your seat to sit with Pip, i thankyou as would his mum and dad who obviously want what they feel is the best for him. May Pip find all the happiness he deservesxxxxx

  97. What an incredible story. You were most definitely meant to sit there – you and he needed to meet. You needed to hear his story and he needed you to listen. This was life talking directly talking to you. Beautiful. Hooray on you for having open ears and eyes to what life offers.

  98. we are all a soul trapped in a body… if only everyone could remember that and see past the flesh to what people truly are!

    I bet you made his life wonderful justby listening to him xx

  99. What A beautiful story I will be able to read to my daughter as she is currently at the age where she notices the people around her and asks questions. Great to be able to teach her how to be kind.

  100. I have always admired your openness, your friendliness, your warmth & compassion Telle. You met your own Boo Radley. You are a shining light and this was so beautifully told lovely lady. You are both blessed. Tell Pip we all send him our love. X

  101. This post resonated me. I have 2 children with special needs and I often wonder what life will be like for them as adults. I often think what will they be able to do, how does their body feel? To see how other people react to them can be heartbreaking as not everyone is as nice or as accepting as you. What a special post…

  102. Wow, Chantelle. I have goosebumps from reading this. Having now met you I know what a truly beautiful soul you have and this story is a poignant reminder for all of us to open our eyes and our minds to the people around us. You have a real talent for storytelling, too.

    Celeste x

  103. I have just discovered your blog and am leaving comments all over the place. I'm loving the camera stuff, but this post is the one that will turn me into a subscriber. Meetings like these do change lives, and sharing them as beautifully as you have will change more. It reminds me why we write, and why stories are so important. x

  104. So glad you have a big heart and open spirit. I am sure you have blessed his life if only for a little while. But somehow I think it will be something he will think about for a lifetime. It is sad others cannot be as open.

  105. What a beautiful, touching post and what a beautiful soul you are Chantelle to have given so much joy by simply being your friendly, caring self x

  106. What a wonderful encounter! While reading your post, tears were rolling down my cheecks. How unfair life can be. Thank you for sharing.

  107. This is an amazing encounter! It brought tears to my eyes!

    I had one encounter that still stays with me was I'd just been to audition for a drama school. I wouldn't know for two weeks that I hadn't got in, but I was off to a coffee shop to unwind from it. It was walking down one of the smaller streets in the central of London I saw a guy, looking fairly scruffy, sitting on the curb.

    As I passed he asked if I had any spare change, so I started to dig out my purse from my bag when he said, 'Actually, would you be able to just buy me a coffee from that shop there?' He pointed to a small takeout place across the way.

    I was more than happy to and he refused the offer of food, he just wanted to get warm (it was the end of February). When I gave him the coffee he was really grateful and asked what was happening with my day. I told him about the audition and he beamed, saying, 'Good for you. Dream big. It's the only way. I hope you get in.' Before I could ask him anything of himself, he stood up and left, wishing me good luck for the future.

    I auditioned for 2 other schools after that one and didn't get in either, only this time it no longer felt like the end of the world. That man who had nothing in the world was wishing me good luck for something so trivial.

    That was 7 years ago and it's still with me. When I start getting upset or frustrated over something I can't have or can't do, I remember him and I always manage to just let it go. I also wonder what happened to him all the time and hope that life is better for him.

  108. What a brilliant story.
    I am not sure if everything happen for a reason, but I am sure, all worst things will be good one day. I am sure and I am believing in it!

  109. What an amazing story, what an amazing man. Adults are ignorant and think that anyone who smiles or makes contact with them must be weird, and that’s for a ‘normal’ person as Pip would put it. But what is ‘normal’? We’re all abnormal, some of us physically, some mentally, some emotionally. Poor bloke that he has to live a life that he doesn’t want. I hope you have managed to speak to him since?

  110. Chantelle, this post touched my heart to the point that I couldn’t help but well up reading it. I agree that these things happen to those who have their eyes open and are receptive. In today’s world where people are eager to don their headphones (I’m definitely guilty of that one) or bury their heads in their book creating a barrier between them and those they are surrounded by as we jet our way around the skies, it was so refreshing to read that you chose to do the opposite. So glad Pip had you next to him. I’m a big believer of everything happening for a reason and your story continues to reinforce that for me. Thanks for sharing. You are so wonderful at that <3

  111. Just found you through ProBlogger and read this story. Beautiful. Did you manage to keep in touch with him?

  112. What a beautiful story and how so so amazing that you saw him again! What you wrote really touched me .. xx

  113. I have never read this (I hadn’t discovered your blog when you posted this) and it has brought tears to my eyes – I am just about to pop back and read about your reconnection. Just beautiful xx

  114. yes. And also on a plane! I was 19 and headed to Germany from Australia to be an aupair. It was back in the days before the internet. My allocated seat on the flight from Heathrow to Munich was coincidentally next to another Australian. He was a nice man, probably twice my age, we chatted about education and life skills and being an expatriate. He lived in Munich. When we landed he gave me his card and said “If you run into trouble, you can call me”. I pocketed the card, thinking in that young-adult-who-knows-all-way “as if I’ll need help!”…
    The family who had employed me were not what they said they were. After two weeks virtually imprisoned in their home, the mother trusted I was subjugated enough for her to leave the house for a short time. The phone had an international toll bar on it, so I hadn’t been able to call my parents, and what could they have done, all those thousands of miles away? I called the man from the plane.
    He jumped on the autobahn and was at my remote location within an hour. He bundled me up in his car with my things, shot some German at the outraged and now returned mother and took me back to his family. His wife wrapped me in a warm embrace while I cried and shook and thanked them for helping me.
    But what really blew my mind was that after we had been chatting for a while, we realised that the wife of my rescuer had gone to boarding school with my mother, in New Zealand in the fifties. It was the most bizarre coincidence. I am certain that I sat next to that man on the plane for a reason. I agree with your sister… things happen for a reason. People are sent to us for a reason, to teach us.
    I will never forget that feeling, of being at home so far away from home. Looked after by people so like my own.

  115. I loved this post. Got me a little teary :’) Sometimes you meet some people that make you realize how lucky you are, to be “you”. And that’s a great feeling, considering the fact that the society always insists to become someone else, someone better.

  116. Just discovered your blog and read this and it’s beautiful. It made me cry – it’s been a day of that here actually. I love that you took time to speak to Pip and made him as he called it ‘feel normal’ I wish there more people around who would do that for others. Thankyou for sharing this beautiful story.

    I had my own encounter today that changed me, it was with a 98 year old Normandy veteran. He was called Michael and he was wonderful, hilarious, charming and most of all brave. He was one of the first infantry soldiers on the beaches at Normandy and as he told me his story I wondered what it must have been like for him and his fellow soldiers, how he had felt knowing there was a chance he might not come back to his loved ones. He was so young that day on the beaches and now at the ripe old age of 98 he’s still going strong, he’s still charming the ladies, full of smiles and there today alongside his brothers in arms at a memorial to lay down their flag he wsa one of the boys again. There were smiles, laughters and one or two tears. Michael and his fellow veterans touched my heart so much today and I know I will always remember him and those fellow soldiers who sacrificed so much for us all to live a life of freedom.


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