If there’s one thing seniors want in their twilight years more than anything else, it’s more time with their loved ones. However, schedules and locations can often make that simple wish a difficult one to grant.
Back in July, while aboard a Southwest Airlines flight to Nashville, Meghan Schofield encountered a 96-year-old woman who was flying for the first time in over 15 years. “She kind of caught my attention because she just reminds me so much of my grandmother who I had recently lost in the fall,” Schofield recently told TODAY. It was her birthday and all she wanted to do was be with her family. Afraid of flying, the elderly passenger asked a gentleman seated next to her if she could hold his hand during take-off. Her seatmate gladly obliged.
For the duration of their flight, he was her guardian. Once strangers, the two conversed the entire flight — the woman rarely leaving his side. “Throughout the flight, she turned to him for consoling,” Schofield recalled. Through minor turbulence, to assisting her down the aisle and into her wheelchair upon arrival, the young man did everything he could to make sure her flight was as stress-free as possible. He even stayed with her until she was reunited with her daughter following the flight.
Schofield snapped photos of the two and shared the interaction in a Facebook post that has since racked up over 84,000 shares and 335,000 reactions. Stunned by his kindness, she writes “ I walked away sobbing happy tears being so thankful for people like this wonderful human. Hats off to you sir, for your kind heart and your compassion toward someone whom you’ve never met.”
While the woman’s gratitude was likely thanks enough, Schofield says the senior “was so grateful that she wanted him to have her flight pretzels.”
After being shared on newscasts from coast to coast, word eventually reached Ben Miller, the kind gentleman pictured in the photos. “It’s pretty surreal,” the husband and father told TODAY. “I’m not a Facebook person myself. And so it was pretty wild. I was traveling alone, I didn’t know anybody on the plane. You certainly don’t think anybody is paying attention to you. So to get a text from somebody a few days later after the flight saying, ‘Hey, is this you?’ It’s crazy.”
Miller says he believes it’s the way the situation was framed that gave it such a viral impact, and that he was just doing what he hopes anyone would in that situation. “To see what it’s done in terms of taking off, I think Megan really gets the credit for that because I think the interaction that I had with Virginia was maybe somewhat unique, but I’d like to think that it wasn’t all that uncommon.”
No matter the reason, Schofield says she hopes others are inspired by the post and Miller’s kindness and generosity. “We’re just so rush, rush, rush to get from A to B. Slow down and look around and see where you can be helpful.”