Those of us who can see and hear without any impediment often take navigating the world for granted. You can communicate fairly easily, and though traveling has its stresses, you’re less likely to be completely dependent on another person to get through the experience.
This story of a blind and deaf man taking a flight by himself has been moving people online—a woman named Lynette Scribner posted the story on Tuesday to her Facebook page and it went quickly viral. The man’s name is Tim, and he was escorted aboard by a companion who communicated with him by doing sign language in his hand so he could “read” it by touch. But he was continuing on the flight alone.
Scribner writes that Tim appeared to be struggling, but people jumped in to help. It wasn’t quite enough. The stewards decided to ask if anyone could speak ASL, American Sign Language, and an unexpected helper stepped forward. She writes:
I saw this gentleman, Tim, in Boston’s Logan airport with the sister he’d been visiting. It appeared he was both deaf and blind, as I observed her signing into his hand for him to feel her words. When he came aboard the plane he had been assigned the middle seat of my row.
The kind gentleman who had the aisle seat graciously gave it up for him. At this point Tim was traveling alone. The flight attendants sincerely wanted to assist him, but had no way to communicate. I watched as they didn’t flinch when he reached out to touch their faces and arms.
They took his hand and tried so hard to communicate with him, to no avail. He had some verbal ability, but clearly could not understand them. The man who had given up his seat did his best to assist him with things like opening coffee creamer and putting it in his coffee.
When Tim made the attempt to stand up and feel his way to the restroom, his seat mate immediately was up to help him. The flight attendants were talking among themselves and someone suggested paging to see if anyone on board knew sign language.
That’s when this lovely young woman came into the picture. 15 years old, she learned ASL because she had dyslexia and it was the easiest foreign language for her to learn. For the rest of the flight she attended to Tim and made sure his needs were met.
It was fascinating to watch as she signed one letter at a time into his hand. He was able to ‘read’ her signing and they carried on an animated conversation. When he asked her if she was pretty, she blushed and laughed as the seat mate, who had learned a few signs, communicated an enthusiastic yes to Tim.
I don’t know when I’ve ever seen so many people rally to take care of another human being. All of us in the immediate rows were laughing and smiling and enjoying his obvious delight in having someone to talk to.
Huge kudos to the flight attendants of Alaska Airlines who went above and beyond to meet Tim’s needs. I can’t say enough about this beautiful young woman named Clara who didn’t think twice about helping her fellow passenger. It was a beautiful reminder, in this time of too much awfulness, that there are still good, good people who are willing to look out for each other.
Meanwhile, the girl’s mother, Jane Daly, was bragging about her girl on her own Facebook page, where the story was just as popular.
She says that their family had been having a “tumultuous” vacation, but on the trip back, Clara stepped up to help.
She bragged (her own words) that her daughter went above and beyond to help Tim:
“Shortly after the flight took off, a flight attendant made an announcement asking if anyone knew sign language,” Daly wrote. “Clara has been studying American Sign Language so she rang the flight attendant button. They explained that the passenger was not only deaf, but also blind.
“The only way you can communicate with him was by signing into his hand. Clara jumped up and went to see if she could help… And she did! Several times he requested her assistance throughout the flight. Toward the end of the flight he asked for her again, and this time he just wanted to talk.
“She spent the remainder of the flight until landing with him. He asked her lots of questions, and she signed-spelled the answers into his hand. The flight attendants and the passengers around him were all taken by Clara. They took these photos which they shared with me this morning.
“After the flight, Clara told me that she thought it was meant to be that our original flight was cancelled and we were placed on this flight so that she could be there to help this man. His name is Timothy. Our original flight was direct to LA. The new flight had a layover in Portland. Timothy was flying to Portland. She’ll probably kill me for posting this, but – Proud of my girl.”
It does seem like fate!
Clara told CBS News that her dyslexia is what pushed her to learn ASL, because she “saw sign language as a way to communicate without having to read and write.” It was the only foreign language she thought she could master.
She did worry she might spell something wrong as she signed, but it didn’t matter. Tim mostly wanted a companion.
“He didn’t need anything. He was just like lonely and wanted to talk,” she said.
The family had originally been scheduled to take a different flight, but it was cancelled and they had to rush to catch the one they met Tim on.
They’re now convinced it was meant to be.
There may be no such thing as fate, but this is definitely a moment of beautiful serendipity.
Clara Daly was able to help someone in need, and prove that her foreign language skills were definitely up to snuff.