Few people like the sound of a child crying and even fewer like to hear that sound while stuck on a long haul flight from Brussels to New York.
Bentzion Groner and his wife, Rochel, were on their way back home to North Carolina after chaperoning a Birthright Israel trip in Israel. Their plane was only about an hour into the eight-hour flight—though it had already been delayed three hours—when suddenly a child on the plane let out a shriek and started to cry.
“His cries were heard throughout the plane and you could feel the tension among the other passengers,” Bentzion wrote in a Facebook post.
While passengers tried their best to ignore it, Rochel stepped up and offered assistance.
Bentzion remarked that it was obvious how uncomfortable the crying made everyone, but no one seemed to do anything or at least they didn’t know what to do. That’s when, after about 15 minutes, Rochel stood up and walked over to the child who was in the middle of a meltdown—she didn’t want things to escalate.
“I didn’t know if someone was going to get up and scream at this kid or if they were going to make an emergency landing,” Rochel told JTA.
Rochel walked to the boy’s seat and reached out her hand.
“It was such a surreal moment, and he just took it, and he stopped crying,” Rochel said.
Rochel, who, along with her husband, owns two organizations in North Carolina that serves young adults with disabilities, was unsure how the child would react to a stranger, but she was pleasantly surprised. Based on the boy’s behavior she guessed that he had autism and comforted him accordingly.
When the boy, who appeared to be around eight years old, took Rochel’s hand he left his mother behind and walked with Rochel up to the bulkhead where the two sat on the floor for about two hours.
She gave the boy a firm hug and began to rock him, almost instantly he calmed down.
While the two sat in the bulkhead, they used some of the airplane’s (clean) nausea bags to draw on and Rochel let the boy play with her phone.
“It was beautiful to see,” she recalled to JTA.
In his post, Bentzion wrote that most of the passengers were “in awe” of Rochel’s ability to calm the boy, but he said Rochel was just doing what she does best.
“We’re taught that if we just offer our hand in love and acceptance, miracles will follow,” he wrote. Ain’t that the truth.