August 23, 2013

To Make A Crying Child Smile

Last week I wrote about the abundance of kind acts in Israel. And just this week, we read about a rare, wonderful and heartwarming episode.

Inbar, a young, 11-year-old girl from Rehovot has cancer. She is given a special opportunity to go to Camp Simcha in New York, a sleepover camp for children with pediatric cancer. Together with her parents she filled in the forms, had all the medical tests completed and counted the days until she, together with 29 other Israeli children, would fly to New York. Camp Simcha is dedicated to uplifting the spirits of children with cancer. Under medical supervision, campers enjoy talent shows, carnivals, helicopter rides and many other fun activities.

Inbar boards the plane and sits with the new friends she has made. They chat excitedly and wait for takeoff. As standard procedure, Chai Lifeline staff collect the children’s passports. Inbar’s is missing. Everyone in the group frantically searches for the missing passport.

In a scramble, other passengers on the plane start to search. They alert the El Al flight attendants who also look under the seats and in the overhead bins.

The ground crew retraces Inbar’s steps from the terminal to the plane. No sign. Without a passport she cannot fly, so they escort a tearful Inbar off the plane. She is heartbroken. Here is an opportunity that may never come again.

As the plane leaves the terminal and heads down the runway, the pilot is given permission to take off. Suddenly, the girl who was sitting next to Inbar finds the passport in her own backpack. She holds it up high like a trophy and everyone is overjoyed.

The flight attendants tell the pilot who stops the plane and radios the flight control tower to explain the situation. The pilot and the airport staff confer and after 45 minutes, they decide to let the plane come back for Inbar.

With tears in her eyes, Inbar sees the plane turn around and head back toward the terminal. It looks likes it’s coming back for her! The plane parks outside, the doors are unlatched doors and, like royalty, Inbar is escorted aboard amidst cheers, clapping and choked tears. The director of the Israeli branch of Chai Lifeline said all the passengers shared Inbar’s excitement and that this was one of the greatest moments he has ever experienced.

This kindness is unheard off in all international airports and on most airlines--especially after the fear and threat created in our post 9/11 world. Once a plane taxis out for takeoff, it simply leaves. It cannot turn around for a passenger like a cab. And it does not matter if the circumstances are dire or sad or tragic. The plane has a schedule to keep and money is lost when it sits on a runway for too long. A passenger is a seat number and a booking code, not a child who is suffering from cancer.

But on El Al, according to this beautiful story, we are all one. We are human beings who laugh and who cry and who, unfortunately, suffer. The pilot, the flight attendants and the passengers on this flight also hope their own children will be healthy, happy and able to enjoy every wonderful opportunity that life gives us. 

The proof is in the eyes of a smiling, joyous Inbar who is, right now, enjoying each minute she has at Camp Simcha. 
Israelis' hearts are full. Be it performing acts of kindness or helping the sick, they insist on taking that extra runway to make a crying child smile.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments are always welcome.