Mother And Son
Alexa Bjornson and her son Landon are at the heart of this story and one very welcoming passenger. Alexa and Landon both live in Las Vegas, Nevada but Landon’s father lives in the state of Oregon which means that he either needs to fly to Las Vegas to see Landon or Landon needs to fly up to Oregon.
Alexa’s son had never been on a plane by himself so she was very worried about how he would do being all on his own with no support system except for the flight crew. Landon assured his mom that he would be fine but she wasn’t so sure. You see, Landon is autistic.
Landon is only 7 but he already knows how hard things can be, especially solo travel which is difficult for anyone no matter the age.
At a young age Landon was diagnosed with high-functioning autism. This means that while Landon can function pretty well on his own sometimes he needs a bit of help or reassurance about certain situations.
A Reason To Be Worried
Case in point: air travel. His mother, Alexa, was concerned that whoever had to sit next to Landon on the plane may not be as understanding of his quirks as they could be. Not everyone understood what it means to be a child with this disorder. She only hoped that people would be kind and patient.
She worried that he might disrupt other travelers’ travel experiences by asking too many questions about when they would arrive in Oregon. She knew her son meant no harm but some people don’t take things so lightly and could be impatient and mean.
The Autism Spectrum
The autism spectrum under which Landon falls is considered to range from people with very severe symptoms through to Asperger’s syndrome. Severe autism is when a person has trouble performing some basic tasks like reading, talking, and getting dressed. High-functioning autism which Landon has is not like this.
He can do pretty much everything for himself that a child can do which includes traveling without a parent. This did not stop his mom from being concerned though.
Would the flight crew be able to answer all of his questions and more importantly would his seatmate be understanding and still want to sit next to him?
These were all questions bubbling around in her mind as she prepared Landon for his trip. She had a bit of a had time calming her worries so her mind was running on what she could do to battle her feelings. Was there something that would make her feel less worried?
Whenever Landon would go on a trip, like any child there was a question he could not help but ask repeatedly. This question is something everyone wonders when they are on a long road trip, flight or even on a train. Alexa knew that without her by his side he would still ask this question to whoever was around him.
He was a curious kid and didn’t stop at anything to get his answer, with his autism it is hard for him to set boundaries regarding when it is okay saying something and when it isn’t okay to budge in.
Over and Over
He could not help himself from asking, “Are we there yet?” Alexa knew that Landon would ask his seatmate this question over and over until they finally arrived in Oregon and she was truly worried that they may get annoyed by it and request that he be moved or that they would want to move.
In order to avoid a situation like this she came up with a plan. She would find a way to explain Landon’s situation in hopes that someone nice would get it.
The first thing Alexa decided to do was devise a way to try and keep both her son and his seatmate happy and content during the flight.
She felt that some kind of incentive was needed and an explanation for why Landon might be full of questions and slightly nervous during the flight. To answer any questions his potential seatmate might have she decided a letter was what was needed.
After some brainstorming, Alexa knew exactly what the letter needed to say. The letter just needed to be short and to the point. It would outline that Landon was a high-functioning autistic child and that he might have a couple of questions during the flight.
She hoped that the recipient of this letter would understand the situation and simply go along with any questions Landon might have. All she hoped for was someone who was patient.
To add to her letter, she included a $10 bill for Landon to give to whoever was seated next to him. The money was supposed to be both an incentive to help Landon with whatever he needed but also as a thank you for what she hoped would be a helping hand in the air.
The flight crew already knew about Landon’s autism and they knew he might need them to come and check on him but this was specifically for his seatmate.
This story would not be a very nice one if Landon’s seatmate had ended up being an unkind man or woman who did not understand all of his questions. Instead, the seatmate Landon got was way better than both he and his mother could have ever asked for.
This man was both understandings, generous, and very funny. It was exactly the kind of person that Alexa had hoped for and Landon could not have been more thrilled. But who was this mystery man?
The Mystery Man
The seatmate that Landon ended up beside was a man by the name of Ben Pedraza. Ben was traveling to Portland and thought that he had truly lucked out to be next to Landon. His inquisitiveness was great and while he definitely did ask, “Are we there yet?” multiple times Ben was more than happy to point out how much time they had left in the flight.
When he first sat down next to Landon though, Landon handed him the letter and the money.
Ben read the letter quietly after Landon had handed it to him and looked at the money and thought to himself this is a kid who just needs to be entertained and he was right. All Landon needed was an adult to reassure him that they would eventually arrive and someone to talk to, simply to pass the time.
Ben was more than happy to oblige Landon and by default his mother, Alexa. But how exactly did Alexa find out about her son’s seatmate?
As the Southwest Airlines flight got underway, Ben and Landon quickly hit it off and in true adult fashion, Ben began to tell some jokes. To be more specific, he began to crack some very bad dad jokes which had Landon laughing the entire flight.
It got to the point where Landon no longer wanted to hear any more of these dad jokes and actually begged Ben to slow down and let him catch his breath.
The jokes weren’t all that Ben had up his sleeve. He also knew some other fun games to make the flight appear to go more quickly and to keep Landon’s mind off of worrying about when they would finally reach their destination.
For lack of playing cards or a piece of paper, Ben decided to start a good old-fashioned game of rock-paper-scissors with Landon which brought out his competitive streak and a few more laughs.
Not wanting Alexa to be worried about her son and his potential seatmate who she could not have known would be as amazing as Ben, he decided to send her a picture. The picture is of Ben and Landon seated next to each other with Landon smiling down into the camera.
It is clear that he is perfectly content and very comfortable with Ben. But it was the message that Ben sent along with the picture that made Alexa’s heart soar.
Ben composed a brief message to Alexa to let her know just how wonderful Landon is and that she is incredibly lucky to have a son like him. It is obviously a testament to her as a mother that Landon has turned out so well.
He also wanted her to know that he was not going to use the enclosed $10 bill for personal gain. No, he wanted it to go to a cause that was close to both of their hearts after meeting Landon and getting to know him.
The $10 had been meant as an incentive but Ben did not need any incentive to be kind to Landon. He wanted this $10 to make a small but important impact and go towards the cause it should really have been meant for.
As he told Alexa in his message, he had decided to donate the money to a non-profit society that helps people with autism called the Autism Society.
When Alexa received the message, she felt like all of her worries had been for nothing. The kindness of strangers could be depended upon, and Ben was proof of that. It wasn’t just that he had been kind to Ben but that he had gone one step further and even donated the money to an organization that helped to support children with autism-like her son.
She knew that this was the sort of positive message that the world needed to hear about.
Landon’s mom decided to share the story of her son’s first flight alone and the man who was by his side the entire way. She also included the picture of the two of them together and the accompanying note to show just how kind Ben had been to her son.
The recognition that the story began to get as it was shared around the globe was astonishing. People from all over were thrilled by Ben’s actions.
This viral story has worked to raise awareness about autism and the fact that just because a child has a lot of questions or may seem uncomfortable does not mean that they should be seen as a burden. Instead, people should find all of the empathy and compassion they have in them and try to help anyone who is in need.
This is just one example, there are many more out there and lots of people who may have been far less understanding than Ben.
A Pressing Question
With Ben’s name being splashed across various news stations, with KATU being one of the first to report on it, a lot of women have had a very pressing question: Is Ben single?
As such a compassionate soul it makes sense that women from all over would want to know if this potentially eligible man is available as it would appear he would make an excellent future partner and father.
Ben has been pretty quiet about his own personal life but one thing he is adamant about is that he is most definitely not single.
In his own words on ABC 6 he has said that, “No, not single. I’m off the market, for sure, definitely, but I’m flattered.” At least now he knows if he is in the market women across the United States are lining up to date him.
Is This The End?
Landon probably has a lot more flights in his future and his mom can only hope that he is fortunate enough to get a seatmate like Ben again.
Now that the mystery of solo travel is no longer a mystery to Landon his future travels will be a lot less intimidating and he will know how to handle himself the next time he goes to visit his dad. Maybe he will have another amazing seatmate just like Ben.
Always Be Kind
If there is one thing that this story has shown the world it is that kindness is truly a virtue. The next time you find yourself sitting next to a child or a person who seems like a nervous flier simply try engaging them in conversation.
Sometimes all it takes is a smile and a few kinds words to make someone’s flight just that little bit more tolerable. And you never know, you could just make a friend in the process.
Next Time You Fly
Flying is an unavoidable part of most peoples’ lives now. It’s how you criss cross the globe for work or simply get from state to state. This means that there is a good chance you will find yourself at an airport this year and thus sitting on an airplane.
If you see a parent who looks like they could use some help then why not offer a helping hand. You can do this by helping to put carry-on bags in the overheard compartment.
You may also notice that a family is not seated together on their flight and if they are traveling with children it can be very hard to separated. If you don’t mind where you sit on a plane be it an aisle, middle, or window seat perhaps consider moving so that the entire family can sit together.
That way everyone is happy and comfortable for the duration of the flight and you have helped them in a small way.
We hope that as the story of Ben, Landon, and Alexa continues to sweep around the globe that a ripple like effect takes place.
Hopefully more and more heartwarming stories will start to filter out to the media and people, like you, who have the power to be kind will offer someone a smile who looks like they need it or even a fun game of rock-paper-scissors to pass the time when flying.