When Jessica Rudeen, a 34-year-old mom from Bentonville, Arkansas, took an American Airlines flight to Wilmington, North Carolina, on April 10, she didn't know that an act of kindness from a stranger would not only alter the course of her flight, but also the lives of all involved.
The trouble began when Rudeen was boarding the plane with her her two kids: a four-month-old baby and three-year-old toddler. Due to complications checking in, she had been unable to feed her youngest, and by the time they were taking their seats both children were in full-on meltdown mode.
Enter 51-year-old Todd Walker, a lumber company worker in Kansas City. Playing out like a scene from the hidden camera show What Would You Do?, Walker came to the rescue. As he explained to Insider:
...I see this mom coming around the corner, and she has these giant eyes that are just filled with fear. Her kids are tired and angry and stressed. Can I hold that little guy?
Walker proceeded to help out until the baby was fed and both kids had settled down.
Here's a link to the full play-by-play:
Rudeen was so taken with the stranger's kindness that after the flight she posted about it on Facebook in an effort to contact him. She wrote:
This guy showed me kindness and compassion that I've never known from another person. I am blown away by God's hand in this because we could have been placed next to anyone, but we were seated next to one of the nicest men I have ever met in my life.
It didn't take long for the story to go viral. Within hours Rudeen and Walker were reconnected. Now they are friends and are planning to get together again soon.
The story touched many Twitter users:
An act of kindness goes a long way. Mr. Walker's a true gentleman & so nice to help out a mom in a stressful time. We need more random acts of kindness. Nice to hear a good story.— Principessa Sandra (@bobswife64) April 30, 2018
The story of Mr. Walker on American Airlines is an act of simple kindness in a world I sometimes think has gone mad. Thanks for some good news.— Marcee (@BirchTreeHill) May 1, 2018
Thank you for sharing this uplifting story. I was a corporate account executive who spent many hours weekly on planes. Too often parents reject offers of help like this.— John White (@Timeonhands) May 1, 2018
Others believe acts of kindness like this are more commonplace than many people think:
Why is this made to look like an exception? This is what people do. There is more good in the world than what the press is making us think.— Hash Tag (@hashtagplaya) May 1, 2018
It’s just that it’s not spectacular. Just normal.
Some were compelled to tell similar stories:
Let me brag about my son. 24 yrs old, SW flight. Window seat, then a father & son (about 3) sit next to him. After takeoff, the dad falls asleep. DEEP sleep. No one could wake him, but he was alive. My son cared for the child for 2.5 hours. The father had taken a sleeping pill!— Linrose Resists💙🌊🌊 (@LinRoseResists) May 1, 2018
Happened when my daughter was 2. Was in backward facing seat on @SouthwestAir. Man next to me asked if he could hold her, then passed her into the arms of another passenger (mother of 6) in which she promptly fell asleep. Woman held her for an hour. @JuliannaCaitlyn 😂😬🙏🏻— Dana ComstockBenzick (@momtocoolkids) April 30, 2018
I sat next to a lady with a screaming baby who then pooped a bundle. Instead of disgust I spoke and tried to help the Mom who was so grateful! Turned out she’s a really interesting fabric designer married and living in Venice, Italy! Never judge a person by their ‘cloth’!— Anchi (@atmfior) May 1, 2018
And a few people talked about how they have felt reticent to offer help in similar situations:
I'm going to remember this.— Missy (@MichelleDelNigr) May 1, 2018
Even though I may have been able to help in a situation like this in the past I would've assumed that the Mom wouldn't want a stranger helping with her kids. So next time instead of just assuming I will be offering my help
There's times I'd like to help a parent with their child such as on a plane, but as a man I feel people would accuse me of being some kind of abducter. That's how society's got now— G (@staffilad) May 1, 2018
As for Rudeen, there's no doubt she was deeply affected by the incident. She said:
Kindness is everywhere, and I think sometimes it's overlooked because of the negative side of life. People say this kind of gesture is common, but for me and my family, it was anything but common that day. It was genuinely life-changing.
Likewise, Walker had nothing but positive things to say:
I made some new friends on that flight. At the end of the day, I felt like I was the lucky one.