Our Privacy/Cookie Policy contains detailed information about the types of cookies & related technology on our site, and some ways to opt out. By using the site, you agree to the uses of cookies and other technology as outlined in our Policy, and to our Terms of Use.


7 Ways to Be Compassionate, Even on an Airplane

Photograph by Twenty20

The story about a boy who endured humiliation when he had to leave an Allegiant Air flight prior to takeoff due to an allergic reaction brought me to tears. More than once.

For reasons I can't explain, I read some of the comments left on one article about the incident, and that left me heartbroken. I don't know that family, and I will probably never meet them, but I have great compassion for them.

Both of my children have potentially fatal food allergies and, up until exactly one year ago, my daughter was highly allergic to dogs. It never occurred to me that a dog allergy could trigger the amount of itching, hives and rashes (as in covering her body rashes) that she experienced, so it actually took us a while to figure that one out.

Once the test came back, it cleared up a lot of questions. Also? People weren't always nice about it.

RELATED: 3 Ways to Treat Bad Behavior For What It Is

At the time of this discovery, she was only 4. You might think the medical needs of a 4-year-old would be greater than the comfort of a dog, but that wasn't always the case.

Even though she has outgrown that allergy, both of my children have tree nut allergies. With the dog allergy out of the way, service dogs on a flight no longer worry me, but tree nuts do. It's not just that they can't eat the snacks served on the plane—we always pack our own food for safety precautions—it's that they can experience airborne reactions. So that guy eating a bag of mixed nuts three rows behind us can actually trigger a serious allergic reaction in my children.

We can't always help another person in need, but we can offer to help.

Before you tell me not to fly (we live in Los Angeles, but our families are on the East Coast) or to make special arrangements with the airlines, know this: I've already tried that. American Airlines told me there's nothing they can to do guarantee a nut-free flight for my kids. Delta said the same. Although Virgin America doesn't have a formal policy in place, they do have stellar customer service and will work with families dealing with food allergies to ensure their safety.

I can either plan all of our trips around one airline or roll the dice. Those are my choices.

To be clear, what bothered me most about the incident with the boy is not that he was asked to leave the plane. If one of my kids had that reaction, I would beg them to let us off. It was how the other passengers reacted that got under my skin. They showed no compassion for this little boy and his family.

Kids are always under fire for being "entitled," "spoiled" and "ungrateful." Books on the subject line the shelves and articles pop up almost daily. Kids lose recess if their behavior isn't up to a certain standard. Phone calls home are the biggest threat to small children everywhere.

And yet. A small child has an allergic reaction on an airplane, and adults clap and cheer as deboards to seek medical attention. No missed recess. No phone call home.

If we want to raise kids who have compassion and empathy for others, we have to start by double-checking our own behavior.

Kindness has a way of triggering more kindness.

Here's a quick guide to displaying compassion for others, even when you're under stress:

1. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have all of the information?
  • Am I reacting out of selfishness?
  • Have I ever dealt with a similar situation?
  • How would I feel if that were me?
The need to share everything on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter is sucking the compassion right out of our society.

2. Be selfless

  • Take your own needs out of the equation for the time being and focus on the needs of the other person.

3. Practice mindfulness

  • Pay attention to what's actually happening around you. Instead of thinking about the potential negatives, focus your energy on remaining present and deep breathing.

4. Listen more than you talk

  • Listening plays a central role in showing compassion. Resist the urge to have an answer for everything and practice active listening skills, instead.

5. Respect privacy

  • The need to share everything on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter is sucking the compassion right out of our society. Would you want others to share your story without your consent? Show others the same respect that you would want.

RELATED: Why You Can't Scold Your Kids Into Better Behavior

6. Shift into helper mode

  • We can't always help another person in need, but we can offer to help. Instead of letting the frustration of inconvenience get you down, try to think of something you can do to help.
  • I always travel with Benadryl and at least three EpiPens, so I'm a great helper when it comes to allergic reactions. But even if you can't provide direct assistance to the person in need, you can act as an advocate by helping the person seek support, and you can help calm the bystanders by engaging in positive conversations and showing empathy in an effort to inspire more empathy.

7. Show kindness

  • Kindness has a way of triggering more kindness. Be a positive role model in the situation by leading with kindness and inspiring others to do the same.

Share this on Facebook?

More from kids