When Landon, 7, flies to Oregon with mom Alexa Bjornson, he repeatedly asks, "Are we there yet?" as children have done since the dawn of travel. So when Bjornson was sending him on his first solo flight, to Portland to visit his father, she worried he'd pester his seat mate with questions.
So she gave Landon, who has autism, a note to share on the flight from Las Vegas. What she got back shocked her.
“I sent Landon with a letter to give to whoever sat next to him saying he has high functioning autism so he might be nervous and ask you ‘are we there yet?' a lot, and please just make him feel safe and comfortable with 10 dollars in the note,” Bjornson said on Facebook in a post that has been shared 126,000 times.
About 20 minutes after Landon's flight landed, she received a text with an unexpected update.
“I was Landon’s seat neighbor for his flight to Portland. He did ask if we were there yet several times but he was a great travel buddy. We had a good time and played a few rounds of rock-paper-scissors. He’s a great kid and you’re a lucky mom. I appreciate the $10 but it wasn’t necessary. I donated to Autism-Society.org in honor of Landon,” a man named Ben shared with Bjornson with a picture of the two of them.
The gesture moved Bjornson.
"I want to thank Ben all over again. He is amazing," Bjornson, 28, a server and bartender from Las Vegas, told TODAY Parents. "It is a very humbling experience and I just hope that it raises awareness that if you see children having a hard time — or not — that just a kind gesture can change the outlook in their lives."
While Landon feels comfortable on a plane, he does easily get distracted and struggle to make eye contact sometimes. And he was nervous being away from Bjornson. But she suspected he might just be too engaging with a neighbor.
"I know my son. I knew whoever sat next to him would (hear) 'Are we there yet?' a bunch of times," she said. "He is very loving and sharing. He was going to ask if you want to work on my activity book and play games. I just knew he was going to be anxious and impatient like every other kid on a plane."
So she believed sending the note with the money was simply responsible.
"To me it just felt like that’s why I am supposed to do as a mom," she said. "I was just hoping it would help him feel comfortable and safe and to be who he is."
The story of Ben's generosity impacted others on social media.
“This just made my heart smile! Ben I wish you all the happiness you can handle,” one woman shared on Facebook.
Parents with children on the autism spectrum understood all too well how a child like Landon could change an adult.
“I’m sure Landon touched his heart in an indescribable way! Having adult children on the spectrum myself, I have been told that countless times. Parenting is usually about us teaching them. When you have a child with a disability, they are our greatest teachers of love, patience, acceptance and tolerance,” one mother shared.
For her part, Bjornson still seems amazed Landon's story resonated with so many people.
"I didn't think it would spark up a big response. Regardless, we are pretty happy because it opens up the conversation," she said. "People can make a difference in someone's life."