A Black flight attendant shared an unexpectedly uplifting exchange with a white Fortune 500 CEO

Sometimes a random encounter turns out to be not so random at all.

JacqueRae Hill, a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines, shared one such encounter on Facebook. She said that her heart has been heavy with everything going on, which is especially hard hard when your job is to put a smile on people's face. But something happened on a recent flight that lifted her spirits.

She wrote:

"As we are boarding my first flight of the day I smile and I greet people when they come on and a man was holding a book that has been on my to read list. The book is entitled White Fragility. I was so happy to see that book in his grasp that I knew after I finished my duties I was going to make a point to ask him about it. I go sit next to him as he was sitting in a row all by himself (That was God). I said Hey How are you? I see you are reading that book .. So how is it? He replies oh I'm half way through it's really good. It really points out how important these conversations on race are. As I began to respond the tears just start falling . I have been so sad every day and I just want to understand and be understood so we can began to fix it.


I'm pretty sure I startled him by seemingly dumping all my emotions on him but his reply was "I'm so sorry. And it's our fault that this is like this. We continued to talk and when I tell you it was everything I needed. I was happy ( even tho I was crying ). I went on to tell him about my prayer on my way to work today and that he Answered that prayer for me with this conversation. As our conversation came to an end he asks me my name I told him JacqueRae and then he said well I'm Doug Parker the CEO of American Airlines. I told him my mother works for him in DC and then I reached over and gave him a BIG HUG ! I HAD TO!! (yes we were both masked) I thanked him for being open and allowing this conversation to happen because I just needed to hear it and I walked off. I thanked God for his LOVE AND FAITHFULNESS the rest of the Flight. On his way off the plane he hands me a handwritten note and I thank him again and ask for this pic. This encounter is Only A Holy Spirit thing!!!!

There are so many different ways to affect change in the world. I stand with anyone who wants to make a difference no matter if it is how I would do it or not. I believe that God answered my prayer so perfectly that I want to be apart of an answered prayer for someone else. I'm following behind my sister Audresha Lynn by saying LETS TALK !! Doug Parker said that the premise of the book is that we need to have these conversations so here I am. My heart is open and my ears are open as well. BLESSED TO BE A BLESSING."

The note Parker wrote to her said:

"Thank you so much for coming back to speak with me. It was a gift from God and an inspiration to me. I am saddened that we as a society have progressed so slowly on an issue that has such a clear right v.s wrong. Much of the problem is we don't talk about it enough. Thank you for talking to me and sharing your emotion. That took courage. The book, White Fragility, is great. But it's more for people like me than you (a black friend recommended it to me). I really appreciate you. If you'd like to continue the conversation, my email is [blacked out]. Thank you! Doug

P.S. Say hello to your mother for me."

Hill's also shared a message from her mother, Patti Anderson, to Doug Anderson, and the beautiful exchanges just keep on going.

JacqueRae S. Hill/Facebook

Hill shared that CNN Travel picked up her story and interviewed her via video call, so we can hear some of the story in her own voice.

[facebook https://www.facebook.com/jacquerae.hill/videos/10156166752157706/?__xts__[0]=68.ARAzZqYx6Xi3WGu5xbAv8eyAnfPyap4JRvzfD5Ic0o4OWoEtB-Pd4mCBkEvFoZ3x66R59k9G81HP4OJ_U8m-zhV0Pd8irEaPMSFbymaqeAgr8c6pbudv5cCIbjgy2LC2BEUiZOAmJWzoAxW1aeN-vTKR2BedUJD9aE1FuhuJ6i7alKHMXmC1YXIPIY9QQDDHSt01jJN_axJXjpPCdOrJJ6IAyfUMMw&__tn__=-R expand=1]

You never know when a seemingly small action—like reading a book to better understand the realities of race and racism in our society—might made a big difference to someone who sees it. Knowing that someone in charge of an enormous company is doing that personal work—and not just for a photo op or PR display—is heartening to see, as the lessons learned will hopefully trickle down through that business and beyond.

Thank you for sharing, Ms. Hill. Seeing this kind of encounter play out offers us all a taste of hope in a time of difficult, but necessary, upheaval and change.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

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Of course, wrecks aside, buying a used car might end up costing more in the long run after needing repairs, breaking down and just a general slew of unexpected surprises. But hey, at least we can all look back and laugh.

My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share their own worst car experiences. Some of them make my brake fiasco look like cakewalk (or cakedrive, in this case). Either way, these responses might make us all feel a little less alone. Or at the very least, give us a chuckle.

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