This mother-of-two was grateful for some unexpected compassion.

Being a parent can be tough. Being a parent to a child with special needs can be especially tough. So often you’re just trying to go about your day and to get by, but strangers can be judgemental or give you a hard time when you’re just doing your best.

That’s why, when someone unexpectedly steps up with kindness or empathy, it can mean the world. Just ask this mom from Birtley, England.

A Rough Start

woman lying on the floor with a little girl

Candice Hudspith decided to take her daughters to the local McDonald’s one weekend for a quick bite. As she entered the restaurant with Harper, 4, and Indy, 2, Harper began to scream and shout. Harper had been diagnosed with autism just before her fourth birthday, and Candice knew her daughter had been triggered.

“I don’t know what had triggered Harper. When I got out of the car, I knew she was hungry, but there was just something triggering her, and the difficult thing is you can’t ask what it is,” Hudspith recalled to Chronicle Live. “Walking in she was screaming, saying, ‘no no no.’ Everyone was looking at me like I was the mother with the screaming child.”

Normally, Hudspith would get the food and go, taking her daughter out of a stressful situation like that. But, thanks to the kindness of someone working there, her family’s whole day turned around, and she was even able to enjoy a cup of hot coffee.

A Compassionate Employee

As Hudspith felt the eyes of everyone on her, an employee named Rachel approached them. “She said, ‘Oh wow, I think I have a flag, would you like one?’ and she looked at me and said, ‘You’re doing an amazing job,’” the frazzled mother recalled.

At that point, Harper ran off and hid under one of the seats. Hudspith wasn’t sure what to do next, but Rachel continued doling out the unexpected kindness. She grabbed some paper and crayons and got down on the floor with the little girl.

“You could see Harper slowly coming out of herself. She was back in her little world, being happy Harper again,” Hudspith said. “I literally burst into tears. I felt like I didn’t even have to say that she has autism, it was like she read my mind. It was so lovely what she was doing,” she continued.

“I don’t think Rachel realized how good her customer service was. It may sound like nothing to others, but it meant the world to me. Absolutely outstanding service.”

A Public Thank You

Later, after Hudspith returned home and had settled the girls down, she knew she wanted to share the story about the employee who had meant so much to her. So she hopped on Facebook and reiterated the difference kindness can make to struggling parents like her.

She added how important it is for people to be understanding of autism and explained how she was initially in denial about her daughter’s diagnosis. Having it though, wasn’t a label: it became a tool so that she could get the help her family needed.

“All the doors open up, and you are able to get the best for your child. If I had still been in denial, I don’t know where Harper would be now, but with me being the mum I am and having the support around me, she’s come on so much,” she wrote, as per Chronicle Live.

“If you do see a situation like that in public, you really shouldn’t judge. I think our generation is starting to understand a lot more about autism; back in the day, it would be seen as ‘naughty children’ but I think there is more understanding now.”

Remembering Empathy

Parenting is a wonderful and weird journey, but it can also be overwhelming at the best of times. That’s why the kindness and empathy of strangers can make such a big difference in our lives. This story reminds us of that power, and how amazing it can be when someone tries to put themselves in a parent’s shoes — particularly a parent who has a child with autism.

Educating ourselves about others’ differences is the best way to understand what they may be going through. Whether you ask questions, read books, take courses, or watch documentaries or news programs, surrounding yourself with information is beneficial to you and those in your corner of the world.

You never know when that information may come in handy. Or, if it could one day allow you to be that empathetic person a struggling person may randomly need in their lives.