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My Unsung Hero series: A new mom remembers a kind stranger on her flight

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

And now a story of human kindness and connection from "My Unsung Hero," a series from the Hidden Brain podcast. It's a collection of tales told by everyday people about someone who left a lasting impression on them. Linda Reddish met her unsung hero, Karen Clemson, in 2013. Reddish and her husband were flying from Nebraska to Chicago with their 3-month-old baby.

LINDA REDDISH: I was so nervous because it was my first time flying with a newborn. I knew that people have all kinds of feelings when there are children on an airplane. It was also the holidays. So at that time, you know, lots of people were flying, and I knew we would probably be smooshed in. It was also one of the carriers where you have to pick your seats. So we couldn't necessarily, you know, pick our spot. And as we boarded the plane, there was Karen. She had this, like, really beautiful, I remember, smile - just so warm. And she had those glasses that kind of, like, tip down to the bottom of your nose that people kind of look over with their eyes. And Karen peered up over her glasses and looked at me and said, oh, honey, you're sitting next to me, and just plopped me down next to her. And she said, I've been a pediatric nurse my whole life. And I have no problem having a beautiful, brand-new mother and baby sit next to me.

And I remember that I just wanted to cry - cry because I felt so much gratitude, cry because I did not feel beautiful right after giving birth. I just remember feeling so relieved. And as we started to fly, I knew I needed to nurse. And she said, oh, here. Let me and your husband here hold that blanket for you. And so I was able to nurse, and I just kept thanking her so much. And what's crazy is I did have a chance to thank her again because on the return flight a week later, there was Karen, this unsung hero, once again. And on our flight home, she held our baby. And then later, snuggling the baby, Karen just looked at me and said, it's hard being a new parent, but you two are going to be all right.

KELLY: Linda Reddish lives in Omaha, Neb. Her child, Mar, is now an elementary school. Reddish says that whenever she travels, she always tries to sit next to families with children to pass on Clemson's kindness. You can find more stories from "My Unsung Hero" wherever you get your podcasts. And to share the story of your unsung hero, record a voice memo on your phone and email it to myunsunghero@hiddenbrain.com.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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