You know what? I love sharing inspirational stories with you, in fact perpetuating uplifting messages has become my number one focus over the last few months…and today I am excited to tell you about a special young man I met two weeks ago.
Naturally with Hawaii as a tourist destination, I have met people from all-over the world: from all 50 US states to China, Belarus, Europe, Down-Under, Japan, New Zealand, Ukraine, UK, Brazil, Mexico, Thailand, and many more. We have shown the mantas to the young and old (up to an 87-year old!), and to skill levels varying from little swim or snorkel skills to very experienced scuba divers.
The most common response from tourists experiencing the mantas at night: “One of the best things we’ve ever done!”
Every time I meet new participants, I try to cater to the ones that need the most attention so they feel especially safe and taken care of, to then enjoy the mantas and the ocean in all its beauty.
Two weeks ago I met Aiden, a 13-year-old ‘happiness exuding’ young man and his parents Heinz and Karen.
After the first conversation, I was convinced that Aiden – who has Down syndrome – would do fine to snorkel with the mantas. He had done daytime snorkeling before; he listened to all instructions and repeated them back. He asked questions when unsure and although I could sense that he was nervous (who isn’t, right?), he followed the lead and trusted the process.
It was so beautiful to experience how Aiden enjoyed every minute of the manta encounter. His dad Heinz was his buddy and they were holding hands the entire time. I was also on his side for the initial ten minutes. As soon as the first uber excitement of seeing the mantas turned to wonder and awe, Aiden and everyone else in the group relaxed and took in the beauty and grace that surrounded them.
When we left the water, we were all laughing, elated about this encounter with pure joy running through us (plus some relief that it went so well). This night definitely counted as a special highlight in my years of working with the mantas and guests.
His mom Karen told us a few days later that Aiden has been preparing a slide show for his community project class. How awesome! He is sharing his love for the mantas with others and will be touching many more with his enthusiasm, smile and courage.
Aiden’s motto in life is “Nothing I can’t do!”. It was evident he had a blast with the mantas, and although our motive is to give guests an experience of a lifetime, he gave us one as well. Thank YOU Aiden! ????????????