Let me start by saying the past few weeks and months have been a wild ride, culminating in signing a big deal that lead me to Bakersfield last week. While I am sure that I will cover this “new deal” in coming essays, I want to share a story that happened very early Saturday morning as I was heading home to Atlanta.
It was a little past 5:30 am, with a cheap cup of coffee in hand that I made my way to gate 3 at BFL (the airport code for Bakersfield.) Early mornings are busy at the airport and last Saturday was no exception; multiple flights heading to multiple cities all leaving between 6and 7 am. Gate 3 had the Denver flight, which I was taking enroute to Atlanta and just before general boarding; a young mother brought her eight or nine year old daughter up to the gate. I realized immediately from past experience that the young girl was flying to Denver as an unaccompanied minor and the mom had the paperwork envelope and was reviewing it with the gate agent. Once the paperwork was finished, the mom turned to the little girl and they both completely melted down…. right at the jetway to gate 3.
It was a heart wrenching scene, mom and daughter hugging tightly, both sobbing/shaking and when it was time for the flight attendant to escort the little girl down to the plane it was so hard to watch. The mom, fully in tears, waved and blew kisses and ultimately slumped into a seat by the gate, trying to wipe the tears from her eyes to no avail. All this set the stage as general boarding was called…. such a sad scene, so early on a Saturday morning!
BFL is not serviced by Delta so Saturday I was on a United flight to Denver, changing planes and airlines to make the Delta flight back to Atlanta. Since I don’t have very good status on United, I was in one of the last boarding groups and as I got on the plane I noted a young woman sitting in my seat. As I reached for my ticket I realized that not only was she in my seat, she was sitting in the seat immediately next to the little girl in tears. The young woman maybe 18-20 years old, caught my eye and silently directed me into her seat across the aisle, one row up. I didn’t blink and eye and got into my seat and belted in for the flight to Denver.
The next two hours of the flight were completely inspiring…. The young woman holding the little girl’s hand, telling her stories, showing her pics on her phone and by the time we were halfway to Denver they were playing some game on an I-pad and giggling like dear friends… it was beyond charming! I was blown away by how kind it was for that young woman to take control of the situation, change seats to be close to the crying girl, and to make the entire context of the moment, especially for the little girl, completely renewed!
As we exited the plane, many us had to wait for our bags that had been gate checked and as I was standing planeside, the young woman came off the plane heading to destinations unknown. Not wanting to be pushy, I just motioned to her and as she slowed, I told her what a wonderful thing she had done that morning and how impressed I was by what she did and how she did it!! Only slowing a touch, she said a big thank you and said that is was no big deal, anyone would have done that!
In retrospect I am certain that the young woman was wrong when she said, “anyone would have done that!!” Unfortunately we are living in a time too filled with anger, suspicion and caustic rhetoric rather than simple and generous acts of kindness in our communities, our companies or even in a small Californian airport!