Before I go too deep into the Chemo hole of fatigue and who knows what else, I am following up on a promise I made on Facebook to post some of the many kindnesses I witnessed from fellow passengers and Delta staff on my recent trip.
In an era where it appears that kindness has been overlooked more than it is shared and at a time that many people feel justified to be rude and uncaring to their fellow humans, I happened to be the personal recipient of many kindnesses and the observer of many sweet acts between strangers.
To begin with, on this trip I requested Wheelchair assistance in two very large airports, Detroit and Minneapolis. I had never done this before and actually felt a bit unworthy to ask for help since I wasn’t sure I fully qualified. After all, I was traveling to present to a group and knew I would be called upon to be rather healthy and active.
Since I knew the odds were not in my favor to be within a short distance of my connecting gates or to the baggage claim area, I overcame my sense of unworthiness, took off my wig and replaced it with a Chemo hat, advertising to any possible onlookers that may choose to judge me, that I was impaired and required assitance. Please note: I was not looking for sympathy, just hoping for understanding.
Kindness Collection #1: The Delta employees at the Check-in desk at Elmira noted the wheelchair request and inquired if I needed a ride to security. I thanked them and declined since the distance was shorter than my practiced walking route around the block at home. (This distance is the peak for my stamina/endurance right now) The two women that completed my check-in process also complimented my outfit, which was another incidental act of kindness. It felt good to be reminded I looked good since I didn’t feel particularly attractive that day.
The kindness shown to me for my wheelchair transfers throughout the trip (both coming and going) were all very touching. People went out of their way to process me quickly, speeding through security, offering to stop at the restroom in each airport, and friendly service by employees that engaged with me. I even received offers to pray for me by two of my young male transporters when I bragged I was going to be soon having my final chemo treatment.
Kindness Collection #2: On my flight from Detroit to Minneapolis, I was a row behind and across the aisle from a young dad traveling with a baby boy, that looked to be just over a year in age. The young dad’s seatmate offered his window seat so the baby could look out and possibly be entertained. It didn’t work, but it was still a kind gesture.
Although the baby arrived appearing happy, that was short lived. He apparently did not sleep well the night before according to the dad and was very fussy. Although I understand how some travelers are perturbed by sounds of a wailing child, I try to remember what it was like when I was the parent desperately trying to keep my baby occupied and quiet in public venues. Not always an easy task, so my compassion level usually goes up a few points in these situations.
Surprisingly, I noticed no dirty looks by the other travelers in our section of the plane. People paid attention to their own amusements, reading their books and listening to music while offering an occasional nod of understanding to the struggling father. The dad’s seatmate even tried to soothe the baby by talking to him and showing him his Ipad screen. It didn’t work, but I was touched by the gesture.
When it came time to deplane, the dad’s seat-mate retrieved the stored luggage from the overhead for him. The woman from across the aisle offered to carry what appeared to be a long object in a bag (perhaps a pool cue) off the plane for the dad. He thanked her and was clearly touched by the help being offered. As I witnessed what was going on, I commented, “It takes a Village”, which caused everyone to smile in agreement.
When it came time for us to make our way down the aisle, following the very courteous row by row method, with no pushing or shoving, the woman now carrying the dad’s pool cue, forgot her own bag, which was then offered to be carried by her seatmate. Our whole section of the plane chatted and created a very positive vibe, which I imagine helped the dad immensely. I know I was very grateful to be part of the scene.
Kindness collection #3: After being escorted via wheelchair to the door in Baggage Claim of the Minneapolis airport and deposited in a safe spot as I waited for my biz partner, David, to pick me up, I moved to an area where I could be seen at the curb. As I waited, the man next to me that was also waiting for a ride struck up a conversation. Since I am usually the first striker of conversations with strangers, I was pleased to engage. We shared some of our backgrounds and where we traveled from and what we will be doing in Minneapolis, which for him was a return home from a biz meeting in San Francisco. He was very interested in hearing about the work I do and asked some great questions. In a few short minutes, we co-created a very sweet personal connection. When David discovered me, my new friend and I shared a quick good-bye as I went on my way, once again encouraged by the kindness from a stranger.
Kindness collection #4: On my final flight home from Detroit to Elmira, NY, I was delighted to be seated next to a charming Texan who would be visiting Elmira for less than 24 hours for a business training.
As he deposited his carry-on in the overhead, I offered to protect his jumbo- sized iced coffee, noting he would be a much happier seatmate if his drink was protected from spilling. He agreed, sat down and immediately struck up a conversation. (Once again, this is usually my job, so I was pleased to be the one invited to engage).
I learned that he traded his first-class seat with his friend for the much tighter space in the cabin which happened to be the seat next to me. When he realized the row ahead of us was empty, he asked the attendant if he could move and permission was given. As it turned out, he never did take advantage of the roomier space since our engagement was apparently so entertaining, it superseded the comfort of extra leg and arm room.
It is hard to believe that a 50-minute plane ride could be so much fun. My new best friend, Rob, and I chatted and laughed the whole time. We learned about each other’s lives and he gave me some very clever and fun ideas for potential bits to share while speaking on stage and for activities to do in our workshops as he listened to what I did for a living. He showed me pictures of his grandkids and we both shared some personal stories which made the connection increasingly more delightful as we got closer and closer to our destination.
Once we landed and prepared to deplane, he offered to take care of my bag and wheeled it off the plane for me. When we exited the Jet Way I was greeted by a young friend that was waiting to depart on my plane that ran up to give me a big hug. Next, another good friend greeted me with her hug as my new best friend, Rob, waited patiently as he wondered if I was famous in this part of the world.
Rob’s final act of kindness was agreeing to take a photo of me and my friend, Deb, which she wanted to share with other friends. Once that act of kindness was complete, we gave our final good-byes and I was left feeling blessed by not only my old friends but by all the new ones made that shared their kindnesses along the way.
So, if you ever think KINDNESS no longer exists, I suggest you become more aware of the many little things that friends and strangers are willing to do when you ask for help or just on their own when they see a little assistance is needed. Of course, I also encourage you to offer your own acts of kindness. Sometimes all it takes is a smile. It can travel a long way.