Thanksgiving

12.19.2012

I love firsts.


"First Phone Call Received After Getting a Haircut"

or,

"First Words Spoken After Swallowing a Huge Bite of Food,"

or,

"First Married Holiday Season Spent Absent from Spouse"


While I reminisced about my Portland feast from last year's Thanksgiving, I marveled at how quickly the year had gone by. My family held a special dinner I could be home for earlier in the week, and I was on my way up to New York.

As much as Bryan and I would love to spend the holidays together, we're making the best of it and making it normal. By normal I mean I usually just sit in my hotel room because everything is closed, and Bryan celebrates with his family that is probably wondering why he picked such a horrible wife. (HAHA JUST KIDDIN!)

I was the flight leader (translation: serve exclusively in first class; liaison with pilots and gate agents - and I get to make all of the announcements, which is really why I do it). We were flying LaGuardia to Atlanta the day before Thanksgiving. The crew was four ladies (myself included). They were kind and beautiful and from all over the world.

Among the four of us in the crew, one woman was in the midst of learning Hebrew. One was from Russia, but was also fluent in Japanese. The other spoke Spanish, Portuguese, French, and knew some Italian. I was holding strong being fluent in...English. If cat whispering counted, at least I could say I was bilingual. But no.

Excuse me, while I go speak my one and only native language that my Latin teacher in high school described as the sloppiest of all languages.

Delayed departures from LaGuardia are typical, so we didn't have to rush to board. While I was making an announcement, I noticed a gentleman come up to his first class seat and hesitate to lift his suitcase. My co-worker hurried over and asked if he'd like some help - and he seemed relieved. As he got situated in his seat, he offered a preemptive apology for disregarding the seatbelt sign in flight.

He'd just finished a chemo treatment for his stage four leukemia, and he was going to spend the holiday with his family at home. The treatment he just finished was particularly difficult for him. He felt weak and was nauseated.

He asked us if we'd be serving a meal in first class (to help with the nausea), but because of the time of day we were only catered with a snack basket.

Offering our regrets to the man didn't settle well with any of us as an option. We talked to the pilots, and they called the gate agent to let them know the situation. We continued on with our tasks (as boarding is usually busy), and after a while the gate agent appeared on the plane bearing gifts.

She'd gone to one of the restaurants and bought him a bag of food - including some cookies he'd mentioned in passing as his favorite. It was just such a sweet moment, witnessing the beautiful fluidity of what customer service can be for a person.

It might have finished there. We each were just grateful to be able to contribute to his comfort in any way.

During the flight, he walked in to the front galley with his laptop. He'd composed a long e-mail to the head of customer service for my airline. He also included the president of the Atlanta airport. They just happened to be friends of his. He wrote such gracious and kind words of thanks for the way we cared for him.

I read it first by myself while he sat and enjoyed his snacks. Big tears rolled down my cheeks as I realized how selfish I'd been. My job isn't about me. I forget that a lot when passengers are rude, or I'm alone in a hotel room tempted to feel sorry for myself. I'd love to be at home at a big table with my whole family celebrating the holidays. That's not what this season is for me, though. That gentleman reminded me of the unique opportunity I have to love hundreds of strangers and hope that I'm somehow a blessing to even one of them. That maybe one person can step into the airport after the flight and feel like they were cared for well.

That man didn't have to write a letter, but in sharing it he blessed us in an even greater way than we could him. For the thousands of passengers we encounter that maybe don't say hello or appreciate us, that isn't the point. The point is, everyone you meet is in the midst of a different battle. When I'm only focusing on my own, I miss out on helping make someone else's story a little bit better or more comfortable. Even if it's for a couple of hours and all I had to do was hand them a drink and some extra snacks. Sometimes the smallest gesture is what helps us to carry on.

If none of that works, just climb into the overhead bin and sing a song.


How was your Thanksgiving?