It was a busy day for my colleague, Associate Publisher Fawn Lopez, and me. We had taken an early morning flight from Chicago to Kansas City, Mo., to meet with some clients and things had gone well. Fawn wanted to stay a few extra hours in Kansas City to visit with her parents, so I headed to the airport for the return flight to Chicago.
After checking in and passing through security, I seated myself in the waiting lounge until my flight's departure was announced. It was scheduled to leave at 5 p.m., but that wasn't the way it turned out. There were air traffic delays at O'Hare International Airport, which is not unusual at one of the nation's busiest airports. The first delay was only about an hour, but that hour turned into three after two additional delays were announced.
Many of the passengers scheduled to fly on the delayed flight were getting edgy. Some folks got discouraged and checked into a hotel close to the airport, planning to take an early flight the next morning. Most hung in there, hoping against hope to get home or make their necessary connections.
This particular day I was lucky enough to end up with the most good-humored group of people you could hope to meet in such circumstances. Before long we were all on a first-name basis and were trading stories about business travel and our families.
Just when some of us were starting to wonder whether we'd ever get back to Chicago, there was some sort of commotion in the nearby security line. Nothing major, just a couple of raised voices followed by an announcement asking if any of us had picked up or found a wallet. None of us responded because we were too involved in our own concerns.
I noticed a young man talking to some police officers. The man was quite agitated but was keeping his emotions pretty well under control. The conversation went on for some time and then the police disappeared.
A few minutes later the young man sat down in our midst and, of course, we all wanted to know what happened. He told us that while passing through airport security his wallet disappeared and he simply couldn't understand why that would happen. He was quite despondent about the whole matter and we all sympathized with his plight. Unfortunately, I myself have lost all kinds of things-glasses, coats, a cell phone and even a wallet while traveling.
It has happened to all of us because we get so preoccupied with other matters that we forget to check our personal items. It's part of being a business traveler and it's not fun, so we could all identify with the gentleman who was suddenly without cash, his driver's license, credit cards and much more.
He told us he was headed to Sunnyvale, Calif., to visit friends and didn't know what he was going to do without his wallet or money.
A young lady had been seated next to the gentleman as he recited his plight. As the man finished his story, I watched her open her purse, pull out her wallet and take out some currency and try to hand it to the gentleman. "Please take this," she said. "I'm sorry, it's all I have. I wish I had more to give you." The man declined and she offered him the money a second time. He refused again, simply saying, "No, thank you. I'll be fine."
I was moved by this young woman's actions and told her that her offer was one of the kindest things I had ever seen. She sheepishly laughed it off. She acted as though her behavior was nothing special.
What a wonderful gesture by that young lady. What an outstanding thing to do in this increasingly paranoid and suspicious world where no one seems to trust anyone and manners and etiquette seem to be things of the past. There, right before me, stood a young lady who was willing to trust and willing to give, to help. It reminded me that there are still people who believe in others and are willing to go out of their way to help someone in need.
That young lady was an example to all of us. We all know how we should behave, but sometimes because of time constraints or pressure we forget that there are people all around us who need our generosity and good will. It is the American way and has been since our birth as a nation. Americans are the most generous people in the world and the young lady demonstrated once again what a simple act of kindness means.
I was familiar with some of the executives of the company this young woman worked for and I wanted to make sure they knew how lucky they are to employ someone like her.
The so-called "little people" of any organization make the difference between success and failure because they are the ones in the trenches and on the front lines. I contacted the company's chairman and another senior executive to congratulate them on having such a kind and amazing employee. She is an inspiration to us all.
You're the best, Beth,