Kristi Lagenbacher: Kindness is rewarded at airport during holiday

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It pays to be kind - sometimes literally.

On a recent trip to California our family witnessed firsthand the benefits of showing kindness to others. We arrived at the Charlotte airport on Christmas night and quickly noticed a lot of weary travelers. As we waited to check in for our flight, the passengers in front of us raised their voices and began berating the airline representative. I’m not sure what the issue was, but apparently they were very unhappy about something and were quite vocal about degrading the employee.

I felt sorry for both parties, but more so for the representative who was stuck spending the holiday at work, being yelled at. When it was our turn to check in, I smiled at the gentleman and thanked him for working on Christmas day so that our family had the opportunity to travel on the holiday. He smiled weakly and seemed to still be gathering his composure but made small talk anyway. He noticed from our ID that we are a military family and waived our luggage fees. He apologized for not being able to assign us seats together and suggested we wait for seat assignment at the gate.

We made our way through security, where we witnessed more flaring tempers and rudeness from the people around us who seemed to be very bothered by the whole process. When we arrived at the gate, I approached the ticket counter, only to witness another situation of an irritated passenger. Apparently the woman had requested a window seat, but there were none available. That was a major problem for her, and she loudly complained to the ticket agent about the injustice of the situation. She finished her tirade and stepped away from the counter, though she continued to glare at the agent.

The agent took a breath and asked me how she could help me. Again, I thanked her for working on the holiday so that my family could travel and smiled at her. She nearly broke into tears as she told me that although the day was nearly over, I was the first person to acknowledge that she was working on Christmas day. I was also the first person to actually thank her for doing so. She asked again how she could help me.

I told her that we had not yet been assigned seats, and that I was hoping to be able to sit with my children. She told me there were only middle seats left on the flight, but she would try to seat us in rows near each other. I told her that would be fine, as my kids are old enough to sit by themselves, and it was a direct flight. She then surprised me by smiling widely and telling me that she did have something else available.

She then handed me three tickets all within one row of each other - in first class. She didn’t charge us any extra, and thanked me for understanding that she too would prefer to be with her family on Christmas. It was a wonderful gift from her and taught my children a priceless lesson about the impact we can have on others.

Even if we hadn’t been rewarded for the small gesture of kindness, it was the right thing to do, and we witnessed firsthand how far a little compassion can go. I also felt sorry for the passengers who felt they needed to raise their voices and belittle the employees. I don’t know what was happening in their lives that day, and I think it’s important to remember that sometimes people are dealing with some very difficult issues, such as depression, financial struggles and battles related to their health or someone near to them. The stress may cause them to sound angry or to act out at others.

The Classical Greek philosopher Plato recognized the importance of compassion for others. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle,” Plato is quoted.

It is yet another important lesson to teach our children that we don’t know what struggles people are having and should treat them kindly no matter how they are acting. Adults could learn a lot from that advice as well, especially those who are at the airport.

Kristi Langenbacher is a Coast Guard spouse and writes about military family life.



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