Meet our friend Amy, wife, mom, teacher and Troop Leader extraordinaire. Two weeks ago she traveled to New York City for some friendly rest and relaxation, which was all good right up until it was time to fly home. Then the travel gods, who call JFK their second home, frowned.
So, imagine you were boarded onto your flight, all settled in. And then the pilots tell you that your plane needs some more fuel due to bad weather. And then a bit later, they tell you the weather is too bad and the flight is cancelled. Pick up your baggage at the carousel—outside of security. And by the way, the next flight is tomorrow morning and there’s a limited number of hotel rooms, so only families traveling with kids and those who need special assistance will get them. Everyone else will sleep on the floor. By the ticket counters. Outside security and the food court and the airline lounges and the nice comfy bench seats in Terminal 5.
“Holy Mother!” I texted her. “Can’t you check your bag for the morning flight and go through security???”
“Well” she texted back, “they’ll do that, for a $120 fee.”
Are you kidding me? At this point, I would have been the large and loud lady at the ticket counter, running my mouth on the (800) number while blowing up the AA Facebook and Twitter on my iPad. And I would have missed what happened next in my selfish, self-righteous anger.
But not Miss Amy.
Today I felt I had a choice to make. I could be upset at my situation and go into myself (which most of us prefer), or I could “make friends wherever I go”.
I chose to make friends.
I happened to be in New York with my best friend for a week get-a-way. Jennifer is a historian so we hit all the museums we could, checked Woodstock and Cooperstown off the bucket list and ate our way through the City. It was a wonderful week.
On the day of our departure, Jennifer received a text from her airline that her flight was cancelled due to weather. So I called my airline to see if we were on schedule and was relieved to hear that we were.
At first, all was well. I boarded my flight and I started chatting with my seatmates, a couple from southern Australia. They were headed to the “Big Easy” and they asked if I had been. My eyes lit up like Christmas because New Orleans is one of my favorite destinations. I told them all of my favorite places.. Then they said they were headed to San Francisco after that. Ironically I attended college near there and helped again with recommendations. We laughed that I was their personal trip advisor. We discussed dogs, kids, careers, all before we had even taxied to the runway.
Unfortunately the weather started to change and the pilot informed us that we didn’t have enough fuel in the tank. We had to return to the gate to add fuel for a different flight plan and then we would be off.
In our time parked at the gate I went to the bathroom and saw a beautiful young girl who reminded me of my daughter, Alyson. I smiled and thought to myself how much I missed my girls. Then all around me, texts alerts started binging. You guessed it: the pilot said that our flight was cancelled. “Sorry but it is what it is.”
All the typical reactions happened, but somehow I was calm. I was stuck in the back of the plane, and waited while others were grabbing their luggage and deplaning. I passed the little girl, whose mom was speaking in another language. I smiled again, grabbed my stuff and headed out.
At the baggage claim, a woman asked me in very broken English “What happen?” She had two kids and herself. I tried to explain in English, but her face was confused. As we waited for our luggage, I tried to download a language app she beat me to it. She asked through her app “Where do I sleep tonight if no flights?”
I determined at that point I was going to help. I needed to help. My heart made a burst that said Remember the time that you were lost in Paris and people were nice to you? Be that person today for someone else. Help a family get to where they need to be. Strive to show some grace and love in New York. I promised to stay with her. We introduced ourselves, which was when I realized that this was the mom with the Aly look-alike, who I hadn’t noticed before because she was asleep in the stroller.
We went through the whole voucher and boarding pass process together, passing her phone back and forth, using the app to translate. By the end, I was confident that she knew what she needed to do and she and her kids would be ok. When it was all over, she handed me her card and said through the translation app that I saved her and her kids. She would have been lost. She gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek before she and the kids left in a taxi to their hotel.
After they left, and I finally got settled on the marble floor. I thought to myself, what a great way to show compassion. This mom was lost without someone to assist her. Life at the airport—on the outside of security and the food court—would have been miserable. She would not have known which questions to ask or how to navigate the airport/airline system without some help.
And it was easy. It just takes a minute to see someone needs help. It takes courage to ask for help, but it also takes courage to “make friends” and help those in need. I know that God used me—put on that plane specifically to help Julia and her family.
What was the cost? Time I would have spent anyway. What was the reward? Relief in the eyes of Julia and her two kids. It’s a good reminder that we have to take a moment outside of our own life and see the ones around us.