We sat on the runway at LaGuardia for a couple of hours. I didn’t think it would be a big deal. Our connecting flight was listed as DELAYED, so I kicked back with my Kindle and tried not to worry.
Just as the plane finally got cleared for takeoff and we started to taxi, a text message came in.
“Your connecting flight is back on schedule!” the airline was happy to announce.
Good news for everyone who was already at that airport. Bad news for me.
So this is how I found myself in a line stretching dozens deep in a mostly closed airport in one of the Carolinas last week.
In front of me was a couple with a nearly-newborn. That poor baby had just been through the exact same delays I had. I was grumpy, so you can only imagine how this poor kid must have felt. It was almost midnight.
I was punching buttons on my phone and making plans to cover childcare and find a flight for the next day when I noticed a man approaching.
He was discreet and deliberate, soft-spoken. I could barely hear him talking to the couple with the baby, even though they were only a few feet away.
But I did figure out what he was offering.
It seems he had been next in line to talk to the airline so he could get rescheduled and find a place to stay for the night.
He had seen the couple ALL the way at the back of the queue and sneaked his way over for a conversation.
“I am next in line and I want to trade you places,” he said.
I have seen people do nice things for complete strangers before. I like to imagine that most of us would do something similar if given the opportunity.
But what struck me this time was the man’s commitment to the act. It would be easy to offer someone to step in front of you. Most in line would have been fine with just letting the woman and child slide in first.
But this man was looking out for EVERYONE involved. He decided to take the full extent of the delay personally and not push the inconvenience on the others between him and the family in need.
He literally took on all this mom’s immediate burden.
Also – he was SO quiet about it. If I had not been so close, I’d never have seen it happen.
There was no fanfare. There was no boisterous joking or convincing or glad-handing or false humility. Most of the people in that situation with us that night have no idea this even happened.
There was just one man quietly stepping out of his own path to make room for someone else.
I was inspired. It’s one thing to be kind of nice. It’s another thing to be simultaneously selfless and humble.
In a situation that had me in a bad mood, I found a smile on my face.
Flight delays are temporary. Kindness is forever.