Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
- Leo Buscaglia

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Turning a Delay Into An Opportunity

     As most readers know, my acts of kindness this year have varied in so many different ways.  While some are planned, others are a response to a situation that unfolds.  My flight home from Cleveland presented me with one of those opportunities.
     This is a story of one of those frustrating flight delays that seem to happen too often.  The inbound plane from Philly had just arrived and unloaded and we were about to begin the boarding process when the gate attendants announced that the plane had had a "bird strike" and that it had to be evaluated by maintenance before we'd be able to board, and ultimately, take off.  They reported that maintenance should be there in 15-20 minutes and then we'd get another update.
     Well, 45 minutes later they announced that the maintenance person was coming from Akron Ohio and would be there in about 30-40 more minutes.  At the same time, the gate attendants were busily going through the entire passenger list to rebook those people who had connections that would now be missed.  As you can imagine, people were pretty frustrated, myself included.
     Well, about an hour later, they announced that this same maintenance person was reportedly 20 minutes away still!  The remaining passengers let out a collective groan, expressing more pent-up frustration.  I went through my own range of emotions at the delay, at times angry at the multiple incorrect reports we were given, and at other times trying to keep it all in perspective and realize it's not that big a deal and at least I had no connections to make or commitments to meet.  I just wanted to get home.
     As you can imagine, the gate attendants were pretty fried.  They had been doing the best they could, working non-stop, frequently forced to share bad news that was out of their control.  Seeing the opportunity, I went to a nearby vendor and bought three bottles of cold water and delivered them to the three exhausted attendants.  They were in total shock.  They said it's exactly what they needed at that moment and one said it was the nicest thing anyone had done for them.  
     Earlier in the day, I had gone to Bruegger's and got a fresh dozen of my favorite bagels to bring home.  I decided it might be nice to share them with others who might enjoy them, so I walked around and offered a bagel to anyone who wanted one.  While no one actually took me up on the offer, they clearly appreciated it nonetheless.  
     It's interesting how, when faced with a difficult situation, if we focus our attention on how we can help others rather than on our own misery, we can significantly change the complexion of the event and how it affects us.  A lesson I need to try to remember in the future . . . 

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