Before I start with this story, I want to tell you it’s that time of year, again. I’m riding, for the fifth year in a row, in the Tour de Cure of Northern VA. This is a fundraiser dedicated to funding the discovery of a cure for Diabetes, a disease that affects nearly every family in America in some way or another. If you’d like to read my story and, if you’re so inclined, make a donation just click this link. Much obliged!
I haven’t been inspired to write very much lately; politics have been dominating the headlines and the news cycle and I just find it so draining, so exhausting, and frankly demoralizing. There is rarely anything good to say. I actually began several posts but gave up because they were too negative and cynical, which is my go-to mindset when things begin to suck.
Then I experienced the story I’m about to tell you. It had a profound effect on my day and I’m thinking that it may have the same effect on the rest of my life.
The Story - Tampa FL Airport
I travel a great deal in my job. I consider myself to be a decent traveler, able to manage the difficulties associated with it, generally with a smile. Sometimes I see things that make me shake my head. This time it was really something different.
I arrived at the airport about ninety minutes before my flight on a shuttle provided by my company. There were about a dozen of us on the same bus. I pushed through the doors and headed to the ticket check in counter for American and, since I knew I’d gotten an upgrade, headed to the First Class line. (This also serves the Special Needs/purchase tickets group.)
A man was speaking to a ticket agent in very broken English. He had apparently just purchased a ticket to Cairo Egypt,
paying in cash, and was now trying to check
his two large suitcases. Both of them were over the weight limit and, once that
was explained to him and how much extra it would cost, he began removing items
and making quite a pile on the floor; he’d evidently spent all his money on the
ticket home and had no more money. The gate agent asked what he was going to do
with those and he said he would throw them away since he had no more money left
to pay and no other way to get them home.
The pile of items would have easily filled a normal size suitcase. What was interesting about them, though, was that they were all brand new. Pants, shirts, shoes and all with the tags still on them. A bag from JC Penney, another from Target also filled the pile. His face showed forlorn resignation, and despair, as he continued to remove items.
Standing in line in front of me was a man in his fifties, dressed in casual clothes and wearing a baseball cap. Watching what was happening, he murmured something about that ‘just not being right’ and then wandered forward and stopped in front of the gate agent and inquired how much the cost was for the man to check his bags.
The man reached into his pocket and took out his wallet, thumbed through it, and removed a $100 bill. He dropped it on the counter and said, “Please check the man’s bags to wherever he is going.”
Once she realized that this man was going to pay the fee, she called out to the Egyptian man to stop emptying his suitcases and re-pack them. The man didn’t understand what she was telling him until finally, she managed to explain that this man standing here had paid for his bags to fly with him. Ballcap smiled and nodded. The Egyptian man’s face went from dismal to sheer joy in a millisecond. He stepped toward his benefactor and shook his hand with a fervor one almost never sees anymore. He was grinning from ear to ear and thanking the man over and over again.
Ballcap then said, “Let me help you get these back in your bag.” The two men crouched down together and repacked the two suitcases. The ticket agent processed the transaction and things began moving forward, again.
Another agent appeared and motioned to me to come forward so I could check in and check my own bag. As I grabbed my ticket and headed off to the gate, the two men were shaking hands again, both with big smiles.
After getting through security, I grabbed a cup of coffee and waited for my flight and thought briefly about what I’d witnessed. It all happened so quickly that I wasn’t sure exactly what I’d seen. Although I didn't know it, clarity was coming to me soon, however.
The flight boarded and departed on time. Once we reached 10,000 feet, I reached into the overhead to retrieve my computer to do some work. As I was sitting back down, I realized the man with the ballcap was seated across the aisle from me. I wanted to ask him what happened but didn’t know how to approach him about it. Plus, he was engaged in conversation with the woman seated next to him.
I worked for as long as the on-board wifi was working and then shut down and stowed my laptop, in preparation for landing. I finished reading the news as we landed and then taxied to the gate. Our flight was early arriving to Charlotte and we had to wait for a few minutes before going to a gate. Once we got there, there was a further wait for a ground crew. Since the seatbelt light had gone off and we were all standing with our bags, waiting to exit, the man with the ballcap was standing only a foot or so away. We made eye contact after the flight attendant made a comment to both of us.
I said, “Excuse me, I saw what you did back at the ticket counter for that man. Did you know him?”
He shook his head, no, and smiled again.
I said, “That is the nicest thing I’ve ever seen anyone do for a stranger.”
He smiled again, paused, looked me in the eye, and said, “We’re only strangers until we meet others. I’ve been incredibly blessed throughout my life and I have enough. When I see someone with a need, I try to help out. ”
I said, “Well, you certainly made that man’s day! That’s a terrific way to live. Thank you!”
Just then, the flight attendant motioned to us that we could exit. I turned to the man and wished him a good day and safe journeys. Then I headed up the jetway.
“We’re only strangers until we meet.”
“I have enough.”
I kept thinking about what the man had said. I kept seeing what happened at the ticket counter and the relieved and excited smile on the Egyptian man’s face when he realized that someone had come to his rescue.
At a time when so much of the world is in turmoil, when countries are being torn apart, when people are being tortured, executed, slaughtered, frequently in the name of a “religion” that really doesn’t stand for any of that activity; when politicians in our country call for a lockdown to our borders in an effort to stop anyone who identifies as a Muslim because “they’re violent”, a single act such as this just flies in the face of all that is wrong with the world.
A man from Egypt, (probably a Muslim as they make up 88% of the population) is trying to get home with things he purchased in this country, and is unable to do so because he doesn’t have $100 more, a not insignificant sum. A man from America (maybe a Christian but perhaps not) sees his need as a fellow human being and fills it for no other reason than he “has enough” himself so, he’ll help others when he can.
This is making me look at myself differently. Am I doing enough to help my fellow man? Do I have enough?
I’m not going to start handing out $100 bills. I am going to start looking for ways to support more people, even if it’s just an encouraging word, a gesture, a compliment, perhaps some money or something that fills a material need.
If we all did that, just one more time per day than we do currently, can you imagine all of the good in the world? Evil wouldn’t stand a chance.
Will you join me?
Start by sharing this story. Thanks!