Over the last week, I boarded planes from seven different airports in Europe and US. Aiports, interestingly, are a great place to witness kindness. On one flight, the person next to me was an older developmentally challenged man, as his sister patiently took care of all his details with a heart of service. On Guri's flight, she eased the timid-ness of a Mexican teen next to her who had never flown on a plane and was wondering if seat-belts were mandatory, blankets could be taken home, and drinks were free. Another time, a 2-year-old was crying loudly (maybe due to a fear of flying), as his embarrased Dad was trying to calm him; the woman in the adjoining aisle seat spontaneously starts to play with the kid and quiets him. When an airport employee seems to be in a bad mood, some folks will intentionally crack jokes to make 'em smile -- and vice versa. I even hugged a fellow to show my gratitude for his excellent service. :) On several flights, people happily traded their seats so others can be next to their loved ones. Even at baggage claim, when elders struggle to lift their heavy bags, people just naturally offer to lend a hand.
On my flight from out of Paris, the guy sitting next to me was an African American fellow who went by the nickname "Q". He was frequent traveler, a technology consultant, and a self-described type-A planner. After a great conversation, we end up talking about Smile Cards. When he told me he is a "gold club" flyer, I told him that when he gets upgraded to first class next time, perhaps he could trade seats with someone in Economy -- just to make their day. He loved the idea! "Now that I think about it, I also get Admirals Club membership and lounge access -- and I'm allowed to take couple friends. Next time, I'll just invite some strangers with me," he added. More ideas started popping in his head and at the end our flight, he says, "You know, I plan everything from the kind of plane I fly on to the location of my seats to the specific time of travel. But I never could've planned this conversation. No matter how much we plan, I guess we can never trump serendipity." Indeed. :)
Airports and airplanes are interesting because everyone is in a explicit state of transition. Perhaps if we remembered that through all our days, there'd be more kindness in the world. :)