It was my first business trip out of state, my first time traveling with coworkers. It was also the first time I was pregnant.
At only 8 weeks, hardly anyone knew- including my coworkers. The whole thing made me very nervous. I was physically exhausted and battling morning sickness. I was sure none of my clothes would fit. I thought I would be too distracted to perform well at my meetings. And I was convinced my luggage would get lost during our layover, so I stuffed everything I needed into my carryon bag.
Except, when I boarded the flight, my bag wouldn’t fit in the overhead storage compartment. My arms were shaking as I desperately tried to force it inside. It wasn’t working. I was holding up the line. People were starting to grumble behind me. My coworkers were looking at me like I had three heads. Sweat was literally pouring down my back.
This was my worst nightmare come true. On the verge of tears, I sat down in the first available seat, suitcase in my lap. I waved over the closest flight attendant and told him I needed to check my bag because it wouldn’t fit in the overhead bin.
Maybe he could hear the tremor in my voice or see that I was 30 seconds away from having a full blown panic attack, but he smiled warmly, said no problem, and took my bag away.
I was relieved for approximately three minutes until I remembered why I was so insistent on checking my bag in the first place. I was convinced that I’d lose my bag and that I’d be forced to go to my first business conference in leggings and a baggy sweatshirt. Plus, all my pregnancy snacks were in there. What if I starved to death?
I waved the flight attendant back over. He smiled patiently as I voiced my (irrational) fears and asked him to please double check and make sure my bag was going to the correct destination. He told me not to worry, that he would personally check on my bag himself. More than that, he was calm.
He was nonjudgmental. He was kind. He put me at ease.
Throughout the flight he kept coming over to check in and ask how I was doing. He refilled my drink. He gave me an extra bag of peanuts. He showed up for me, in the exact way that I needed.
Had he been rude or short or judgmental, I’m sure the experience would’ve ended in tears. I was so stressed out at that point that a nasty comment would’ve pushed me right over the edge.
But he wasn’t. He was kind. He was funny. He made me feel like a human.
He didn’t know I was on my first business trip or that I was nervous or that I was secretly pregnant and fighting nausea at every turn. He just knew I was a human, clearly struggling, and he offered a hand. He had the power to make or break my flight, and he chose to make it better.
It’s so simple, isn’t it- kindness? Yet we struggle with it so much. We honk our horns in traffic, we roll our eyes at our coworkers, we tap our foot while waiting in the checkout line. We’re all in a hurry. We all have something to do or somewhere to be.
Somewhere along the line, we’ve forgotten each other.
We have the opportunity to be kind every single day. We can choose to show up as our best selves. We can choose to make someone’s experience better. And that doesn’t involve an inordinate amount of money or time. All it means is that we recognize the humanity in someone else. That we honor that spark. That we choose to show up for one another in the simplest ways.
Just for today, try to be a little kinder than necessary. Open doors, cook the meal, let someone go ahead of you, look people in the eye. Choose to add to someone’s experience instead of detract from it. I promise you, this small gesture will not go unnoticed.