Random acts of kindness Sunday

I have been the recipient of a couple of random acts of kindness. Given how unappreciative I can sometimes be of life in general, I wanted to devote this Sunday to a pair of people who I may never see again, yet who I will never forget.

Last weekend I was scheduled to take a night flight from Utah back home to Los Angeles. It was Sunday, and Sundays in Salt Lake City are fairly quiet. I went to the airport, and was confirmed on the 3pm flight rather than the 10pm flight.

Normally this would be great except that my 10pm seat was in first class. 3pm provided no guarantees. This is not about being a prima donna. First class sometimes has plugs below the seats. I can get work done on my computer without draining the battery. I can recharge my cellphone. Most importantly, first class allows me to check in three bags free instead of two. This is vital when determining how many books I can bring with me when I do a speaking engagement or trade show.

The upgrade did not come through, but I was fine with it. It is not like I was bumped from first. I could have stayed at the airport another 7 hours. I made the sensible decision (law of averages and all). When I got to my seat somebody else was sitting in it. Again, I was not angry. People make mistakes, and for all I knew the mistake could have been mine. This young person (about 24) asked if they were sitting in my seat, and I confirmed this in a pleasant manner.

Out of nowhere this young man asks “How would you like my seat in first class?”

My jaw dropped, but they were serious.

The young man wanted to sit next to his sister. He got the upgrade. She did not.

I accepted his ticket, and quickly moved into first class. While I was sitting there I thought about how many siblings loathe each other. I would have let my sibling sit on the outside wing or in the lavatory for a first class ticket. This young man was willing to give up the comforts of first class just to sit next to his sibling. Family was more important than money.

Realizing this, I noticed that these were not wealthy individuals. Most people in their twenties are struggling. So I went back to his seat, and asked if they wanted me to buy them drinks. They said that they wanted drinks on the plane, but that they were too expensive. I gave them enough money. They had their drinks. The young man was surprised, but as much as that money meant a lot to him, sitting in first class and getting down to business meant something to me.

A week later I had already lost perspective. This past Friday I was having trouble with a rental car. I had left my GPS tracker at the hotel. I am terrible with directions, and although I knew my Dallas hotel was only 3 miles from airport, that was far enough away for me to screw it up.

Nobody at the rental car company could adequately explain to me how to get to my hotel. I was getting frustrated. When I tried to leave the rental car center, the gate would not work. Naturally I got far more upset than I should have. When I am lost, it brings out the worst in me.

Then a man came over to me and saw my concern. He was very tall, well over six feet, less than seven. He was from Senegal, and let me know that everything would be ok. He took the time to explain to me where to go in a clear manner, He actually did a lot more than that. To say he went above and beyond would be an understatement.

I asked for permission to contact his boss at the rental car company so I could pay him a compliment. He stunned me by saying that he did not even work for the rental car company. He worked at the airport for a different company but had nothing to do with the rental car company!

In the course of our brief conversation he told me that he has seven children back in Senegal. He is a devout Muslim, and that means he is obligated to help people in need. He loves America because anybody can make it here. He worked at a rental car company for 15 years, and then was laid off. After 10 months, he found work and still hates to see others hurting.

I told him that many people in America live well but do not appreciate it. They take it for granted. At that moment I was talking about myself. I offered him a small amount of money for his troubles and was glad he accepted it.

What does one say about a man like this? I think there is a special place in heaven for people who take joy in doing good deeds for the sake of the deeds themselves. This guy was as altruistic as it gets, because any ulterior motive he had was lost on me.

Thanks to this man, I made it to where I was going and had a pleasant evening. All I can say is I hope God looks after him and his seven children back in Senegal.

I need to do a much better job of bringing out my better nature. It does exist, but sometimes gets lost in a fog of worry and concern. That is an explanation, not an excuse.

For now, I just want to thank the two people who allowed acts of random kindness to be directed toward me.

On this Sunday, I hope many people are engaging in random acts of kindness. I will add myself to the list. It really does benefit the giver and receiver.


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