September 1, 2009

Travel Tricks 5: Pay It Forward

In my previous travel post, I told a story of the kindness of a stranger to me in my time of need during travel. This time I would like to share opportunities to pay forward kindness when traveling. I guess I have one of those faces that say "I can help." Why? I often seem to get people to come up to me at airports for directions or help finding a gate, baggage claim, shuttle, train, or ticket counter. I’ve also helped people whose language I did not know find their way even though we had difficulty communicating. How? I was able to help them by taking them to the gate on their ticket, to the airport’s ambassador station, or by using my cell phone to dial an 800 number printed on their itinerary to find someone who could help them.

The time I remember being the most help and where gratitude was greatly expressed was to an elderly man who never flew before. He was traveling alone from a small Texas town to visit his son in New York City. We were experiencing weather delays from the small town to his connecting flight in Dallas. He was concerned about what to do when he reached Dallas. I assured him he did not need to worry about his luggage only getting to his assigned flight numbers. If he had left the small town on time, he would have a layover at DFW airport which would allow him to reach his gate. DFW airport was my final destination so I offered to help him get from there and on his way to NYC. He did not have a cell phone or know how to use one, so I dialed his son and gave him the phone when it started ringing. He told his son of the delay. When we got to DFW he had missed his original connecting flight of course. However, I made sure he was set-up for the next flight to NYC that same day before leaving him with an airline attendant. He seemed much more relaxed when waiting for his new departure time.

Helping people get around strange airports is not the only way to share kindness. I’ve also met mothers who had crying kids that wanted a snack and starving students who did not have money with them for food. I posted about my personal
food issues when traveling and mentioned I started carrying 2 protein or cereal bars to make sure I never go hungry. Since I started this practice, I always seem to meet someone who needs the nutritional pick-me-up more than I do. So now I am always prepared with 3 or more bars stuffed inside my carry-on bag.

It may not seem like much, but another way to help others is to give a smile to someone who looks upset. You never know what your smile can do for others. It may be the happiest point of their otherwise hectic and frustrating day. What have you done lately to improve another person’s day?

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