It happened in the Atlanta airport—one of the busiest on the planet. I was sitting in the Delta gate area waiting to board my flight. A slightly stooped Asian woman with a droid-like expression and robotic movement was making her way through the waiting areas cleaning up trash left by passengers. She would have been one of those invisible and taken-for-granted maintenance people who serve in airports, hospitals, and office buildings except for an unexpected occurrence.
A young man less than half her age got up from his seat, walked over to her and warmly thanked her for work. Then he put a five dollar bill in her hand and said, “This is my tip for what you do that helps all of us.” She lit up the gate area with her Steinway smile as she thanked him. As if awakened from a long nap, her gait was now faster, her expression focused and her manner livelier.
When I arrived at the DFW airport and was leaving the secured area right beside TSA security check area, I witnessed a passenger who had just come through the scanner and was carrying his shoes stop and say to a nearby TSA agent, “I appreciate the important work you all do.” Instantly, another somber countenance was transformed into a mile-wide smile. “Sir,” she told the passenger, “You just made my week—and, it’s been a long one!”
I thought of the connection of match to candle that turns dark into light. It seems more than a random of act of kindness. It was a special connection that not only warmed the silent servant; it created in everyone who witnessed the generous act a feeling of community. Secondary service can be as important to those in earshot or line of sight as that delivered directly to the recipient. What can you do to awaken the undervalued and unappreciated who serve you every day?
Photo Credit: Flickr via Adam