Help Yourself by Helping Another – By Christine Callahan-Oke

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” ~ Dalai Lama

I love that quote. I agree with it wholeheartedly – at least in theory – but to be honest I sometimes rush around too much to notice when a bit of extra kindness is needed.

Thankfully I woke up to this fact not too long ago.

In August my husband and I went to eastern Canada to celebrate our 20th anniversary. It was amazing to spend quality time together and actually have complete conversations.  (We have two young boys at home, so an uninterrupted conversation – or even an uninterrupted sentence – can be pretty rare).

The flight home was not quite as enjoyable, though. There was nasty turbulence for close to an hour, and I was feeling really green by the end of the trip.  So we were grateful to land and get our luggage, and couldn’t wait to see our boys the following morning.

It was around 10pm, and we stopped to check on something before leaving the airport.  I was tired and still felt nauseous, so was glad to sit for a minute.

Then we were given a gift.  The chance to help someone.

While we were sitting there I noticed an airport worker pushing an elderly woman in a wheelchair to an area near us.  The woman was apologizing to the man, and seemed a bit confused.  The man appeared to be barely tolerating her, getting visibly annoyed.

She said, “I’m sorry.  I don’t remember where I’m supposed to be going.”

“Ma’am, please look in your belongings again for an address.  I have to go in a minute and help with another plane.”

The two continued their discussion for a minute and the situation escalated.  The man became increasingly condescending.

Now normally we would have walked by upon hearing a partial conversation between two strangers in an airport, but in this case something stopped me and signaled that we needed to help.

I forgot my churning stomach, looked at my husband and we stepped into the situation.  We asked if we could help, and assured the man we’d assist the woman.  He was relieved and left.

It turned out that the woman, Thelma, was in her late eighties and had traveled to Toronto for her sister’s funeral which was in a city an hour from the airport.  She knew her niece’s phone number but hadn’t been able to reach her.  Her niece had told her she’d be picked up by a relative.  It was getting late and Thelma had already been waiting an hour.

Given the fact that Thelma had just lost her last sibling and was all alone in a strange airport at night, she was remarkably calm.  She was amazing.  We wanted to help, but wondered what we could do aside from staying there with her.  We tried calling her niece, but no luck.

It turned out that there was a visitation that evening at the funeral home.  Thelma didn’t know the name of the funeral home, so we did a search for her sister’s memorial online and found it! I was so grateful for technology in that moment.

So I called the funeral home and was able to connect with Thelma’s niece.  It turns out that someone was at the airport waiting for her, but hadn’t found her yet.  So I explained where we were located.  Thelma’s niece got in touch with the man who had come to pick her up, and we waited on the line until he reached our location.

Thelma hugged us and thanked us several times before we were on our way.

I can’t tell you how grateful I was to be at the airport that evening.  By simply stopping and spending a small amount of time with Thelma, we were able to give her a bit of reassurance and comfort at a difficult time in her life.  And in helping her, we felt amazing.

That experience was a reminder to me that we need to slow down, get out of our own heads and situations every now and then, and see how we can help those around us.  We never know just how much a small act of kindness may mean to someone.  And in turn, how much it means to us.

Here’s a great video clip from Live Vest Inside called Kindness Boomerang.  It’s a wonderful illustration of the ripple effect of small acts of kindness.  Enjoy!

Have you ever been caught off guard with the opportunity to help someone?  And how did you feel afterwards?