“All she had to say was…..’she’s twenty’…….and my heart was broken”.
A few days ago I stood like many other days at the counter. The lines had calmed down, nobody was waiting. I was looking down at my screen when a women approached. Our normal response is to spew out sometimes robotic words…”Did someone call you up? You have a boarding pass?” …but before I could utter a single word she simply said in a soft voice…
“Can you help me…please?”
As soon as she spoke I looked up at her tears and immediately stared into a face of pain. I let her continue and only got these very basic facts. She was flying alone to Tel Aviv to rush to her daughter’s side who was intensive care. Her reason for approaching me instead of using the kiosk was pretty simple…”I’m too distraught to concentrate”.
My heart softened. I know I was born to comfort people. My nature and that is when I am called upon in time of need, I respond with great compassion. I can be the most mixed up and confused soul when confronted with my own desires and needs but when someone needs me – I become another person. I gave this woman my full attention and checked her in as quickly and quietly as possible – took her bag – tried to calm her.
The thing I chose to tell her was what she needed and that was……”You are doing the most you can, right here, right now; the distance you have no control over.” She nodded and became quiet for just a few seconds.
The last thing I did was give her a few instructions…tell her I was so sorry to hear this story…then she uttered the thing that shook my soul. “She’s twenty.”
Just typing that out makes me pause …once more.
It was as if someone was guiding her to tell me that fact. Then my own eyes filled with tears and I had a hard time speaking.
All I could say was……”my daughter is also…twenty”. In the instant I uttered those words..my mind flashed a hundred frames per second of my own daughter’s struggle, and the deep pain from it over the last year, all the yet unresolved problems, pain and deep love I have for my own child. And it wasn’t simply because I could now relate to her, but it was the humbling way this situation made me ashamed. There is always someone else…that is in worse trouble than you are –
So just before I sent her to her gate, I asked if I could walk around in front of the counter to her in which she sadly nodded in an appreciative way.
I put my arms around her and can’t even remember what I said….some lame words about..may I give you some support from the airline you are traveling with today…something an ad writer would think too schmaltzy.
I do remember uttering……”I am so sorry……..” in which the poor woman sobbed on my shoulder.
Her tears literally made my shoulder wet for an hour. I have never been so moved.
The thought of her remained the entire day….so I made the Photoshop creation above in memory of her.
I will always wonder…..what the outcome was.
Steve Stranz / August 24, 2011 at 1:46 pm
Not only were you born to comfort people but also to write about very moving pieces of your life.
Thanks for sharing and also kudos’ on the photoshop piece.
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