I remember moving toward the counter in a daze. Surrounded by the noise and elbows and roller bags of the Southwest ticket counter at Midway, I felt out of body, suspended above the chaos. I think it was a Sunday.
A warm smile greeted me as I slid my paper confirmation printout toward the woman at the counter. Her smile turned a bit as she looked over my reservation: “Your flight was on Wednesday,” she said, looking confused but not unkind.
“I know,” I said as the tears started falling. I don’t remember what I said or how I explained my circumstances, but I remember offering no excuse for the fact that I never called to change the reservation. I stood there in front of her, uncertain and uncaring, even, of whether or how I could find a plane to take me home.
She started piling Kleenex on the counter in front of me. Suddenly she was a woman filled with compassion, no longer a chaos-managing airline employee. I don’t think I even got through much of my story, but she did not need much after “shot and killed” and “funeral” for her heart to swell with kindness and care.
Kleenex, a new flight reservation and a pile of candy were all she could offer and she offered them freely. As I gathered these lifelines, she touched my hand and told me that she was sorry.
She was my angel that afternoon. I never knew her name and I don’t know her story but she touched me in my grief and acted with mercy. Reading this article this morning reminded me of her. Thanks, Tim.