It could have been different...

The young woman in row 33, just ahead of me on my flight to Newark, had a really tight connection. The flight attendant looked at her tickets and shook her head. “That’s crazy,” she said. “They never should have booked that connection for you.”

But that’s the connection she had. 

The traveler asked if there was any way she could get off the plane first, to increase her chances of success. The flight attendant didn’t sound hopeful, but said she’d ask for an announcement to be made.

A brief announcement did come on shortly after we landed, something about a passenger who had a tight connection, and could we please stay seated an extra minute if we weren’t also in a hurry. But by the time we had taxied to the gate, it was all but forgotten. The aisles got crowded as soon as the fasten seatbelt sign was turned off, and my traveling neighbor was stuck in the rear of the plane, just as she’d feared. Deeply disappointed, she slumped down in her seat, and I was left pondering how things could have been different.

In 20/20 hindsight, not only was the announcement made too early, but it also didn’t give us a sense of the person we were being asked to help. We had no name, no face, no row number, even -- she was just some fellow passenger we didn't recognize, easy to overlook and forget about.

What if, instead, we had been told that Jane Smith in row 33 was in a real bind and needed our help to catch her flight home to Denver? What if Jane had been invited to stand up and wave, so we knew who we’d be helping? What if the announcing flight attendant reassured her, on behalf of the whole plane: “Don’t worry, Jane. We’ve got your back. You’re going to be the first one off this plane.”

In this alternate scenario, I picture her hurrying down the aisle with a big smile, fueled by the cheers and support of rows of strangers. Even if she didn't catch her next flight, her day would have been made. And it would have been memorable and inspiring for the rest of us too.

When we take the time to remember that other people are human beings, just like us, it is so much easier to be kind. (It's one of the reasons I like stories like this one.) And being kind feels so good.

In the year ahead, I hope you will feel connected to the people in your world, whoever they are, and find many opportunities to give and receive love in ways that feel good to you.  Big or small, "successful” or not, it doesn’t even matter. What matters is that you try.