Friday, April 13, 2012

Un-bucket List #6 : Fly First-Class

I am not a world traveler. I only need my ten fingers to count how many times I’ve flown in an airplane. It’s not many. But I have flown first-class. It’s something I thought I’d never do. After all, I’m not the type of person to splurge for a first-class ticket. Flying first-class was experience I had because of an act of generosity from a ticket agent at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International airport.

I was with a small group of missionaries returning home after serving an LDS mission in the Amsterdam, The Netherlands mission. I’d served there for a year and half. The young men I traveled with had been away from their homes and families for two years. It had been an inexpressibly incredible experience but we were jet-lagged and tired and still hours from home with a layover in St. Paul. We wandered aimlessly during our layover and had to remember that America has sales tax when we bought candy and chewing gum at the airport store. As a group, we sort of huddled together and said goodbye to some who were departing on other flights. We weren’t a large group and I remember being sort of quiet as we reflected on what we left behind and what our futures might hold. We weren’t particularly observant to what was going on around us, and so we were surprised when we went to board the plane on our last leg to Salt Lake City, Utah that all of our tickets had been upgraded to first-class.

The man behind the ticket counter simply handed us our tickets and wished us a good flight.

It took us some time to figure it out. We finally concluded, both from his action and the white shirt he wore under his uniform, that he shared our faith. In a spirit of generosity and as a sign of respect for the work we’d been in engaged in, this man had given us a gift: A first-class ticket home.

It wasn’t so much the plush seats or the upgraded food and drinks that made the flight home something special. I couldn’t stop thinking about the man and what he’d done. The flight we were on was sparsely occupied and so first-class seats must have been available. As a ticket agent, I imagine that the man upgraded tickets for returning missionaries whenever he could. I thought about the gesture. How generous, how simple, how kind and sort of reverent it was. How we hadn’t thanked him. I hope he knew, though, what it meant. Not to fly-first class, but to be thought of as someone who deserved to.

When we landed, we were first: first to stand, first to exit, and first to run to our waiting families.

Thank you, ticket man in Minnesota.


gaylene said...

This was touching. Thanks for sharing it!

Rob and Jill said...

I must have had the same ticket agent. He upgraded me for my last leg home too. I got to talk to him though. He said, "Headed home?! It's the longest flight of your life." He indicated that he had taken that same long flight home from his mission. He made sure I was on the side of the plane where I could see the temple as we approached the airport.
The funny thing is: my flight landed half an hour early. I was panicked that my family wouldn't be there yet (I knew they'd be lucky to be running down the corridor to greet me- if my flight landed on time). I didn't want to be first to exit, so I let almost everyone exit before me. I put on my klompen, and klomped off the plane. No family! They showed up 10 minutes later.
Thanks for the memory. I got to thank that kind man. :)

Mer said...

I love your posts - it reminds me to be more grateful for the little things I don't consider that amazing. (But I would definitely consider flying 1st class amazing!)

Anneke said...

Hi. I haven't visited your blog FOREVER, but instead of folding laundry today, I'm checking up. :) This post really got me - I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes. Thank you.
I hope all is well for you and your family.

Anonymous said...

I just had chills reading that. You're an excellent writer but that one had heart oozing from it. (Sigh).