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.