Repost from Thomascmurray.com
This post is dedicated to my new friend, Scott. Thank you, Scott, for challenging me to be a better educator, and more importantly, a better person.
Recently, I had an experience that I can’t stop thinking about. The more I reflect on that afternoon, the more I realize it’s likely an experience that I’ll never forget. Like many other days, I was on the go… running, running, running. Part of my world entails spending countless nights away from home, in hotels scattered around the country, while flying from place to place. That afternoon was similar to so many that I’ve had.
After rushing back to the San Diego airport, I dropped my rental car off, and hopped on the shuttle bus. The wrong shuttle bus, actually. Being at airports non-stop doesn’t prevent me from making dumb mistakes at them. Just before the driver pulled away, I grabbed my stuff, hopped off and ran to the other shuttle – this time the right one. As we pulled towards the airport, I did what I’ve done hundreds of times; I looked down at my phone, made sure I was checked in, looked at my gate, and figured out how much time I had until I boarded. A few minutes later, our crowded bus full of travelers was dropped off in what seemed to be complete chaos.
I moved through the large crowd and followed signs to Terminal 2. Upon getting there, I looked around and saw all of the airlines for my terminal, except for the one I was taking – American. Taking an incredible amount of flights each year, I’m completely comfortable in airports, but for a few moments in this one, I felt alone and lost. I looked around and finally asked someone for help. An older gentleman pointed me towards the opposite end and said, “Didn’t you see it? It’s on the other side. You have to go all the way back down there.” I thanked him and went on my way, walking quickly back through baggage claim and again through the masses of people towards the other side of the building.
About halfway through the crowd, I noticed a man about my age that I was walking towards. I could tell he seemed a bit lost and appeared to be looking for someone or something. He was holding a cane and was wearing unique glasses. I remember thinking to myself that he was probably trying to locate his bag. I also thought about how challenging that must be if he was alone and was in fact blind like I had assumed.
I kept walking….and eventually, I walked right by him, glancing back down at my phone.
Consumed with my own craziness, all that was on my plate, the calls I had to make, and the work I had to get done, I continued walking towards the security checkpoint. At one point, I turned back to glance at the man that had caught my attention, and noticed that he continued to stand alone. It was clear he felt lost – just as I had a few minutes prior on the other side of the terminal.
…and I started to feel sick to my stomach.
A few hours before, I had been blessed with an opportunity to encourage almost 1,000 educators who give their all for kids every day – at a Southern California opening day. In part of my talk that morning, I was challenging them on building relationships and the responsibility of building the culture in their schools. I was pushing how even the smallest interaction can make someone’s day and be an encouragement; how showing someone you care and that they matter – can be life changing.
…and I started to feel like a complete hypocrite. Here I had just been challenging others to make every interaction count, and there I had walked right past someone in need.
So I humbly listened to that little voice inside my head and being disappointed in myself… I turned around.
I hustled back over to the man who was still standing there, looking around and it reminded me of how I had felt only moments before; only I had been able to see where I was. I walked up to him and simply said, “Hi, my name is Tom. You look like you need some help. Can I help you with something?”
“I’m not sure where I am,” were his first words to me. I asked him which airline he had just flown and if he was trying to get his bag.
“I can’t remember which one it was,” was his response. I started to realize he needed a bit more help than which direction to head or how to find his bag. I looked around and saw an information desk over by