June 8, 2015. During a torrential downpour, my husband left for the airport. It was an unscheduled, unplanned trip. Our foster babies were already in bed, and we had envisioned enjoying a quiet house and evening together. But that phone call from a Southwest Airlines employee a few hours earlier had set the wheels in motion, and I watched my hubby drive out through the rain, knowing he was doing the right thing.
The employee (whose name was David) called my husband (who goes by Dave) on his cell phone because a woman named Betty had given him Dave’s number. Betty had just flown into Raleigh, NC after visiting her daughter in Texas, arriving at 7:15 PM. Because of health issues and because she had left her oxygen at home, she wasn’t able at that moment to remember things like her daughter’s phone number or the phone number of the gentleman who had promised to be there to pick her up. Betty wanted Dave to call her daughter in Texas to get the phone number of the gentleman who was to be picking her up at the airport.
She couldn’t remember much, but she knew Dave’s number. That’s probably because he fixes things at her house, moves plants indoors for winter, moves them back out again in the spring, and feeds her dogs while she’s gone. Betty knew Dave, and she knew he would know what to do.
Dave didn’t have the daughter’s number, so he drove to Betty’s house (yes, it was still raining hard) to get that phone number. Betty’s daughter gave Dave the number of the gentleman who was to pick Betty up at the airport. Repeated attempts by both Dave and the daughter to contact the person who had said he would pick Betty up were fruitless. [An explanation came the next day, but what happened, and what should have happened are not important for this story.]
During a phone conversation, David (the Southwest employee) offered to meet my husband part way. With a thunder and lightning storm in process, Dave thought it would be better to meet at Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) than to try to find a safe place along the road to get his passenger. Finally, at 10 PM, when no contact had yet been made with the man who was to be picking her up, my husband decided there was nothing left to do but drive the sixty-plus miles to RDU.
When Dave was twenty minutes out, David called to tell him that his shift was over, and he was “handing” Betty over to another employee, Trish.
“Don’t worry,” he told my husband, “Trish will watch after her. We won’t leave her alone. She will be safe and secure. When you get to RDU, just ask for Trish.”
When Dave arrived at RDU, he was immediately approached by a lady who asked him, “Are you Dave?”
His affirmative reply led her to point over to a bench by the door. Betty was stretched out, head on a pillow, fast asleep. She had refused to wait inside, so Trish had come outside with her, keeping watch. Southwest Airlines provided a pillow and blanket for Betty’s comfort while she waited.
And, before Betty was ready to head home, she wanted to use the bathroom. Trish went with her so she would not be alone.
My husband said, “Those two employees couldn’t have been nicer. They acted like this was normal for them, just like a mailman delivering a package to your door. It’s just something they do as part of their job.”
Today, social media is dotted with folks who decry poor customer service.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “It is better to light one little candle than to curse the darkness.”
I think it’s time we quit cursing the darkness and light a candle instead.
It’s time we quit saying “It’s not my job” or “That’s not my responsibility” and be willing to drive into the night in pouring down rain to rescue a neighbor because we’ve been asked.
It’s time, when our shift is over or we are unable to provide what is needed, to find someone else to stand in the gap until help arrives.
It’s time we stand watch over someone we don’t even know because there is a need and she is a fellow traveler on life’s way.
Today I’m lighting a candle in honor of Southwest employees David and Trish whose cheerful attitude brightened the darkness that night.
I light a candle for their willingness to go above and beyond what many folks would be willing to do.
The candle flickers and glows, lighting the way for others to follow their example.
In the course of their work day, rather than cursing the person who had failed to come as planned, David and Trish each cheerfully lit a candle and held it high, illuminating by example a better way to work and to serve.
On behalf of Betty, her daughter, and the rest of us: Thank you, David, Trish, and Southwest Airlines.
Thanks for lighting a candle instead of cursing the darkness.