A value driven life is not always easy or convenient. When we say “yes” to some things, it requires saying “no” to other things. Recently, I was sitting in my first choice, early bird seat on a Southwest Airlines flight. I had paid extra to board early in group A, to find a seat with leg room, near the front of the aircraft. I joke around that I am the shortest of 7 children at 5 foot 10 inches, but the truth is I am probably the same height as two of my siblings. We range from 5 ‘10” to nearly 6 foot 4 inches. Leg room anywhere is a priority.
I chose a seat near a mom and her toddler in the first row…. The only window seat that I could easily get up from if I decided to “move about the cabin” after the seatbelt sign had been turned off. I started chatting with the mom and her tot and he made friends with m
e right away. The rest of their family was sitting behind us. I was cozy and settled and watched the line of passengers boarding and trying to find seats together. It was announced that the flight was completely full and passengers should take ANY available seat. I was happy to have my spot and not be one of the folks in group C scrambling for overhead bin space and a middle seat.
Then the flight attendant made an announcement. There was a mother and her 3 year old who could not find two seats together and they were asking someone to switch seats. I did not volunteer right away as I thought the mom next to me had paid for a seat for her son. The mom who could not find a seat came back to the front of the aircraft with her daughter and got off the plane. The lady next to me could see around the corner and said to me, “she’s crying.” I did not know if she meant the mom was crying or the daughter was crying. I knew that if I were in that situation, I would be the one crying. I felt her panic and her fear and understood why she would get off the plane if it meant she could not sit by her little one.
So I asked the lady next to me if she would help. It turned out she had not paid for that middle seat after all. So I gave up my preferred seat and went row by row to look for one middle seat. My purse, my carry on bag and my ipad were all in the overhead at the front of the plane and there was no chance to get them back. I had only the Southwest airlines magazine and my imagination to occupy my time on the flight. Sitting in that middle seat was a small inconvenience compared to what that mother and daughter were going to endure. My heart said “move”, “give up your cozy seat”, “live by your values and help another mom.” No, I did not save the world that day. But I did make life a little better for one mother and her child.
How many times do we have it in our power to help another with a small act of kindness and we just “go on about our business”? There are other times in life I think back on when I could have helped and didn’t. Maybe on those days I was overwhelmed, overloaded or scatterbrained from an overflowing list of “getting it all done.” This day, I heard the call of my own heart. Living a life of empathy and compassion happens moment by moment. I am glad I was listening.