kindness, REBkind, travel

Traveling Kindness

This week I am spending time in Los Angeles, California, as my final trip for the R.E.B. Award for Teaching Excellence I received in 2018. Due to the pandemic, the original trip was postponed, but now that social distancing regulations are lifted, it’s time to soar with kindness once again!

To prepare for my trip, I gathered my favorite “kindness supplies,” namely candy, coins, post-it notes, pens, and gift cards. I also grabbed a few copies of A Passion for Kindness that I could autograph and leave in random places in California. After 18 months of car-only travel, I was very excited to get back in the air again!

Love packing my bags with kindness surprises!
It’s been 18 months since I’ve flown on an airplane!

When I arrived at the airport Saturday morning, I made sure to wear a smile behind my mask and deliberately made eye contact with the different service personnel I encountered. The woman who checked in my luggage laughed when I cheered as my suitcase came in under 50 lbs. I took time to appreciate joy in the little things, like the conversation I shared with the TSA worker who asked, “How many tech devices do you HAVE in that backpack?!” (Let’s just say that it took 5 separate containers to scan it all!) How blessed am I to have an opportunity to travel across the country, presenting to others about my passion for kindness!

When my candy was flagged for a hands-on inspection, I didn’t fret or get frustrated with the delay. I smiled again and explained the reason for such a massive quantity of sweets. They were doing their job as thoroughly as they could and I was appreciative for all the ways they keep us safe during our travels.

Then came the act of kindness that would completely turn my day upside down.

About 5 minutes before we boarded our flight, the American Airlines attendant came over the loudspeaker and asked, “Are there any passengers who have flexible travel plans that would be willing to give up their seat?”

I really wanted to get on that plane to California.

I really wanted to arrive on time so I could enjoy my first evening in L.A.

But I also wanted to make someone else’s day brighter.

You already know what I did.

Twenty minutes later, I was waving goodbye to the plane that was supposed to take me to my destination.

When I offered up my seat, I was able to meet the young woman who took my spot. She was traveling with another woman and a nine-month-old baby; they were hoping to fly together even though one was traveling standby. It was such joy to see their faces light up when they heard that they could both board the plane! Her gratitude made any inconveniences I would experience for this decision absolutely worth it.

The woman with the baby, trying to work out details to fly.
The woman who received my seat, at the far end of the counter. Faces are blurred for privacy.

The American Airlines attendant, Roz, who helped redirect my path, rewarded my kindness with a $375 voucher for another trip, upgraded me to first-class seats, AND provided a $12 food voucher I could use in the RIC airport. It was a kindness boomerang! The only catch? I would have to wait another 8 hours before I could board the next flight and would arrive in California three hours later than I planned.

Mindset matters.

When I offered to sacrifice my seat, I didn’t anticipate so many rewards. I knew I would get some kind of travel credit, but I didn’t expect that much. I definitely didn’t expect all the extras! But I was kind and patient as they were working out details and I truly believe when you live as a Kindness Cultivator, every now and again what you put out into the world returns right back to you. Having a positive mindset helped me reframe my day: I could attend the opening session of the ISTE Conference virtually and interact live with other attendees. I could eat a meal in a restaurant. I could watch a movie on my iPad. I could read. I could write. So many choices!

I decided to grab a cup of coffee and noticed the tip jar was empty as I placed my order. I added a few dollars, then laughed when I saw the message on the cup I received: “May cause irrepressible happiness.” Kindness for the win!

I love the message on this cup!

After attending a few ISTE sessions while I waited in the terminal, I received an alert on my phone regarding my rescheduled flight. It was now delayed and I wouldn’t be leaving until 7pm. This change would result in a missed connection, possibly requiring me to spend the night in the Chicago airport.

Oh NO!

It would have been easy to fly off-the-handle in frustration at this unexpected change. I could have rolled my eyes, bemoaned Murphy’s Law, and made a snarky comment about how being kind backfires. Instead, I took a short walk to clear my mind, then took control of the things I could.

I contacted my hotel and let them know I was still headed their way. I rescheduled my LA tour for Monday instead of Sunday. I made a few more calls, then went to look for an American Airlines attendant to see if there was something – anything – that could be done to get me to California before midnight.

As luck would have it, Roz was still working her shift at the counter. She called me over and worked her magic, rerouting me completely, putting me on a flight to Charlotte that was boarding right then. She also let me know that due to this change, I would arrive in California only one hour later than my originally booked time. What a gift! I was so grateful for her expertise in scheduling, and her willingness to move mountains to help me out, that I told her she was worth 100 Grand and gave her a candy bar to prove it.

When I arrived in the Charlotte airport, I pulled out my sticky notes and left a few positive affirmation messages throughout the terminal: on the ladies restroom mirror, by the water fountain, and on random tables. I found a rocking chair to settle in and participated in a few more ISTE sessions as I waited for my connecting flight. I also said a little quick prayer that my luggage wouldn’t get lost and would be safe waiting for me in LA.

I love leaving positive affirmation notes everywhere I travel! You never know who will need a little pick-me-up right in that moment!
Learning on the go!

As I boarded my flight for the West Coast, I smiled at people as I walked down the aisle to my seat. I made sure to give the flight attendant my attention and smiled again when she explained the need to put on our oxygen masks before helping others, a point my superintendent, Dr. Gill, emphasized during our district’s Leadership Conference this past week. It was a great reminder that we must take care of ourselves first in order to help others!

Since my flight was rerouted, I no longer had first class seats (but they were fun to have while they lasted!) I was now seated in a row of three, beside the aisle, not near the window like I always prefer. Again, I made a conscious choice to be grateful for the seat instead of dwelling on the change.

Life is short.

Enjoy the journey.

After flying for a bit, I noticed the gal beside me diligently working on her laptop. She introduced herself as Rachel and asked if I knew of anywhere she could charge her device, but our flight didn’t provide any outlets nearby. I offered my portable charger for her use, which she greatly appreciated, but she didn’t have a cable that would connect correctly with her laptop’s adaptor.

It was then that the guy on the other side of Rachel joined our conversation. His name was Adam and he happened to have a charging cable that worked! We were so excited by our success, we snapped a collaborative kindness selfie to document the moment. Between my charger, Rachel’s charger, and Adam’s cable, she was able to continue working for most of the flight.

Thumbs up for collaborative kindness!

When we finally landed in California, I added a thank you note to a bag of M&Ms and left them in my seat for the flight attendant to discover after we all had left. It was a small gesture of appreciation, but one I hoped would make her smile!

A RAK for my flight attendant
A closer photo of my message

All in all, it was an incredible day of scattering kindness from the East Coast to the West Coast and thanks to Roz, I made it back to my hotel in plenty of time to check in and get a good night’s rest. I’m excited to see what adventures I will encounter while in L.A. and I look forward to connecting with ISTE conference attendees both virtually and in person while I’m here!

More stories to come soon. Be the good!

Welcome to California!

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