My aunt recently flew from Seattle to St. Louis on American Airlines. We’ll skip the horror part of this story including parking, baggage, security and enplaning. We’ll go straight to an on-board event and an exceptional man.
On this frigid morning, bleary-eyed, harassed passengers filed onto the MD-80 aircraft with the goal of getting to their seats, stowing their carry-ons and maybe catching a little cat-nap on the way to Dallas. Most passengers were wrapped in their own little worlds, paying minimal attention to fellow flyers. Most passengers were, but one man in first class saw more.
Passengers were boarded and seated. Luggage was stowed and the door was closed in preparation for push back when the Lead Flight Attendant walked from first class to coach to speak with the Purser. From row 25, my aunt listened to an astounded Lead F/A tell the Purser that there was a gentleman in first class who wanted to swap seats with a fatigue-clad, career soldier sitting in a center coach seat. The Purser informed the soldier who then followed her to the front of the aircraft. She returned to the main cabin with a gentleman who was greeted with applause from those within earshot of the flight attendants’ conversation. The passenger, who appeared to be uncomfortable with the recognition, was thanked by those seated across the aisle from his own new seat. His response? “It was the least I could do.”
Before push-back, the PA system crackled to life with the Lead Flight Attendant relating the story to everyone who had been puzzled by the applause. She added that the first class passenger now in a coach class, middle seat was, himself, a Purple Heart recipient.
Clearly, this man wanted to give the gift of his seat without fanfare, taking no honor for himself. However, I believe that his gift needs to be celebrated and repeated. I believe that his gift challenges us all to be aware, be grateful and be willing to express that gratitude to our soldiers, our police officers, our fire fighters and others who willingly put their own lives on the line to protect ours.
Sir, I don’t know who you are, where you are, or what your story is; however, having heard this one gesture, I am grateful to you for reminding me of the importance of gratitude. Thank you.