A Plea for Kindness

Merry Christmas! Or, if you don’t celebrate, happy December 25th! Somehow, Portland managed to get its first snow of the season this Christmas eve. It wasn’t a lot, but it was beautiful!

It should be no surprise that the holidays are the busiest travel time of the year. Local media stations are saturated with tips to make your time at the airport as stress-free as possible. December is definitely a hectic time, especially if you are family-oriented, so it’s easy to turn on your internal auto-pilot and forget about the interactions you have with others, that you might feel are unimportant. As a flight attendant, I am subject to dismissive behavior year-round. Sometimes, people ignore me when I ask them if they would like a drink, then get irritated when I move the beverage cart past them. When they’re finished, they hold up their empty plastic cup without so much as a brief glance in my direction. I have worse stories, but I want to give you an idea of what a normal day is. Every flight, I am treated as though I am not a person, but a drink-dispensing machine.

But on occasion, I have the guests that make my job worthwhile. People hand me bags of chocolate while they explain how they know my job is hard, but they want to make it better. I’ve gotten personalized cards before. Even a conversation is valued: The last flight I worked, I spoke with a woman who told me she flies 100 times a year. She wanted to know if positive comments given to the company get to us because a flight attendant on her previous flight handled a not-so-nice passenger with so much grace and class that she felt like she deserved recognition. She told me that she writes in every time she has a positive experience because she knows the majority of comments are actually complaints.

A brand-new flight attendant shouldn’t expect to get ANY holidays off, but I was smart and made the system work for me, so I have been home the past few days. So many others aren’t as lucky, and have to spend their time working for frustrated holiday travelers when their patience is worn thin. Of course, it takes a village to keep an airline running, so there’s pilots, gate agents, customer service representatives, dispatch, and so many more employees sacrificing their sacred time to make sure you get where you need to go! The holidays seem to be stressful for everyone, but I know from experience that it’s especially hard on people who have to work. So when you’re getting your coffee on Christmas, like I am about to do, tip your barista. Smile and thank employees you interact with by name. It’s so easy to get caught up in your own worries, without factoring in the emotions of other people around you. Your cashier at Safeway probably wishes he was at Christmas dinner, but if he was, you couldn’t get that last-minute carton of eggs you need to make your own.

Practice your own grace and class every season. Be mindful of your actions, and appreciate the employees that do the jobs you don’t want, but are absolutely necessary in ensuring your day gets on snag-free. It’s a fact that negative experiences are easier to remember than positive ones, but strive to be a kind, thoughtful person to those you meet regardless. It might come easy to you, but I know to me, I am a naturally… abrasive person so I have to work hard to smile at every one I see. The work is worth it. Few things will make you happier than spreading good will, and the holidays are the perfect time to start consciously doing so.

I hope your December has been filled with what makes your soul feel full- family, friends, solitude, whatever! Work to make the last few days of 2017 beautiful, and I will see you in 2018!