It started at the rental car turn-in location. My friend is a “platinum” member with Hertz—who offers a great benefit I discovered when the rental agencies are a considerable distance from the terminal. Hertz provided a shuttle bus to the lot for people to pick out their cars. Our shuttle bus driver grinned as she slid into the driver’s seat and said she could hardly wait for school to begin. Turns out she’s also a school bus driver and with her seniority, she gets to pick her route. Her passion: autistic children. “I just love ‘em,” she grinned. “I get them again this year.” Fascinating. Sincere. And difficult. We stopped to grab a bite of lunch before long flights. The waitress excitedly nodded when we ordered the cashew chicken sandwich. “It’s our new menu. We just got it yesterday. That’s a great choice!” She grinned and gave us a two-thumbs up signal. I don’t know about you, but I rarely get service help excited by a menu. It was as if SHE personally made the sandwich. Fascinating. Sincere. And standing on your feet all day—difficult. At an adjacent Frontier airlines gate, I asked where my plane was and how come no representative was at the gate. “Listen,” she laughed, “it’s also my gate. I can do amazing things. Watch how quick I get this plane loaded. I’ll do the same for yours. You’ll see.” I did. It’s almost 6pm on a Sunday night and folks are cranky and tired. Not my gate attendant. True to her word, she efficiently started the process AND took time to actually read every boarding pass and call the passenger by name. She patted my arm when I went through. “See, Eileen. Told you I could do this.” Fascinating. Sincere. And the job of a gate agent is difficult—very difficult. My seatmate was a young man, a rotating guidance counselor for grades 6-12 in the Costa Mesa, CA school district. “There aren’t many men in my line of work—and particularly men of color,” he remarked offhandedly. “DO you like what you do?” I asked. His eyes opened wide and he offered a wide smile. “I love it. I really feel like I am making a difference. So many of these kids have no one to talk to—no one to model the right behavior.” He proceeded to tell me a series of stories that would break your heart. “It’s when they come back after they leave school that is most rewarding. You just never know if what you say today will suddenly click in years later.” Fascinating. Sincere. And difficult—very, VERY difficult.
In each instance, the joy came from how each connected with another human being. It was the CONNECTION that made the difference. Not the money. Not the title. The eyes staring at each other. The hands reaching out to help. Fascinating. Sincere. And maybe—with deliberate intent we could try it. Might NOT be all that difficult.