24 March 2017
Josh Misner, a father of four from the US and author of the blog Mindful Dad, has written about his regretful experience at an airport where he vented his frustrations at Delta Airlines ticket agent ‘Ron’. This deeply apologetic letter serves as a reminder to us all about the importance of kindness and setting a good example for our youth.
I came across a powerful story about the infuence that just one person can have over time. I think sometimes we forget how important each person is, and can get caught up in the ‘numbers and beat the next person’ game. This story is a reminder of how important just one person can be.
Josh was travelling with his children and when the plane was delayed in Chicago, he realised it would be tight with his next connection in Salt Lake City. Despite running with his children, the youngest being six, they missed the connection and a busy ticket agent did not appear to be able to help. He lost his temper and clearly expressed his thoughts to the agent. In his words: “That’s when I looked down and to the right. There was my six year-old, looking up at me. He wasn’t looking for answers to our problem. He wasn’t looking at me because I was being loud, self-righteous and indignant. He was looking at me because he had never encountered a situation like this before in his young life, and he needed to nd a way to deal with it, should it ever happen again. The problem was, I was giving him a precedent. My childish tirade presented him with a solution to his future con icts when dealing with di cult situations and even more, diffcult people.”
After re-arranging their fights with a four hour delay, Josh struggled with how to undo what he had inadvertently taught his son.
I spotted the original ticket agent, who was working the desk at our gate again, grabbed my son’s hand and said, “Come with me”. When it was our turn, the agent looked up at me and asked, “Can I help you?”
“Sir, I don’t know if you recognise me, but about three hours ago I did something inappropriate. I cursed at you because you didn’t help us nd a new ight after we missed our connection, and that wasn’t right. I took my frustration out on you and set a poor example for my children. I want to apologise to you and ask your forgiveness.”
He looked stunned. He was speechless for what felt like forever, and just when I was ready to turn and walk away, he spoke: “I don’t know what to say. I didn’t hear you use any foul language, but I do remember you. At the time I was trying to locate a medical kit for a woman boarding her plane over at the gate next door and I was in a rush. I wanted to stop to help you, but I was in a hurry to assist the passenger over there. I’m sorry I didn’t stop to help.” I became even more ashamed of my actions. I responded, “You have nothing to apologise for, sir. I was in the wrong, and I need to ask forgiveness to right this wrong, but also to show my son that the way I behaved was not right.” Again, in disbelief, he looked stunned. “It’s okay. I forgive you, and I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your apology. You didn’t need to do this. Quite frankly, nobody ever has, and trust me, we get yelled at a lot in this job. You just made my day and I thank you for that.” He then extended his hand for a handshake, as he said, “My name is Ron”.
Grabbing his hand, I replied, “Thanks, Ron. I’m Josh. Nice to meet you and I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day”.
Turning to walk away after giving Ron a smile, I looked down at my son who was still gripping my hand tightly. He was staring up at me again, but this time, doe-eyed, with the beginnings of a smile. I smiled back at him, tears brimming on my eyelids, and said, “That, my son, is doing the right thing. Always do the right thing, no matter what”.
Five minutes later, Ron called me back to the desk on the PA. After I sat back down, he had looked at the ight manifest and noticed that the three of us were in separate rows, spread out all over the plane. He took the initiative to not only rearrange people to allow us to sit together as a family, but also moved us to seats with additional leg room.
Forgiveness is a gift of love, an act of beauty that bene ts not only the person being asked by way of reconciliation, but for the person requesting it, by way of redemption. Thanks to snow, a delayed ight, and the sel shness of others, I had the chance to make things right, to set in motion a lifetime of redemption for my children.
To Ron, the ticket agent at the Delta counter, thank you for giving me another chance.
Dr David Mclintock
Principal Avondale School