Paying forward…

He was in the middle seat of this 4 hour flight from Detroit to Phoenix. Calm, shy, but a cheerful bright smile. He just flew in from Nairobi to Amsterdam to Detroit to Phoenix. Ah! A new incoming student on a student visa for higher education for a better future! The long flight did not tire him, nor did the time difference showed on his smile. His name is Eric.

I asked him if he had something to eat during his journey, but his hesitant positive response indicated that even if he had a meal, he was possibly hungry. After a few minutes of small talk and obtaining some details about the school, I left him alone. As we were in the air, when Barb, the exceptional Flight attendant, came over to ask for service, I mentioned to her what I wished for a drink, purchase a meal for myself, and asked Eric if he wanted to eat something.

Eric ordered, so did I. I gave my American Express card to Barb to pay for the fare. Barb took the card, smiled, and returned the card to me without charging. That was the last thing I wanted to have happen, because I wanted to pay for my meal, drink, and Eric’s sandwich. Barb said, “Sir, I love you for who you are and I heard your question to him. This one is me.” Up until this point, I thought I was paying forward. Pleasantly stunned as I was, I could only think and say, “Barb, you just paid forward.”

When it comes to expecting exemplary service, I am a demanding SOB, and yet in the last 35 years, I have received ONLY a handful of poor service from certain service members. Whether it is Delta, Marriott, Costco, Acura, Singapore Airline or American Express, there are leaders I meet in every transaction and all interactions that have become the true EDGE of a service industry that receives no kudos, no compliments, and no aha moments!

These companies don’t receive all the recognition they deserve, but whether it is Rebecca, Altaf, Barb, Ida, Rosie, Sandra, Adam, Edgar, Frank, Monica in Ottawa or Sherrie, anyone who helped me and prodded me to write about these leaders, whose names range from A to Z are absolutely exceptional and they serve to create a lasting legacy, whether they get recognized or not.

The deepest level of respect I have for these leaders is because of myriad of reasons, however, the few worth mentioning here are:

  • They serve you with a smile, irrespective of the long duration of the flight and the time difference
  • They serve you as if you are their God, even if you treat them with a sense of entitlement
  • They create lasting memories, even though they don’t receive any in return
  • They leave their families and loved ones to serve the families of others, just as you and I do in our respective roles, but we minimize their contributions to our lives that is made more pleasant each time when we are away from home. 
Pay forward yourself, so that Eric and others like Eric can continue to explore better life with the help of leaders like Barb and countless others in her profession.