I am returning home from a three-day family vacation in New England with four of my five sons and their families.
It was a great get-away: beach time, pool time, sumptuous sweets like whoopie pie and apple cider donuts, coupled with lots of Moscow Mules (for me) and intensive time with the grandkids.
As I packed up and prepared to head for the airport, I was not depressed but I certainly was pensive — realizing it seldom gets better than this vacation surrounded by so many special people in my life.
Soon after my husband and I say our tearful goodbyes, reality intrudes and I begin flipping through my to-do-list. Big realization: Rosh Hashanah is coming up quickly.
It’s not just the beginning of a new year and the anniversary of the world, but Rosh Hashanah also commemorates the first relationship — a relationship between two people: Adam and Eve. On reflecting on what is truly important to me in relation to others, I am struck by a powerful feeling of wanting to give back — to spread the serenity, the happiness and the warmth of the last few days to those I do not know — to engage with my fellow men (and women).
Our flight is delayed. We sit in the quaint regional airport terminal people-watching to pass the time until departure. I notice an elderly lady leisurely strolling around the check-in area. Her persona gives off an air of an Eileen Fisher model, further emphasized by her gloriously closely cropped head of gray hair. I am mesmerized by her sense of style.
She sits down next to me. She seems so composed, so put-together, so confident.
Tentatively, I touch her arm — startling her.
“Ma’am,” I begin, “I just want to tell you how stunning your hair is.”
And then I kinda start babbling about her whole terribly chic image.
She studies me intensely and my stomach begins to churn. Have I made an utter fool out of myself?
Softy, in a beautifully modulated voice, she leans in close and whispers one sentence, “Honey, you made my day.”
Shortly thereafter, my husband and I meander over to a huge tent set up on the tarmac for those waiting to board. Thirty minutes later, we are airborne.
Landing at JFK Airport in New York City, the vibe is quite different. People rush here and there. Gates are erratically changed. Delays are constantly announced.
Minutes before our departure, my husband and I realize we are at the wrong gate. We rush to the correct one — arriving out of breath and out of sorts. Seconds later, the gentleman working behind the desk at our gate begins announcing the boarding instructions. I look at my husband in utter amazement.
“OMG,” I whisper to him. “This is the first gate announcement I’ve been able to decipher in years. He is actually speaking slowly, loudly and with expression!”
When it’s our time to board, I take a deep breath as I approach the same gentleman who made the announcement. As he swipes my boarding pass, I murmur, “Sir, I just want you to know that what you just said was the absolute best boarding call I have listened to in decades. It was clear, concise and easily understood.”
He stops swiping my boarding card in midair. He looks me straight in the eye. He breaks out in a huge smile
“Ma’am, you have just made my day.”
Our flight is uneventful. We have a chatty seat mate who engages one of the flight attendants in a brief conversation focused on the attendant’s grueling 13-hour shift. Fatigue is etched on her pale face.
When we land, I stop for a passing moment in front of the flight attendant.
“I hope when your shift is over, you get a good night’s sleep, my dear. That’s a tough work schedule and my husband and I appreciate your serving us so graciously.”
She looks both surprised and bewildered. And then she says the following: Oh my goodness, that’s the nicest thing a passenger has ever said to me. You made my day!
We are home now. We are reveling in the memories. We are pouring over the photos. We are feeling very grateful.
And we are feeling very energized. Why? Because once again we are realizing the power of a genuine compliment to let someone know they are noticed.
Those three people that I touched? They touched me too.
And I intend to carry that feeling into the New Year.
La Shana Tova.