On Being of Service

Last weekend at LAX I was checking in for my flight at a kiosk when a harried woman asked a man next to me if he could help her check in. He instantly dismissed her, waving his hand and pointing to the kiosk. She started poking at the monitor, and I saw her trying to enter a number from a scrap of paper, confused and lost.

In that moment I had a choice. I could go about my business and let this woman flail around on her own, eventually she certainly would have found someone to help her, or I could step up and be of service to another human in this world.

I asked if she needed help. She was instantly overwhelmed with gratitude. She’d never traveled by herself before; she had no idea what she was doing. The confirmation number she had scribbled on a scrap of paper didn’t work so I asked her if she had a credit card to find her reservation. She said she didn’t and that she shouldn’t have to pay for anything because her work said everything should be paid for.

Instantly I knew just how she felt. I thought of all the times my default reaction to anything was to protect myself from being taken advantage of. From (allegedly) homeless people on the freeway exit ramps to the employees at Subway who try to upgrade me to an extra large soda, I am always on alert.

I explained to her that the credit card was for identification only and that she wouldn’t be charged for anything. She pulled her debit card out of her well-worn wallet and handed it over to me, a complete stranger. I swiped her card and handed it back to her. We found her reservation together; I tried to no avail to get her a better seat, printed her boarding pass and told her to have a good flight. She turned to me and said,

Thank you so much, you have saved my life.

Now, I certainly didn’t save her life, but I see how this simple act of kindness, a total of 4 minutes of my time, did made a difference to her. Not only for the fact that I helped her navigate the complications in printing a boarding pass, but because she was reassured that there are still people in this world willing to make a personal connection with a stranger, to inconvenience themselves a little for the benefit of someone else.

One of my mentors, the fabulous rock star spinning and yoga instructor Colin Kim, time and time again impresses me with the phrase-

Thank you for allowing me to be of service to you.

Being of service to someone else isn’t just about the big glorious things like building wells in Africa, or starting your own nonprofit. There is tremendous beauty and joy in being of service to others in small ways.

If I didn’t take notes about this altercation last weekend I most certainly wouldn’t have thought about that woman or what I did for her ever again. I hope that I have hundreds of stories like this in my past that I have simply forgotten. I know that I will have hundreds if not thousands of these small opportunities in my future to be of service to others.

I intend to make the most of these opportunities and follow in my friend Colin Kim’s footsteps to truly master the phrase-

Thank you for allowing me to be of service to you.

  • That is such a beautiful story. It is a reminder to me that the life I lead is measured in small short moments.

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