Be the ONE to Make a Difference and Go the Extra Mile
By Anne Fish with Flying Fish Ventures
When I started flying for the airlines, I met a seasoned veteran flight attendant in one of our training courses. Dorothy told me to remember that in life there are a lot of people who only do what it takes to just get by. They only cover the basics on the job and at home. But what if you went the extra mile, she asked? Who would notice and how would it make you feel as a service provider?
The following December I was given the perfect opportunity to apply what Dorothy had taught me. That defining moment has stayed with me all these years.
It was Christmas Eve and a mother and daughter were traveling together from Denver to San Francisco on the flight I was working. They were dressed impeccably with pearls, tailored clothes, and perfectly coiffed hair. The elder was probably close to 80 and the younger was 60-ish.
When we arrived in San Francisco, everyone on the plane quickly exited, gathering up their belongings to hurry home to their families. This duo took a little longer.
I approached them to see if they needed any help. They were waiting for assistance from an aisle wheelchair. The rest of the flight crew stood impatiently by the door of the aircraft. They were noticeably agitated that these two women were taking so long to collect their things and get off the plane. From afar the ladies looked totally capable. It was Christmas Eve and the crew wanted to go home. The more time that passed, the more anxious the elderly woman became.
“I hate to make y’all wait,” she commented with her lovely southern drawl. “I have never been a burden before.”
Her daughter slid across the seat toward the aisle of the airplane and stood. She held out her hand and said, “Here you go, Mama, I can help.”
Together they managed to pull Mama across her daughter’s now empty seat.
Mama swiveled her body towards the aisle and said, “You see, I was always so self-sufficient…until the surgery.”
As she turned, I saw her beautiful red skirt and black patent shoe of her left foot hit the floor to stand up. But there was just one leg under that lovely skirt, and only one black patent shoe.
“I just had to have my leg amputated, and it has really slowed me down.”
I averted my eyes to not show this lovely woman the tears that were welling up in them.
Back at the boarding door, the crewmembers were now impatiently looking at their watches with over-accentuated movements of the arm and wrist.
I said, “Don’t worry one bit, ma’am I’ll wait as long as I need to for you. I don’t have anywhere else to go that is more important than this.”
When the aisle wheelchair arrived, Mama’s daughter and I helped carry her items to the door. Soon we would bid adieu.
The wheelchair handler turned her around to face the inside of the plane. She looked deeply into my eyes and said, “Thank you for waiting with me. Your kindness does not go unnoticed. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.”
Be the ONE to make a difference. Dorothy was right, going the extra mile is a game-changer, not just for the person you impact as a service provider, but for you.
I can still remember how it felt when Mama thanked me at the door. Her gratitude was palpable.
That day I happened to be seated near the passengers who needed help. I asked clarifying questions to understand their situation and became privy to mama’s frailty and her need.
But I have also been one of the ones by the door, frustrated and tired. Not thinking about the other person. We all have.
Sometimes we can’t see across the airplane, the restaurant, or the hotel lobby to understand what is really going on. In those moments, it is even more important to ask yourself, “How can I go the extra mile or be the ONE to make the difference for this person today?”
I hope that each time any of us is given an opportunity to practice Dorothy’s lesson that we will not just get by, but will take the time for others.
There are plenty of folks like Mama in the world, and every day can be Christmas Eve.
Learn more about Anne Fish, author of "Riskformation" available on Amazon and Audible, at www.AnneFish.net.