This past weekend, I took a quick short trip down to Southern California, my first flight of the year, and one that I knew might be chaotic from an airport perspective due to the shutdown. I along with many passengers passing through security at Mineta San Jose Airport made it a point to give a quick thank-you to the TSA agents working the area. I can’t begin to think how difficult it might be for some of these agents, working in Silicon Valley’s airport during a busy holiday weekend, knowing that the money they need to provide for their kids won’t be arriving anytime soon.
The weekend turned out to be an emotionally difficult one, and by yesterday evening, all I wanted to do was get out of SoCal as fast as possible.
As I waited in the security line at Orange County John Wayne airport, I mentally reminded myself to thank the TSA agent who could check my ID and boarding pass. I had observed in San Jose that the gesture had a mixed reception; some TSA agents would smile back, while some seemed to ignore the appreciation to try to keep the lines moving. But I knew it was the right thing to do.
As I step up to the podium and present my driver’s license, I began to deliver my planned thank-you:
“I appreciate your service this weekend.”
But the TSA agent unexpectedly cuts me off, looks at me and gives a small smile:
“Thank you, Scott. And happy early birthday.”
Caught somewhat off-guard, I manage a quick thank-you, but as I continue through to the x-ray scanner, I cannot help but keep thinking of this agent’s compliment.
I was feeling dejected, but this small gesture came unexpectedly, at just the right time when I needed it the most.
And it came, not just from a stranger, but from someone who had every right to not say anything. Someone who also could be having a difficult weekend like me. Someone who could very well be having an even more difficult 30 days, and counting.
Taking that extra bit of time to see the date in tiny red text on my driver’s license, realize that the day was approaching, and wishing me a happy birthday, that simple gesture of kindness meant a lot to me.
It’s a reminder that we can’t always control the circumstances in our lives. When things don’t go the way we had hoped, we’re tempted to become angry, bitter, and cynical. But we can choose how we react and respond to the difficult times in our lives. So, especially during this time of great uncertainty and animosity, let’s be seeking ways to show kindness to one another. It doesn’t take a lot. Sometimes, it’s those simple gestures that can make someone’s day.
During this rough weekend, I repeatedly prayed that God would provide me comfort through reminders of His grace and love, and in the goodness of people. I didn’t expect that He would answer my prayer in the form of a quick birthday greeting from a random TSA agent.