I want to tell you this story, not because I was the Good Samaritan here, but because it’s an example of how we must treat someone we meet who is in distress. I think I’m writing it more for me so I can remember exactly what happened.
I arrived at LaGuardia on a flight from Edmonton via Minneapolis around 17:00 this afternoon. While waiting for my luggage, I hit the restroom for a moment, and when I returned, I noticed a fellow passenger fussing about with her luggage, which was a large hiker’s-type backpack and a couple of other smaller bags, likely made of linen and string, to hold clothing. As I got closer, I noticed that her backpack was in really bad shape, parts of it torn badly, and she was unfolding what appeared to be (and was) a sleeping bag that was damaged beyond repair. Other clothing and a towel were on the ground, soaking wet.
I started to talk to her, and she showed me all the damage done to her belongings – a section of her backpack had been shredded, severing a pocket and losing its contents, and busting the buckles that connect it together. Her bath towel was soaked and filthy, her sleeping bag destroyed, and the backpack in really rough shape, probably damaged beyond repair as well. The cuffs of a nice sweater had also been shredded. She started crying as she explained that this was basically her entire belongings – she was coming to NYC to work on a tall ship for six weeks before returning to the west coast, and everything here was what she needed to live on the boat for the duration. She told me her name was Alea, and that she didn’t know what to do now.
I asked her where she was headed, and she said Yonkers by way of Grand Central Station. She wasn’t sure how she’d get to GCS – I told her I’d help with that. Then I said I’d check with Delta Baggage to ask for assistance. I found the desk, but they were busy, so I went back and motioned her over. When she started talking with the Delta customer rep, she broke down crying again. The Delta rep listened closely, treated her with respect and dignity, and was brilliant and caring – she took all her information, asked her for estimates of the worth of the damaged goods, and her contact information. The Delta rep confirmed that she would be fully reimbursed for her losses.
I told Alea that I would take care of getting her to Grand Central Station. I had booked a car to take me to my destination on E91 Street when I arrived, so I called Carmel Car Service and told them that I had another passenger who needed to be driven to GCS, and that I would pay for her ride. (It was a pittance of an additional amount.)
After she settled with Delta, the rep came around the desk and gave her a big hug! We went out to the centre island and while waiting for the car, chatted quite a bit. She told me about how excited she was to come here to work on this tall ship, where she would be teaching children about environmental stewardship, sailing, and many other things. Finally the car arrived, we continued sharing stories, and eventually dropped me off at my destination. We hugged each other and I told her everything would be ok. She couldn’t stop thanking me, and I told her I was obligated by Canadian law to help people in situations like hers.
Pay it forward, my friends. It feels SO good when do can help someone else through a miserable moment in their lives, even if you don’t know them.