May 22, 2015

Today was officially my highest giveaway – done at 38,000 feet in the air! I hadn’t planned it this way. I had hoped to give something away before we left on our trip to Seattle for the weekend, but I was so busy getting ready for the trip – tidying up the house, packing, making sure the cats were inside, going over my notes for my lecture tomorrow – that I just didn’t have time to fit in a gift before our Uber ride came to whisk us off to LAX. I had packed some goodies in my purse so that I’d have something to give away, but I had no idea really how I would manage a giveaway while traveling. But on our flight to Seattle, just before the pilot started our descent, it gradually became clear to me.

My husband David, son Theo and I were seated in row 26 of our Alaska Airlines flight, fairly close to the back of the plane. There were three flight attendants working the very full plane and one of them attracted my attention soon into the flight. Her name was Krista, and she could have written the flight attendant textbook. As she moved up and down the aisle serving drinks and snacks, she chatted with the passengers, smiled dazzlingly, and spread a great energy throughout the plane. But it was when she came back to collect the trash that she won my heart – she had one trash bag for trash and another for recycling plastic, cans and cardboard. I had never seen recycling on a plane before and always stress out at the amount of waste that we generate when we travel. When I told her how great I thought this was, she explained that not all the passengers like it. “But,” she added, “Some passengers aren’t happy whatever you do. You just can’t please everyone.” One passanger, she explained, had got really annoyed at her because they didn’t serve chicken sandwiches. That day, she had just learned that her friend’s daughter, with whom she was very close, had died. She couldn’t understand how people could get so upset about a chicken sandwich.

A few minutes later, when all the trash had been cleared away and we were beginning our descent, Krista got on the intercom and announced that Anna, one of the other flight attendants had successfully completed her first flight with Alaskan Airlines and had done a great job. That did it. I had brought a pair of earrings with me – a simple pearl-like sphere that looked a little like the pearl earrings I noticed she was wearing. I didn’t have anything to wrap them in, so I was trying to fold them in a piece of paper when I noticed David calling her over to take the last of our trash. He indicated the piece of paper I was holding, thinking that was trash. No, I explained. I actually wanted to give her something. I launched into a description of my Giveaway project and told her I thought she’d been really wonderful, especially when she had acknowledged Anna on her first day. And I handed her the folded piece of paper containing the earrings. It was a slightly awkward moment and other people were watching, but again, Krista was gracious and thanked me for the gesture. She looked genuinely touched and didn’t seem to think I was being weird. When she had gone back to her seat, the woman sitting across from us said, “That was really cool.” And for the rest of our descent, she shared with us that she had been part of a pay-it-forward chain on a toll bridge in San Francisco for a while, that she had moved to Seattle a couple of years ago with her family, that she’d been away from her two little kids for the last week and couldn’t wait to see them when she got home. Julia also told us some of her favorite places to go with kids in Seattle. We landed and said our goodbyes to the lovely people we had just connected with on our descent. Though we were safely on the ground, my spirits remained at 38,000 feet.

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