A Good Samaritan Steps in at the Airport
Times are tough for flyers-not only are baggage fees rising as the economy continues to struggle, but recent events have caused an increase in airport security, adding delays and a heightened sense of fear to a long list of passenger headaches. There's no question that all of this adds up to a stressful experience, making airports a breeding ground for bad behavior, but some are managing to see past the annoyances, to connect with others through random acts of kindness.
A recent Chicago Tribune article shone a spotlight on airport altruism, when a shiny-shoed stranger lent a hand to a stranded, and exhausted, woman.
December 30th was one of the worst days of Elsie Clark's life, until she met Dean Germeyer.
The 79-year-old Canadian grandmother was on her way home to Winnipeg, Manitoba when she missed her flight out of Dallas-Forth Worth after an airport employee left her at the wrong terminal for hours. Clark, who has a bad hip that leaves her wheelchair-bound when traveling, was put on another flight, connecting in Chicago, which was then delayed due to bad weather.
While Clark, who was visibly shaken, waited to takeoff, she worried about what was going to happen if she missed her flight out of Chicago. After contemplating having to spend the night on an airport bench due to her fixed income, she decided to strike up a conversation with a man seated nearby.
"I wanted to talk to somebody to get my mind off things for a little while," Clark told the Chicago Tribune on January 6th. "So, I said, 'Sir, do you mind telling me what you do because I've always admired shiny shoes.' "
Germeyer, who runs a technology consulting group in Chicago, was more than happy to oblige. Their conversation grew, and while Clark told him about her life, Germeyer began to think about what he could do to help.
"There was a connection between Elsie and myself," Germeyer told the Chicago Tribune. "She wasn't asking for anything at all."
Germeyer sprang into action, arranging for a flight attendant to meet Clark with a wheelchair upon their arrival in Chicago, hoping to get her to her next flight on time. After exiting the plane, Germeyer rushed her to her gate but it was too late. The airline gave Clark a voucher for a nearby hotel room but Germeyer didn't think it was enough.
Aggravated by the situation, Germeyer decided to take matters into his own hands. He called his wife to arrange an extra place setting at the dinner table, and brought Clark home. After dinner, he took Clark on a brief city tour, put her up in a hotel suite just off Michigan Avenue, and arranged for a car to take her back to the airport the next day.
"He even gave me a new toothbrush and toothpaste," Clark told the Chicago Tribune. "I just sat down when I got to the hotel and I cried and cried and cried. Everything he did for me was just so beautiful."
Watch them share their ordeal here.
Small acts of kindness are incredibly meaningful -- especially in the airport, where tensions tend to run high. While Germeyer's actions went above and beyond, his act of altruism is not an isolated incident.
Perhaps those who know the power behind small kindnesses best are airport chaplains. Over 30 airports across the United States have chaplains on-site, helping passengers cope with everything from a deceased loved one to lost luggage.
We spoke with D.D. Hayes, a chaplain at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport in Texas, in October for our article "Angels at the Airport". Hayes illustrated the numerous ways he helps others, and how he impacts people who are least expecting it.
Hayes described comforting and supporting a woman who lost both her husband and son in the same day. He also told us how he helped a struggling actress from California, letting her use the chaplaincy to film an audition tape for a movie after she missed her flight.
"So my day can go from consoling someone who suffered a tremendous loss, to helping an actress get a part in a movie," Hayes said. "I haven't found out yet if she got the part. I'm praying for her."