November 24, 2010

Pay it Forward

In keeping with my "A week to be thankful" theme, I thought I would post this pretty incredible story from my friend Chris (notan). I love happy endings. Thanks for sharing, Chris. (don't be mad that I stole your picture) :)

I was in LA last week for 24 hours, caught in a whirlwind while casting for a television commercial and planning production. The vortex got more intense on my way home when I left an attaché on a shuttle bus at LAX.

I realized my lapse moments later, did a pirouette, then sprinted to the next concourse, which was about 300 yards away. I got about halfway there before the shuttle pulled away toward the next stop. I stopped, sighed and started calculating the value of the things in my missing bag, which added up to a lot of heartache and financial hardship. Two cameras, an iPod, my journals, sunglasses, eyeglasses, a jacket ...

But I vowed to give my best effort toward retrieving it and immediately contacted the shuttle dispatcher. She alerted the drivers but none reported a stray bag. I received another call from a number I didn’t recognize, so I ignored it and stayed on the line with dispatch trying to craft another plan. When we hung up, I noticed a voicemail and played it.

It was a traveler who said he had my bag and wanted to make every attempt to get it to me. I couldn’t dial his German mobile and was typing a text message to him when he called again. He was across the airport but said he would come to me. I couldn’t believe his generosity and assured him that he didn’t have to do that, but he insisted.

Fifteen minutes later, he picked me out of a crowd of hundreds of people in front of my terminal and handed it to me. I tried to give him $20 for his trouble, but he wouldn’t hear of it. He said the same thing happened to him once, and he was happy to do this for me. We shook hands, he turned, then walked away.

I was dumbfounded and relieved all at once. Who does this today? Who goes out of their way to help a stranger?

When I returned home, I found out that he had called my office and arranged two other plans to return my bag if he could not do so directly. He also told my office manager that the same thing happened to him once, but that he did not get his bag back. Then I understood his determination.

It was such a heroic gesture, and I thanked him today via email promising to perform random acts of kindness in his honor. I started last week by paying the toll of the car behind me, and I plan to make that a habit each time I’m on the highway.

It’s the least I can do.

via notan • All images and content are © Copyright 2000-2010 Chris Ralston

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