by Faith Hoyt

After a year and a half working as an intern at a job that requires frequent travel, I have begun to consider myself a bit of an expert at flying. I still over pack and stress about getting to the airport on time (even when I’m over two hours early); however, I keep my boarding pass in my phone’s Apple Wallet, and I sometimes get so lost in thought that I don’t realize the plane is landing until the engines reverse thrust. Let’s say I’m halfway to expert.

I recently learned that my expertise at traveling isn’t foolproof and that seemingly mean people can show you kindness beyond what you could ever expect or deserve.

It all started on a Monday around 3:30 pm. My co-worker dropped me off at the airport with two hours to spare until my departure. The Reno airport has a small terminal and usually the TSA lines are short, but my policy is that I’d rather work while waiting at the gate than risk missing my flight.

I hadn’t looked at my boarding pass that morning. I knew I had seen 4:55 p.m. as the departure time and planned my day accordingly.

When I got to the airline kiosk to check in my two over-packed bags, I got an error message after typing in my confirmation code. “That’s odd,”I thought. “I’ll try scanning the boarding pass on my phone.” This also produced an error message, along with a directive to go see an airline assistant. It seemed strange, but I didn’t stress—it hadto be the machine. Once at the counter, I handed over my phone to a tall blonde woman. The woman at the counter took my phone without looking at me and asked for my photo ID in a less-than-welcoming tone. I produced my ID and a sheepish smile.

The woman frowned at her screen. Then she looked up at me and broke through my thoughts with a startling statement: “Your plane just took off.”

No.

For a half second, I stood there in disbelief, but the customer service agent’s serious look helped reality quickly sink in. My calm and confidence disappeared in an instant. I heard myself pathetically beg the woman for her help.

“Oh please! Is there anything you can do for me? Please, help me! I can’t believe I did this!”

Other than to inform me that I’d missed my flight, the woman said not a word. Her gaze stayed fixed on her screen in complete silence. I stood on the other side of her screen and braced myself as wave after anxious wave of emotion threatened my ability to keep my mouth shut to let her work. “She looks mean,” I thought. I imagined her turning me away coldly or demanding that I produce my credit card to buy a last-minute seat on a late-night flight.

As I watched her busily type away, my confidence shattered. Ms. Travel Expert had just missed her first flight. The4:55 p.m. time on the boarding pass was for an old flight that I’d failed to remove from my Apple Wallet. There was a rental car to pick up, an important meeting scheduled for the next morning, and projects to complete—and I’d missed a flight I’d booked over two months in advance because of carelessness. I stood there trying to brace myself for what I was sure would be a disheartening outcome.

Then, at last, the silence was broken. The woman at the counter looked up from her screen a second time—this time to inform me that there was one last seat left on the last flight to my destination that day. It departed in two hours, and she had waived the $164 fee.

I felt overcome. She quickly attached the baggage tags to my luggage and placed them on the conveyer belt, and then she handed me a new boarding pass. I’m pretty sure I thanked her five times in the process.

As she handed me the boarding pass, I asked her for her name. “It’s Laura,” she told me. “Thank you, Laura,” I said. “You just saved my day.” Then she smiled at me for the first time and told me to take it easy.

I walked away, feeling waves of relief wash over me. Each wave of relief was followed by awe at the realization that this seemingly grumpy, stern woman had just shown me incredible grace and kindness.

I walked to gate B1, sat down, and thanked God that grace came so unexpectedly. It was an answer to a prayer I hadn’t even prayed. It was the most incredible timing. And, in the face of my own judgments about the woman who helped me, it didn’t feel deserved.

I resolved to play “judge” less. (I also resolved to never brag about my travel prowess.) And I spent the next two hours smiling in gratitude.

Faith Hoyt is communication intern for the Pacific Union Conference. She lives in Carson City, Nevada, and attends the Heavenly Valley church in South Lake Tahoe.