“Pay attention to the little things, because someday you realize that the little things really are the big things.”
So, we’re going to Denmark to do another training with the Danish Red Cross, this time at the Lynge School. We’ll be working with the entire staff of teachers at this school, which teaches asylum-seeking children how to speak Danish and some other basic education while they are awaiting their “answer” from the Danish government whether they are given refugee status or instructed to return to their country of origin. The psychologist we’re working with, Hanne, who organized this training in Lynge says that most of the children lately are coming from Afghanistan and Chechnya, and that the journeys for so many of these children are quite traumatizing. And we haven’t even begun to hear about what they experienced before they took those journeys. That’s what we’ll be doing for the next four days, but the story for today is about the first few moments in Boston Logan Airport’s International terminal. I arrived with our two HUGE yellow duffel bags with all our training equipment for the trip. Steve and Jodi had already checked in and gone through security, as they had arrived before me at the airport.
Because I can’t check in three bags of my own, I had to call Steve and have him come back out through security to check one of the bags on his ticket. We met at the ticket counter and waited for our turn. A happy-looking man waved us over. I handed him my passport to check in and said, “Hi.” Steve said, “How you doin’ brother?” Ismail replied politely and asked if I was checking in. He also explained to us about the number of bags we can check and how much it will cost for the number we have. Then he weighed the bags. There’s always a weight limit. And we always pack heavy! So, he prints my boarding pass and then shows us the ticket for the bags…and then he leans in over the counter and motions to us to do the same. He confidently whispered to us, with a genuine smile on his face, “Now, normally your bags cost $50 each, but if they are over the weight limit it is an additional $100 per bag. And both of your bags are way over the limit. But I’m only going to charge you for the cost of the bags and I’ll tell you why I’m going to do that. Because when you walked up here, this man said, ‘How you doin’ brother?’ That means something and it makes a connection. You called me brother, and I’ll do this for you.”
Hey, working for a non-profit, it’s nice to save a buck or two when the right person is able to waive a fee. But when we think about what really happened at that ticket counter, we didn’t just save some money—we made a connection. And our brothers and sisters are everywhere: behind ticket counters, serving food, working at asylum schools, leading NGOs, and a million other places where they can make a difference in our days in very significant ways. And all it takes sometimes to open that door and make a difference in their day is to ask, “How you doin’ brother?”