A few weeks ago, my EC and I were on a flight back to Phoenix where some good things were on display. But before we analyze, here’s the story:
Somehow – probably through bing valiant in our First Estate – Chrissie and I managed to secure the coveted “empty middle seat” on an almost-full flight Southwest flight. As soon as we were airborne, that middle seat became the repository for all the stuff we wanted access to, such as our iPads and phones etc. We also had a plastic bag of stuff that we bought at the airport: Water bottles, a soda each, and a few snacks. You know the drill.
The flight was uneventful. Chrissie read most of the time, I watched a movie. (Love and Monsters – which I highly recommend.) We slowly munched on our snacks and beverages, partly because if you are “actively eating,” the mask can come down.
As we got close to landing, the flight attendant gave the spiel about coming through the cabin to collect any trash, etc. I missed the first pass, but as the attendant came back down the aisle with an open trash bag, I reached over with both hands and grabbed the bag of stuff from the middle seat and dropped it in the bag.
About five minutes later, as we were descending, my wife looked at me and said, “Where’s my Kindle?”
I said, “I don’t know. Where did you have it last?”
“Right there, on the seat,” as she pointed to the seat between us.
My heart sank. My brain immediately notified me that when I picked up the bag of trash, it felt a little heavier than it should have felt… (Now you tell me!)
I threw Chrissie’s Kindle in the trash!
A little detail about Chrissie’s Kindle: Chrissie is an avid reader, and it is loaded with ebooks. Seriously, Amazon should send her birthday gifts. Also, she was about 90% through the book she was reading, which didn’t help me feel better about the situation.
I’m guessing that when I scooped up the bag, my fingers went under the Kindle and I didn’t even notice. However it happened, the Kindle was nowhere to be found. I pushed the call button to ask the flight attendant what I should do. She came down the aisle and I explained the situation. She told me that if I wait until everyone got off the plane, we could look for it.
We waited in our seats as the passengers deplaned. If you fly very much, you’ll know the the time it takes for people to get off a plane can be measured with a calendar. Eventually, everyone was off except for us and the flight crew. They were in a hurry because they had to turn around and depart again, shortly.
I went to the back of the plane, just in time to see a guy in an orange vest pulling the trash bins out of their secure places. I caught up to him I explained what had happened. He pulled the white trash bags out of the bin and said, “Oh, man. That sucks – Have at it!” But not before giving me a pair of plastic gloves to wear.
I dug through about four bags of trash until I was pretty sure that there was no Kindle to be found. I was very sure that it was a disgusting “Mike Rowe” kind of experience. After I was finished, the guy told me that there should be bags up in front as well. He looked outside and told me that the guy was on his way to collect that trash.
Chrissie had our carry-on bags, and I had wet, gross plastic gloves on as we walked up the aisle to the front of the plane. The flight attendants knew what we were after and showed us where the trash was. Right before I started digging, a man stopped me, and took the bags out of the plane and put them out in the jetway so I could search the easier, without interrupting the attendants.
So, I dug though a few more clear bags. No Kindle. I was pretty sure that I had dropped our trash into a white bag, but they told me that’s all there was. Even if there had been more, I had reached the gross-out point already. If the Kindle had been in there, it would have been soggy, and covered with soda and all manner of grossness.
So I gave up the search, took off the plastic gloves, threw them away and thanked the attendants. As we turned to walk up the jetway, a rep from the airline took my name and number, “Just in case – you never know what can turn up.”
I felt bad and apologized profusely to my wife as we walked into the terminal. I headed straight to a bathroom to scrub my arms.
Are you waiting for the big finish? There isn’t one. The Kindle was never recovered.
But…there’s a message in there somewhere.
Now, I know the importance of good customer service, and I don’t want to sound like a commercial for Southwest Airlines, but I must say that every single person that we dealt with was genuinely nice to me. The felt bad, they let me look, they gave me gloves, they even got contact info…just in case something turned up.
None of them made me feel stupid. There was no eye-rolling, no “tough cookies” attitude. No, “Hey, we have work to do.” I didn’t expect their response. Their kindness surprised me.
Even more important: When I told Chrissie that I threw her Kindle away, and again when I told her that I was unable to find it after searching the trash, she was nice to me. Really nice.
Now to some of you, that might not sound like a big deal, but let me emphasize that she never got mad, she never told me I was stupid, she never said, “Thanks a lot,” with any disdain. She didn’t roll her eyes or shake her head in disgust. Sure, she felt the loss, but she never made me feel like an idiot – on the contrary – she downplayed it and told me it was okay. (Would I have gotten mad? Dunno.)
To those of you who know my wife, that is probably no surprise. She is genuinely a nice person. She is kind, thoughtful and remarkably patient. (I would know, because I have tested her since 1986.)
April Conference was still in my mind when this all went down, and I immediately thought about Elder Gary E. Stevenson’s talk, “Hearts Knit Together.” In it, he tells of a research project that determined that when test subjects (rabbits) were treated tenderly and with kindness, they thrived.
I believe with all my heart that one of the reasons our marriage has thrived for these 35 years is precisely because of kindness. My wife rarely gets mad at me, rarely scolds me for my mistakes, and is quick to forgive. I, in turn, try my best to show her kindness in deed and word, and take care of her heart the best I can. We do alright. How the lost Kindle plays into this? She showed me kindness and mercy for not getting mad at me. I showed kindness by digging through gross trash trying to find it, and by paying for a new one when we got home.
Yes, we still argue now and again – and it destroys us both. We aren’t very good at normal day-to-day functioning when our hearts aren’t right with each other. Our hearts are, indeed, “knit together.”
A quote from the rabbit researcher is eye-opening:
“Ultimately, what affects our health in the most meaningful ways has as much to do with how we treat one another, how we live, and how we think about what it means to be human.” (link)
Elder Stephenson added:
“In a secular world, bridges connecting science with gospel truths sometimes seem few and far between. Yet as Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, Latter-day Saints, the results of this scientific study may seem more intuitive than astonishing. For me, this lays another brick in the foundation of kindness as a fundamental, healing gospel principle—one that can heal hearts emotionally, spiritually, and, as demonstrated here, even physically.” (link)
I believe that sort of kindness can be learned, and enhanced through desire and effort – and spiritual help. I’ll admit that I am not as kind as my wife, but I will add that I am more kind than I used to be, in part because of her example. We can always improve. “And charity suffereth long, and is kind…” (Moroni 7:45)
It has been an interesting year. I have seem many people – both religious and secular – speak to the importance of kindness. It has been inspiring to see how some have embraced it and shared it during these difficult time.
I have also seen unkindness on rampant display: From hoarding toilet paper, to the often brutal world of social media, to the cancel culture, there is much unkindness, unforgiveness and precious little mercy on display. (Unless, of course, you agree with me socially and politically, then all is copasetic.)
I miss Elder Joseph B. Within. So often he spoke to my heart. He said:
“Kindness is the essence of a celestial life. Kindness is how a Christlike person treats others. Kindness should permeate all of our words and actions at work, at school, at church, and especially in our homes.” (link)
If kindness is the essence of celestial life, and if we want our homes and hearts to embody those celestial traits, then we simply must be kind to each other. I figure that in our marriages, if we aren’t kind to each other in mortality, it will be a non-issue in the next life – because we won’t be together. (Yeah, ouch.)
Being a genuinely kind person can require changes in our behavior and even n our personalities, but it’s worth it, and it is attainable. Christ is our ultimate role model, and the Holy Ghost stands ready to help mold us and do the heavy lifting. There is always room to improve.
Thanks to some patient airline attendants, thanks to Elder Stevenson. but mostly, thanks to my wife for embodying this essential trait.
I want to be kind to ev’ryone,
For that is right, you see.
So I say to myself, “Remember this:
Kindness begins with me.” (link)