Listening Is Caring
By AC • September 10, 2019
I sat down on the plane yesterday to fly back home from a quick business trip to the east coast.
There was an older lady sitting in the seat next to mine. She told me her name is Lorraine. She was taken on to the plane with a wheel chair during preboarding. I sat down, said hi and so did Lorraine. Super nice lady. You could see it in her eyes.
A nice grin from a small, frail, kind human.
I was going through my business travel routine. Same thing every time. You know me. Routine.
Started working...I had 4 uninterrupted hours of productivity!
Lorraine started talking so I took off my headphones and listened.
Usually not something a business traveler does. Those are your force field from others. Your bubble to protect you from distraction. But this time was different. Listening matters. Lorraine was talking for a reason.
Listening is caring.
She wasn’t another business traveler trying to “network.” I usually find a way to ignore those. You can see them from a mile away.
But, people who are scared, lonely, hurting or lost always get my ear. You can tell if you look for them.
Don’t ignore this. Look for it. And do something about it.
Lorraine was lonely and scared. It made me sad. I had a mission now.
I find out she hasn’t flown in quite some time. Doesn’t know how to open the tray table or do much of anything a regular traveler knows. I got to help her.
She just left Florida abruptly to get away from the storm coming in. And “might” have family in Denver.
But she was confused. She kept repeating things. She said she didn’t know where she was going or who was going to help her... or why she was going to Denver.
Lorraine talked herself in to a feeling of helplessness.
She was scared...scared going on the trip to Denver. Scared of being alone. Not sure why she was there. Repeatedly. And worse each time. You could see her eyes welling up.
This happens to people who are losing their memory. It’s scary to not know if you have help. Some get angry. Others sad. Lorraine was sad and blaming herself.
She was not sure what’s going on or if she will be alone far from home. Over and over again.
She clearly had severely diminished short term memory. She had good long term but certainly not any recall of today’s events. Not able to tell me much more about what’s going on. Couldn’t remember who she was supposed to meet, or if she wandered off from her care center. Didn’t know if she brought a phone or not. Didn’t have one with her.
I helped her with her tray table, food and drinks. She even tried to share her food with me. We had dinner together. She got scared when it was a bumpy ride so we made some jokes to ease the fear.
Me and the lady across the aisle helped Lorraine to the bathroom and back to her seat.
And, I got the flight attendants working on making sure she had someone picking her up. Did she? They weren’t sure for a while.
Lots of conversation and questions ensued and United scrambled to figure it out.
The lady sitting near me told me she saw someone drop her off at the gate. That’s good news. She remembered who that was by talking through her day. It was her care giver Theresa. That’s a good sign. She should be going to Denver! That’s good!
We land and United has a manager at the gate to meet her and make sure she has someone to take care of her. They got a wheel chair to help her.
I wrote my cell phone on my card and gave it to her. I told her to have someone call me if she needs help.
Time to go home.
Mind at ease. Mission accomplished.
An opportunity for kindness.
What would you have done?
Ignored or listened? Can you give to someone that needs a few hours out of your life?
We had fun. We called her a stow away on the plane and laughed about it. I told her she was a rebel for escaping her retirement community and that her friends would be jealous of her adventures. That boosted her ego a little. We had a good time.
And she had a better day.
She smiled and said thanks.
Thanks for your time, Lorraine.
You made my day also.
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