Well, that didn't take long, did it? We're not even a full week into the new year, and I'm already at it again. For years, I have been the mascot of the "if your head wasn't nailed to your neck you'd forget it" club. I've forgotten items from coast to coast, border to border, and on at least three other continents. Some I've gotten back (like my passport, which I dropped while being stupid in Hyde Park in London when I was a high school senior); some I haven't (like my camera, which I left in the seatback pocket of an aircraft of another airline--and which, unfortunately, was full of the undeveloped pictures I had taken of a friend's wedding).
The good news (yes, there is some!) about being as forgetful as I can be is that I've had the chance to see, and to experience, generosity from complete strangers. Unfortunately, I've also seen, and experienced, the "it sucks to be you!" attitude of many the customer-contact staff at other airlines, retail establishments, restaurants, and parks and recreation services when they encounter victims of self-inflicted forgetfulness. Their indifference, and how it feels to receive it, has made me a firm believer in "paying it forward"--the practice of repaying a random act of kindness that I've received by showing another, equally hapless stranger the same dignity, compassion, and generosity that I've been shown many times.
So this morning, in the typical mad rush of the second business day of a new year, I forgot my billfold, complete with cash and credit cards, on my nightstand at home. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that until I had already gotten a rather generous serving of scrambled eggs and hash browns and had worked my way up to the cashier at The Landing, the cafeteria here at our Headquarters campus. When I realized what I had done, of course, I froze in utter embarrassment, barely hearing the words "I think I forgot my billfold" come out of my mouth. Without so much as a pause, the person in line behind me said "here! Put his on my bill." I turned around and saw another Southwest Employee, albeit one that I've never seen in the building before, standing with a big smile on her face--and a $20 bill in her hand. "Just pay me when you have the chance," she said, as she printed her name and office extension on the receipt.
One more minor crisis averted, and another wonderful display of generosity (not to mention extreme and notable SOUTHWEST SPIRIT!)--and, for me, another affirmation that being a Servant Leader is simply another way to pay it forward. Today, my Servant Leader and "breakfast savior" was MIT Administrative Specialist Tara (and yes, I have already paid her back!). THANK YOU, Tara! I'll be looking to return the favor by lending a hand just as soon as I see the need--if not to you, then to someone else up in The Landing, or at the airport, or at the supermarket, or wherever it's needed.
Hopefully, that day, I'll have remembered my billfold. Happy New Year, everyone!