The Beautiful Thing About the Maintenance Staff Who Ate My Lunch at the Airport
The first time she walked past me, she was saying something I couldn’t figure out. The language doesn’t sound familiar at all. I just gave a smile and she walked past. She doesn’t seem too satisfied with my smile. I thought she was just saying hi. And smiling is a universal language. Little did I know I was about to learn something about giving.
“The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.”
I forgot about her and decided to go warn a group that appears they will miss their flight. Apparently, they didn’t understand a word of English too. When I couldn’t make any communication breakthrough, I decided to walk around and come back to my seat. That was when I saw her again.
She sat down gleefully with my lunchbox opened and eating away. She felt so ashamed as she saw me coming back. She started talking again in this other language I couldn’t understand. But her demeanor this time showed that she was apologizing. Finally, she mustered out “sorry”. That was when I understood what she was talking about that first time.
You see, I had a 10-hour wait for my connecting flight. I was flying from Asia and the stopover was in Egypt. After the airline saw how long I would have to wait before my next flight, they gave me a lunchbox. It wasn’t anything too special, but it was just basic airplane food. I was tired of it already but I know I’d have to wait 10 hours. And I had no intentions of buying anything at the airport because I have already overspent on my trip.
So I had the lunchbox next to me, but I had no real desire for it. I ate the cake, drank the juice, but left the others. This was what that maintenance staff at the airport was asking me about when I thought she was just greeting. So, when I saw her eating from the lunchbox, I couldn’t hold back.
I busted into laughter. She was trying to apologize and all, but it was the funniest sight I have seen all week. I gestured to her that it was okay to eat, but she just kept on apologizing. Eventually, she left a few pieces she hadn’t touched on the chair for me and went away with others apologetically. She felt shameful. I tried to persuade her to take everything but she just wouldn’t. She kept saying, “sorry”.
A few minutes later, while still at the airport, I thought about what had just happened. And I wasn’t happy that she felt bad for eating the food. The truth is that she prevented me from wasting it. I wished I had given it to her the first time she asked. She would have been appreciative. But now, she was apologetic. And that is annoying. Every time she had to pass in front of me during my waiting time, she would apologize again. Clearly, I took no offense but her conscience wouldn’t let her be free.
“Everyone can experience the joy and blessing of generosity; because everyone has something to give.”
The opportunity to feel rich is not when we make money, rather it is when we give. There are two responses when people get from you. They are appreciation and apology. The goal is to receive more appreciation and fewer apologies. When you keep getting apologies all day, something is wrong with the way you are doing things.
If the maintenance staff understood English, I could have turned the apology into appreciation. But she didn’t. However, I learned an important lesson. Judging by looks, I would never imagine that the staff would appreciate me giving her my lunchbox. In fact, I considered secretly tossing the lunch into the nearby waste bin. Never downplay a giving possibility, even if it is a tiny one. The lesson for me was not to assume what people want or don’t want. Just make the offer and be okay with them saying NO.
“It’s not how much we give, but how much we put into giving.”
The most beautiful thing in all of this is how it shows people around the world all have the same desires. We just need to communicate properly.
It was a rich moment but from a very small incident. The lesson is to ask, give freely, and let people be appreciative to you instead of being apologetic. What a heart — to give! A rich moment, indeed.
“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”
I hope you have learned something.