Opinion: The gift of kindness

Every year should be a Year of Kindness.

2018 was declared the Year of Kindness. After experiencing the inspiring warmth of strangers on a recent trip to Washington state, it is my prayer that every year will be a year of kindness.

Early on Nov. 20, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I arrived at the Juneau airport to fly to Portland to visit some of my relatives in southwestern Washington. At 83 and getting a bit wobbly on my feet, I don’t enjoy or feel comfortable traveling alone anymore.

When I checked in and got past security, I went to purchase a cup of coffee. A lady, whom I had never met before, was at the counter paying for her breakfast. She looked at me and pointed out that the cafe had a great breakfast sandwich. I said it looked so good. She then said she would like to buy me breakfast, and she did!

[A Year of Kindness: Thank you Juneau]

That day and the next are probably among the busiest travel days of the year, with folks flying to spend Thanksgiving with family. Our flight was held in Ketchikan due to fog in Seattle, and then my flight from Seattle to Portland was delayed multiple times. This could be a time of anxiety, with delayed and cancelled flights, gates being changed, and crews being replaced for those running late. There could have been irritation and rudeness, but instead, all I experienced was kindness from not only airport and airline employees, but also from other travelers.

I was so filled with gratitude. I would just stand still for a moment and folks would ask me if I needed anything. It started with the person who met me with a wheelchair when I got off the airplane in Seattle. He took me to the gate where my flight would be leaving. I was so glad that a friend who had helped me with my reservation requested wheelchair assistance for this trip (I hadn’t used this service before except following heart surgery.)

I went to look for something to eat, but because of a remodeling project, there was limited seating space. A woman waiting to pick up her order invited me to sit with her and her family. Someone taking the time to extend this invitation touched my heart.

[Let’s continue kindness in 2019]

After returning to my gate, I sat waiting for my flight. Another traveler seated next to me asked me where I was traveling. After telling her, she informed me that the gate had been changed. She then went to the counter and the next thing I knew an attendant came and let me know where the gate was.

By the time I left Seattle I was so filled with heartfelt gratitude. I could hardly wait to tell my family and friends all about it!

Then I had the most wonderful Thanksgiving and visit with my family, including meeting great nephews and nieces and a sweet 3-year-old great great niece for the first time.

I told a friend about my experience and she said the holidays make folks friendly. I’m sure this is true, but I want to say that this travel experience has been on my mind since I came back. I have gone over each event several times. I can’t stop thinking about this experience. It was such a lasting gift! We never know what folks are going through or the path they are traveling. The gift of kindness is worth everything. People often tell me that I am a thoughtful person. This string of kindnesses however, all offered to me, really choked me up and has stuck with me.

I’ll repeat myself — every year should be a Year of Kindness.

• Claudette Curtis is an Alaska Native and has lived in Juneau and Douglas since 1962. She is a retiree who spends her days volunteering for various organizations and causes.

• Claudette Curtis is an Alaska Native and has lived in Juneau and Douglas since 1962. She is a retiree who spends her days volunteering for various organizations and causes. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.

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