I had a most interesting travel experience a few weeks back. I was speaking for the National Association of Elevator Contactors. The occasion was the annual NAEC Spring Conference taking place at the Naples Grand Beach Resort, in Naples, FL.
My air travel had been booked well in advance to save my client on travel expenses. Originally, I was to fly through Atlanta on my way to Ft. Myers. However, a few weeks before I was to fly out, Southwest Airlines changed my flight schedule. I am sure the re-scheduling had something to do with the well-publicized problems with the Boeing 737 Max. At any rate, Southwest re-routed me through Raleigh- Durham, NC. On first appearance, it seemed I was flying to Raleigh-Durham, and then, on to Ft. Myers. The new schedule did not show I would be changing planes along the way.
Well, here's how it worked out. My 6:00 AM flight out of Nashville took me to Orlando, FL, then on to Raleigh-Durham. After a short layover, the next flight took me to Baltimore, then to Ft. Myers. Fortunately, I didn't have to change planes in either Orlando or Baltimore. But all told, I spent 10 hours either on a plane or in an airport on my way to Ft. Myers. Any way you slice it, it made for a long day. I was a tired puppy when I finally arrived at my hotel.
When the speaker's bureau which booked me for the event negotiated my contact, it was agreed I would do a one-hour keynote address in the morning followed by a breakout session. The client agreed to pay my half-day fee for both sessions. During our conference call one week prior to the event I was made aware of two pieces of information which brought additional pressure to bear on my performance. My client, in order to get the most "bang for their buck" had planned a two-hour breakout. Secondly, I found that most of my audience members were well-established business executives, many of which were from New York and New Jersey.
So, on the evening before the event, I found myself travel-weary, and looking at a three-hour morning speaking performance in front of a sophisticated audience.
Some situations call for you to reach down really deep. In the end, just before I drifted off to sleep that night, I decided to "dance with who brung me."
I am a southern boy. My roots run deep. I am a teller of tales. I have never forgotten from where I came.
So, I spoke from my heart for three hours, and I shared the best of what I have come to know to be true. And I learned, all over again, that we are all more alike than we even reckon. I saw it in their eyes.
The end of the morning found me "spent" -- mentally, emotionally, and physically. It is a good feeling when you have "poured yourself out." And I was "hungry as a bear."
After asking around, I directed myself to the Bayside Grill and Bar. The young lady who met me at door asked if I would like to dine on the porch. I said I would.
My server was attentive and polite. I ordered the special of the day. I must describe it to you. It was a mango-chili glazed, pan-fried snapper on a bed of snap-green beans. And it was delicious!
So, I was sitting there, looking out across the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and enjoying this great cuisine. The sky was blue and the breeze heavenly. I was tired (but it was a "good tired.") And in that moment I was overcome with this deep sense of gratitude. And the thought occurred to me, "It doesn't get any better than this."
In the same moment, my server approached my table, smiling slyly.
"I know where you're from," she said.
"Did my accent give me away?" I asked.
"You're from Tennessee," she replied. "You're a motivational speaker."
"Are you a psychic? I asked.
"No!" she smiled. "There was a gentleman over there (She turned and pointed to the other side of the restaurant.) who was in you sessions this morning. He told me."
She smiled again.
And in almost a whisper, she leaned forward and said, "Don't worry about paying for your lunch. He took care of it."
I must say I was a bit overcome -- a random act of kindness from a stranger, not soon to be forgotten.