One year ago, last September, after clocking out for the day, I walked down the hall to catch the elevator.
As I headed to the elevator and pushed the call button, the elevator doors slide open and a tall young man with a rolling suitcase and a puzzled look slowly exits the elevator. I wait for him to exit and then proceed to enter the elevator. I see him look over to his right and then over to his left like he does not know which way to go. As the doors are getting ready to close, I see him turn, facing the elevator and I realize he needs help. So I stopped the doors from closing, exit the elevator and we begin to converse.
I figured he may need help locating his floor or find an office. Although, seeing him coming off the elevator with a suitcase did catch me off-guard.
He asked me if this is the way to the airport terminals. He tells me he is flying out and needs to get to his gate.
I told him that he was not inside the DFW Airport but rather, he was inside an office building. I asked him how he got to our office? I figured he must of drove and parked inside our garage, then took the elevator up.
It is not uncommon for people to drive to our building looking for the DFW airport and terminals. However, usually we encounter them in the garage or on the service road as we are leaving and redirect them on their way. He said his driver dropped him off there.
I felt so bad for this young man, who was now stranded. I could tell he was young and he seemed vulnerable, lost.
I was angry at that driver. How dare he drop off a passenger in the middle of a very large complex with no safe way of walking to an exit or entering inside to the airport. Not to mention the time and security restrictions a passenger needs to get safely to their gate.
While our office is located at the DFW airport, we are not inside the airport. To get inside the DFW airport, you have to drive through the tollbooth. To get to our office, you have to drive on the service road. GPS software sometimes will get the location wrong. And it can be tricky for those trying to navigate with so many signs and options.
I knew there was no easy way, roads or walkways, that connect our building with the airport. In fact, the airport even has tall high security wire fences that resemble prisons.
Could he have called Uber or Lyft? Possibly. But again, locating our office can be tricky. In addition, this would have added time and another expense on top of what had already cost him. And I had no idea how much time he had to get to his gate. For me, it was 10-15 mins of my time. I told him I would take him to his terminal/gate.
I said, “My name is Karen.” He told me his name is Jaden. I thought, wow his name is similar to my sons. As we were walking through the garage towards my car, I joked with him halfheartedly but half serious, looking closely at his eyes, with a somewhat serious tone and said, “You are cool, right? We are cool, right? I don’t usually pick up strange men.” He chuckled and said. “Yes, ma’am.”
I also figured, worse case scenario, our interaction was recorded in the hallway at the elevator. My employer has camera’s both inside our office and outside in the hallway. So I would at least have a “last scene” location.
He too, needed to trust me, a complete stranger. We both called on trust and faith in a moments notice.
On our drive to the airport terminals, I learned that Jaden, who is from a small town in Florida. was away from home for the first time, in his first year of college in Corsicana, TX, also a small town of about 23,000 people.
Jaden had a death in his family, so he was flying home to be with them. He had hired a shuttle service he had located through the college, to drive him to the DFW airport, which is about 75 miles north of his college. The driver took the service road instead of taking the tollbooth road to the airport. The driver then stops at our building, (Jaden said the driver didn’t really know where he was going and basically tells Jaden he needs to get out there), and drops Jaden off at our first floor garage and drives off! He leaves this teenager, who is 1000 miles away from home, 75 miles away from his college, both are small towns, stranded with no where to go in one of the largest cities and largest airports in the United States.
I am piping-mad and so upset that a driver would do something like that. I told Jaden he needs to call the company of that driver and tell them what happened. I told him he should get a refund or at least get a partial refund. I told him that I would be more than happy to confirm his complaint. I even told him I would call them for him!
So yeah, maybe I wanted to drum up my “Karen” skills.
I kept thinking what if this happened to Jaren or Noah. He was close to their age. I would hope that someone would help them in their time of need and keep them safe to their next destination.
I dropped Jaden off at the terminal and got out to say good bye. We took a quick picture. And I even txt’d Jaden three days later to be sure he got home safely to Florida. He responded, he did.
While I still get irritated thinking about what that driver did, I also feel like it was divine intervention. I had an opportunity to help someone. It was like my motherly instincts just took over. Jaden needed a little help and I was in a position to do so. I kept thinking about Jaden’s mother. I wanted to be sure he got safely to his next destination so he could get home to see his family, his mother. I was doing my part, as one mother to another.
The next day, at the office, I shared my story with a couple co-workers. I even got to watch my interaction with Jaden on the video that captured everything. It was interesting to watch it unfold. I saw first hand, that it literally only takes one second to make a choice and make a difference.
I sent Jaden a txt today to see how he was doing and to ask him if he minded if I shared our story and our picture. Jaden gave me his permission and said, “I’m very fine with it.”
Then I sent Jaden a picture of me and MY two sons. I hadn’t told Jaden that I am a mother of two mixed race sons. It didn’t seem necessary or important at the time. Who I am should not be reflected by anyone else but me, as a person and by my actions.
I also had not shared this story or shared this picture on any social media. Only a couple co-workers and my son, Jaren knew. However, the time seems right to do so now.
With everything going on in our country, and people like Abby Johnson, a white adoptive mom, saying that it would be “smart” for police to racially profile her own trans-racial, mixed-race, adopted son because “he’s going to grow up and he’s going to be a tall, probably sort of large, intimidating-looking-maybe brown man,” I felt it was time to share this story.
Nothing about Jaden’s size or skin color made him intimidating. I had initial concerns only because I did not know him at all! It was a chance encounter and I would have proceeded with caution no matter what the color, gender or age of the person. However, after being with Jaden a short time, I could see and feel his sweet and genuine nature.
I adore Jaden! In the brief moment we shared, he has made such a positive impression on me and I still think fondly of him one year later. I can only imagine how his family and friends must feel to share his presence. I know I have been honored and graced to do so.
I hope one day, when he finishes college and does great and important things, he will look back fondly on our chance encounter as a positive memory, knowing none of us can judge a book by it’s cover. And then pay it forward.
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2
“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” 1 John 3:17