The Wailing Lady

The flight from Dallas to Philadelphia was shorter than expected, but the landing was disturbingly loud.

The lady two rows in front of me wailed in panic.

I buckled up in Dallas when an elderly lady was wheeled in by two flight attendants. They gently lifted her to the seat, buckled her, and tucked her in with a blanket. It seemed kind and peaceful.

Two and a half hours later our wheels hit the runway in Philadelphia with an alarming jolt. The frail lady two rows up wailed a wail I could feel in my bones. And she kept wailing.

Frailty magnifies panic.

It was a pathetic terrifying sound that still comes to me.

I wondered why the healthy man one seat over didn’t do something. He raised his hand as if to quiet her, but to no avail. He leaned in her direction.

Across the aisle another passenger looked on. The helpless lady continued crying pitifully. I looked at the two and wondered, “Why don’t you do something?”

It’s frustrating when OTHERS don’t act. Did you notice that I comfortably excluded myself from the “You” in, “Why don’t YOU do something?”

It’s easy to wonder why OTHERS aren’t doing something. After all, I’m not allowed to unbuckle.

Finally, a flight attendant unbuckled and knelt beside her while we taxied.

4 excuses to NOT act:

  1. TSA agents could board the plane and drag you off in cuffs if you unbuckle.
  2. Others are closer.
  3. If you unbuckle, the plane could lurch and who knows what might happen?
  4. Maybe you’ll make matters worse if you hold the hand of a terrified frail elderly lady while a plane taxis to the terminal.

Choose compassion over conformity.

Compassion is often a breaking of the rules.

Rules, at least occasionally, justify cruelty.

What does compassionate leadership look like?

What concerns you about compassionate leadership?