Crying at the Airport: What This Man Said Rocked Me


by Don Smith

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Last week, I was on my way to Denver for a conference. Changing planes at O'Hare in Chicago, I made a detour as nature called. I gradually realized that the gentleman next to me in the restroom was trying desperately to hold it together, his face red from crying. As I was washing my hands next to him, I asked him if he was ok.

“Yeah, I'm fine,” he managed to say, obviously not fine. I started to walk away, but something made me stop and ask again what was going on and if I could do anything to help.

He looked up at me with red-rimmed eyes and said, “My daughter was just killed and raped.”

“My daughter was just killed and raped.”

I wasn't quite sure what to say. I don't know what I expected, but this was not it. I put my hand on his shoulder and just stood there for a moment, thinking of my own daughters and quietly grieving with this father who had just lost so much.

He went on, “I'm trying to stay strong, my other children need me, but I don't know if I can.”

I managed to say, “I can't imagine. I've got 5 kids of my own and couldn't imagine life without them. I'm so sorry for your loss; I wish there were something I could do or say to help.”

He nodded, pulled himself together, and said, “Thanks, I appreciate it.”

That was the last time I saw him, pulling himself together, wiping his eyes, taking a deep breath, squaring his shoulders, and heading back toward his family. There's a saying that goes, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” How true is that?

Always remember the most important things in life are not things. Give your loved ones an extra hug today, share this article with someone special to you, smile and do something to cheer up a stranger, and give people a little grace. You never know what they might be going through.

About the Author 

Don Smith

Happily married with five kids, Smith owns a technology company, has served on the board of directors for multiple companies, and loves playing soccer, hiking, and mentoring.

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