See something, say something kind airport security line

If You See Something, Say Something Kind

At the time, it seemed like such small thing, just a moment in a busy summer. But to this day, it still bubbles up in my thoughts. It was a simple exchange between two strangers in the TSA security line–a new twist on “see something, say something.” But the connection brought joy and sparked smiles. And not just between her and me.

That was the best part–everyone around us was smiling too.

Smiles in the TSA Security Line?

The past summer was chock-a-block with travel from June to September. Some of it fun, some of it work, and you’ll hear no complaints from me. I’ve grown to love the busy-ness of our nomadic summers.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that one of my favorite memories of the summer transpired in the TSA security line. This time I was traveling for work, so it was an early morning and LaGuardia was full of smartly dressed business travelers with carry-ons in tow and a laser focus on efficiently navigating the airport.

So, you can understand why I was hesitant to strike up a conversation with the woman in front of me, who was intently scrolling through her email.

I thought to myself, “I’m always preaching kindness and the importance of reaching out. I even wrote an article about this exact thing! Suck it up and say something.” I contemplated the unlikely worst-case scenarios: being ignored or irritating her. I could survive either of those.

“Excuse me, do you like your shoes? I have been considering purchasing the same pair. I think they look great.”

The woman looked up from her phone. As she turned around to me, I registered the wide smile on her face and a sparkle in her eyes. She gushed, “Do you really like them? This is the first time I’ve worn them! I thought they were perfect with this outfit, and they’re turning out to be very comfortable.”

As we worked our way through the TSA line together, we chatted like old friends having coffee. It was a lovely interaction that lifted both of our spirits.

The Ripple Effect of Kindness

Still, the part that really sticks with me was the reaction of the people around us.

As my initial words, “excuse me,” left my mouth, there was a noticeable uptick in tension in the people surrounding us. Anticipating a conflict, they glanced up nervously from their phones.

Life is like that nowadays, isn’t it? At least in New York it is.

However, once the cheery conversation ensued, apprehension was replaced with relief–and smiles.

That’s what still comes back to me in quiet moments when I’m folding the laundry or walking our dog. It wasn’t just about the kindness of complimenting a woman on her shoes or even the fact that the connection brightened both of our days.

That one shared moment of kindness had a ripple effect right there in the TSA line. The people around us were benefitting too.

See Something, Say Something

It surprises me that even after my extensive experience reading, writing, and researching about kindness, I still hesitate. Except–I’m human, and it’s instinctual to protect oneself.  It’s counterintuitive to put yourself in a vulnerable position.

Taking a small chance in the TSA line paid off, because vulnerability is fertile ground for kindness and growth. That’s why it’s critical, if you see something (that sparks a kind thought), then say something. Immediately. Before your ego talks you out of it.

Oliver Burkeman, author of “Four Thousand Weeks,” had an invaluable piece of advice:

“Cultivate instantaneous generosity.”

When a way to be kind crosses your mind, do it. When you see something, say something. Chances are, you won’t regret it. And neither will the people around you.

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