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Southwest Airlines Pilot Sets Example for Us All

Updated on April 9, 2014

It was difficult to decide what category to place this hub in. Indeed, I am not sure what I want to say or what point I want to make. I suppose we will have to start with the facts and then explore the feelings this story inspires. Though it is at its core a simple story, it involves so much more than what we see on the surface.

Sometimes there are more important reasons for catching a plane than going on vacation, making a business meeting, or simply getting to someplace. In the case of Mark Dickinson, the reason was his 2-year-old grandson Caden Rodgers was dying, due to be taken off life support in a matter of hours, regardless of whether he was able to get to Denver where the child was or not. As he raced through Los Angeles International Airport with his shoes in his hand after rushing through security, he knew he was too late to catch the flight. But he still had to try.

When he arrived at the Jetway, he found the plane's pilot and the gate agent waiting for him. This might seem a minor thing, but any member of the crew that causes a delay in takeoff can face disciplinary action. The pilot had made the decision to hold the plane and ultimately was twelve minutes late departing. He probably had a plane loaded with upset and irate passengers on his hands. Fortunately, Southwest Airlines did not hold the delay against the pilot, indicating that while planes certainly cannot be held for just any passenger running late, these were obviously extenuating circumstances and in fact praised the pilot's decision.

Mr. Dickinson made it to Denver in time to say goodbye to his grandchild and has stated his gratitude to the pilot and Southwest Airlines. For his part, the pilot has asked that his name not be reported and the airline has downplayed the story. But in this day of the Internet, when the most horrific details of the baddest bad news can spread around the globe like wildfire, it is nice to see that good news can now and then still make its way through as well.

So what can we learn from this story? It is simple lesson: That we must all strive to make someone's life better, even under the worst circumstances, any chance we get. This pilot's gesture may seem small. It may seem like he was not risking much as the airline would not want the negative publicity if they took action against him. But airlines have done exactly that in the past and will undoubtedly do so again in the future. There was a risk involved, but the pilot decided getting this man to his loved one was worth the risk.

The pilot did not have to do anything. He could have taken off on schedule and he would have never met Mr. Dickinson or have to face the man who would have lost so much had the pilot not waited. He would never have to think about what he could have given the man. He could have never given it a second thought. But he made the choice to wait and give this grandfather a chance for nothing more than to say goodbye. But anyone who has ever lost anyone dear knows what a gift that is.

So the next time you have a chance to do something nice for someone, no matter how small it may seem, think about this story and the difference it made. Twelve minutes was all it took to give this gift. Think about your actions and how they will affect those around you. Do what you can to bring at least a glimmer of happiness into a dark moment in someone's life and you will find the reward is well worth it. Make a difference when you can. That's all.

Sadly, this story does have a dark side. The child was allegedly killed by the mother's live-in boyfriend who reportedly slammed the child against a wall and claims he was drunk and high on marijuana at the time. I have intentionally focused on the positive aspects of this story, but you can find more background using the links below. We should be thankful for people in this world like this unnamed pilot because there are obviously a lot of bad people ready to do what they can to make this world less beautiful.


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    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 7 years ago from Texas

      Excellent...nothing more needs to be said! WB