Friendly Skies

I’m having out-of-town guests next month. Putting together my show-them-the-best-of-Chicago list includes, of course, the iconic Second City right up there at the top. As I hopped online to find out what revue is playing right now, I was disheartened to see that Second City has experienced problems lately with verbally abusive audience members. So much so that they are now starting each show with an announcement of what should be obvious – racist, sexist, or otherwise rageful bullying will be not be tolerated.

This kind of uncivil, even assaulting behavior seems to be more and more the norm. Who has not been shocked and horrified by the series of airline-related hostilities toward their customers? I should say that on my last few flights, the attendants have bent over backward to be friendly and helpful. But yelling at passengers and ultimately physically assaulting them should never happen.

The lack of civility hurts not only the individual in the line of fire but the surrounding community as well. At the heart of it is the breakdown of societal norms that we have covenanted with each other to uphold. It is scary enough to us adults. For our children, it destroys their sense of safety that the larger community is supposed to provide.

So it was heartening to read today of a different kind of airline experience – one in which an adult served as a positive role model for a child, without even knowing he was being observed. The adult was NFL player for the Atlanta Flacons, Mohamed Sanu. On a flight up the east coast, he was seated in the row in front of a child traveling to train for an elite hockey team. Sanu spent his time on the flight studying his playbook. He noshed on a banana and cranapple juice. And when approached by fans eager to say Hello to the star, Sanu reciprocated with friendly conversation. The boy behind Sanu watched it all. And he took note. His parents did too. And in this current environment where community, self-discipline, and civility cannot be taken for granted, they wrote Sanu a note thanking him for inspiring their child.

This is not a big story. It should not even be remarkable. But in these turbulent times, it bears sharing – community is the sum of small acts of civility. Pass it on!

Share your stories from the friendly skies.

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