In 1978, I became a flight attendant for a major airline. Earning my wings was the culmination of a childhood dream that I had set for myself after my first plane ride at the age of five. Like so many others before me, I fell in love with the romance of airplanes, adventure and helping others.
I have flown hundreds of flights since graduation, but one stands out among the many.
We were flying from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C, when I answered a lavatory call light in the coach cabin. There I found a young mother struggling with her infant. Everything was a mess, to say the least, and the mother, who was near hysterics, told me she had no more diapers or other clothing onboard the aircraft.
Through her tears, she informed me that they had missed their flight the previous night in Los Angeles and because she had very little money, she and her son had spent the night on the airport floor. Since she hadn't expected to miss the flight, she was forced to use up most of her supplies and whatever money she had to feed them.
With the saddest eyes I have ever seen she continued. She told me she was on her way to New Hampshire to deliver her son to the family that was adopting him. She could no longer support the two of them.
As she stood in front of me, crying, holding her beautiful son, I could see the despair and hopelessness on her face. And, as a mother of three beautiful daughters, I could feel her pain.
I immediately rang the flight attendant call button and asked for assistance from the other flight attendants. They brought cloth towels from first class to assist in cleaning up both mom and the infant. I ran and got my suitcase; because this woman and I were about the same size, I gave her a sweater and a pair of pants I had brought for my layover. Then I asked several families if they could spare extra diapers, formula and clothes for the child. After the young mother and her son had changed their clothes and the baby had gone to sleep, I sat with her, holding her hand, trying to provide some support and comfort for the remainder of the flight.
Once we landed, I walked them to their next flight, which would take them to their final destination; separation. I briefed the gate agent and the new flight attendant crew on the situation and asked them to give her special attention.
With tears in my eyes I gave her a hug and told her, "You have shown me the true meaning of courage and a mother's love. I will never forget you."
As she thanked me for all I had done she said softly, "You're not the flight attendant, you're a sky angel." Touching my flight attendant wings, she continued, "And those are your angel wings."
With those words she turned and walked down the jetway, her child in her arms, and boarded the plane for New Hampshire.
Though I am no longer a flight attendant, my "angel wings" are still on prominent display in my office. And each time I see them, I am reminded of that young woman, her infant son and the gift that she gave me on that special day - that we truly are all spiritual beings traveling in human form.