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One of the greatest joys of my job is reading the messages that passengers and employees send to our firstname.lastname@example.org account. As those of you who’ve written in with your thoughts have already learned, the American Way staff and I really do read all your letters, and we send you personal replies. It’s a policy we implemented with a changing of the guard three years ago. It seemed we’d become somewhat derelict in our interaction with our readers, and since this magazine is geared to have something in it for everyone, we were remiss in our correspondences. All that changed in October 2008 when a departmental reorganization was set in motion.
Now, since that time, I have to tell you, I’m impressed every day with the stories of employees helping passengers, passengers helping passengers, passengers helping employees, and so on. The underlying message here is that when you distill these relationships to their purest form, what I’m seeing is strangers helping strangers. Perhaps there’s a scientific or alchemic explanation for what happens to a person’s psyche when he or she boards a plane, but I have to tell you, the stories of generosity exhibited on American Airlines planes are bookworthy. All you have to do is go on our website and click back through past “Air Mail” columns to read just how caring our in-flight community is. Which brings me to one of the more magnanimous gestures extended to me by you, our travelers.
If you’ve read my column in the past, you know that neither I nor my wife is from Texas, although we call the Dallas/Fort Worth area home. We have our own family now (two kids and, from time to time, some goldfish and snails), but we always get a little glum around the holidays because we’re essentially isolated from the rest of our families.
Then, out of the blue, I received an email from Susan Kandell Wilkofsky, an AAdvantage ?Platinum member and a devout reader of ?American Way. “I feel that I already know you from your ?semimonthly ‘words o’ wisdom,’ ” she wrote. “I enjoy reading your publication from cover to cover, and I’m a whiz at Sudoku and the ever-challenging Mensa quiz.
“Please forgive my forwardness, but as a fellow non-Dallas native, I wanted to invite you and your family to our home for dinner for the holiday.”
Susan explained that she and her husband, Steven, started this tradition more than a decade ago and that it was a gesture they were paying forward from when they first moved to Dallas; they, too, had no family here, and they were thankful when Dallas locals invited them to holiday dinners. Now that their kids are grown and living in different states, they extended the same courtesy to me and my family that they hoped would be extended to their children and their children’s families. And, folks, I have to tell you, opening your doors and inviting people into your home is about as selfless — and about as American — as it gets. It’s something I’m reflecting on even more as we ready ourselves for Christmas and Hanukkah. The Wilkofskys’ hospitality is another reason I’ll be paying close attention to our gift guide this year (page 51), so that I can find the perfect token of my family’s appreciation.
We had a terrific time at the Wilkofsky home, and we made new friendships that will undoubtedly last a lifetime. My wife commented to me on the way out that the experience had renewed her faith in the kindness of strangers, to which I replied: “Honey, I have to tell you that on AA planes, I see this kind of thing all the time.”