Nan Russell | They count

In second-day clothes after a canceled flight, we used the provided kits to brush our teeth and create some semblance of presentability for this unexpected stay. Working from a darkened hallway after room checkout, we waited for the evening shuttle to take us back to the airport, hoping for a positive outcome during this winter blast.

When we arrived finally at our destination, we were anxious to collect our luggage and head home for warm showers. But we found ourselves waiting in a line – this time to report missing luggage.

What happened next startled me. I couldn’t help overhearing the conversation between a father and his college-age daughter behind me. She was joining her family for a week’s snowboarding vacation, and her overstuffed snowboard bag had arrived, but her suitcase hadn’t. Turns out, she’d left that morning from the East Coast, and her bag had something in it she wanted to wear that evening. So she was whining a bit about the inconvenience.

But it was her father who focused the conversation. Reminiscing with his daughter about tidbits from past travel mishaps, it was clear that this dad was used to escalating his outrage until he got what he wanted. Ranting about the inefficiencies of small-town airports and incompetent airline employees, his venomous words fueled their plan.

“Maybe you should do what you did in St. Thomas” she suggested, offering to start the process by demonstrating her dismay to the agent first. “I can cry if you want,” she offered. “No,” he said. “Let me handle it. I’m in the mood to let someone have it, and at least get you a free ticket or at some vouchers.”

It wasn’t their frustration over displaced baggage that surprised me; it was their calculating approach to an unintentional mishap. They viewed this incident as an opportunity to “get something.” For the rest of us and the harried agent, their actions “gave something” – a bout of toxic emotions into our environment.

It’s funny, that same afternoon in the darkened hotel hallway while catching up on email, I’d read a daily mediation about actions. “All things are important – they all count,” it reminded.

I believe that’s true. Our actions and words have a ripple effect. On the positive side, you never know when a seed you plant or the behavior you demonstrate may be someone else’s inspiration. On the less than positive side, how many generations of this family or others like them, will act like victims spewing negativity into a collective world over minor incidents.

In the scheme of things, our actions do count. And it’s the positive everyday ones that give most of us a way to contribute to and mold the kind of world we want to live in. This incident served as a reminder to me – the world needs a lot more of our help on the positive side.


Author of Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way (Capital Books; January 2008), and host of “Work Matters with Nan Russell” weekly on, Nan Russell has spent over 20 years in management, most recently with QVC as a vice president. Sign up to receive Nan’s “Winning at Working” tips and insights at

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