Inspiration at The Airport
One of the only times I get “me” time is at the airport. I used to hate the airport, and now try to get there 2-3 hours early after a hard week of work simply to sit at the bar, read a book, have a drink, and just BE. My favorite part is the people you meet in that short time. There’s always the few furiously typing on their phones, the inevitable “I missed my flight and I’m stuck here for 6 hours until the next one” person, and usually several who are like me; en route home from a business trip.
I’ve gotten my routine down and usually have 1 drink while I read a book for the first half hour; at the same time scoping out the place to see if anyone looks remotely interesting. Yes, I know…”don’t judge a book by it’s cover”, but here’s what I do…I try and make eye contact and smile. It’s amazing the responses you get. Sometimes people look away, but most of the time they smile back. Even more amazing is how much you can learn about someone just from a smile. The tight lipped smile that lasts a nano second and then the individual looks away = “don’t bother me, I’m busy”, the half smile – genuine, but exhausted “It’s been a long trip”…and then there’s the inviting smile. Not the, “I want to take you home to have sex” invitation smile, but the type of genuine smile where it’s not just the muscles around one’s mouth turning upwards, but more so – the eyes light up and the whole face smiles. It invites conversation. This is how I met a man named David Enders at the airport on Friday afternoon.
He sat a few seats away and as soon as the ‘inviting’ smile passed between the two of us, conversation was engaged. I didn’t know what he did, but knew he had to have a job where he was great with people (management), but also something “important”. Meaning, he had the vibe of someone who did something he believed in everyday. My ‘gut’ said college professor; but I didn’t want to ask. Turns out, I was close. I found out he was the head of Security for American Express. Not surprised at all, I wanted to know more about his job; crisis management, internal investigations, and so much more – I could see him working with thousands of employees who respect him, yet at the same time really LIKE him; and respond to him.
I could see him as a great manager, but was a bit surprised he wasn’t in teaching (although some could argue management is largely about teaching). He then told me he was involved in an organization called POPPA. This stands for “Police Organization Providing Peer Assistance”. This mission of the organization is to facilitate families and individuals in coping more effectively with the multitude of stresses experienced during the course of their law enforcement profession. In other words, they are similar to a “mental health” volunteer unit designed specifically for law enforcement officials. That said, it is not a ‘mental health’ unit, because many of the measures are actually preventative. Although POPPA was formed in 1996, it was after 9/11 that nearly 40% of NYPD officers utilized its services. This peer to peer network is setting a standard that other organizations should follow.
Turns out that the man I met is a trainer and group facilataor at POPPA. I guess my “gut” instinct that he wanted to take care of and teach others wasn’t too far off.
As coincidence would have it (or maybe it wasn’t coincidence, depends if you believe in the “Law of Attraction” or not), I’m currently working on spreading the word about a new criminal justice program; George Washington University’s online Bachelors and Masters degrees in police science / security management. I’ve always loved working in the higher education industry as I do genuinely feel like I’m “helping people better their lives”…however after meeting this man in the airport, I realized, I’m not only “helping people better THEIR lives” – I’m actually helping people to better other’s lives as well.
Hence, the inspiration at the airport.