It was 6:55 a.m. when we reached the Munich Airport without my passport. The realization came seconds after my too cheerful for the morning taxi driver was pulling my oversized gray suitcase from the trunk of his car. Panic set in immediately when I realized the most important things I needed were safely locked up in the room at the hotel. How could I forget my passport? It was the one thing I obviously couldn’t travel without. I had semi-packed the night before to diminish forgetfulness. So much for that one.
Just when the taxi driver, whose name was Elghazlani, was reaching deep into his trunk to pull out the second piece of luggage I blurted, “I forgot my passport, we have to go back.” He said nothing. He grabbed my luggage and frantically threw it in the car. “What time is your flight?” he asked jumping into the driver’s seat. He seemed just as panicked as I was. “9:00 a.m. I don’t think we are going to make it back in time,” I said. I knew it was 40 minutes from the hotel with no traffic. “You’ll make it,” he assured in his thick Moroccan/ German accent. We can make it back to airport by 8:30, you will have plenty of time.” I don’t think he fully understood that international flights require at least an hour and a half window before the flight. He swerved through traffic, rushing to get me back to the hotel. I relaxed and let him take all my panic away from me. I trusted he would do his best to get me to the hotel as quick as he could. I even laughed a little at this point and said, “I think I am suppose to spend more time with you.”
My next step was to figure out how to change my flight. I didn’t want to pay international roaming charges at 50 cents a minute for a call. So I called my husband on Facetime Audio, and asked if he could change my flight. He got on it right away. My husband called me back a few times asking questions about my flight. Elghazlani, got worried and said, “If you need to get a call ask him to call my phone, it’s going to be expensive talking on your phone.” I thanked him for the kind gesture. He then started asking detailed questions about my flight. Once he knew my airline and time of flight he promptly dialed Lufthansa and started talking to the agent in German without my asking. I was a little surprised that he was taking it upon himself to solve my problem. The agent came on the line and was looking at possibilities of rebooking. Simultaneously my husband called back, he had United on the line. They were the airline with whom I had booked the ticket and the only ones that could change it. I told him and United to hold while Lufthansa checked, hoping the local German ticketing agent might have some pull that a call center may not. The Lufthansa agent put me hold. I had two phones going at the same time while the taxi pulled up to the hotel. He knew I was on the phone and ran inside the hotel to grab my passport. The passport was in the safe and I knew he wouldn’t be able to retrieve it without me but it was sweet that he tried, again without my asking. When he came back, I told him I was on hold with Lufthansa and I would go run in and get my passport. He said, “I will talk to them for you.” I smiled. Was he my long lost relative? Every gesture was familiar and kind. He wanted to help and was trying to be useful in any way he could.
I came back with my passport, jumped in the taxi again. Lufthansa had hung up the line at this point. He said they couldn’t change the flight, United had to do it. Luckily, I still had my husband on the line and he had United on the line, 20 minutes later at 50 cents a minute. Yikes. I booked the next flight out which was 11:00 a.m. It was going to be an expensive lesson but I also think I was meant to learn something greater. I wasn’t sure what yet but I knew the conspiracy of kindness seemed to be running my day.
He now turned on the meter he had turned off half way to the hotel worried at how expensive the little error had become for me. I knew it was nearing the 300 euros mark for the total trip back and forth but didn’t say anything and was surprised he would give up making money on such a large trip. Again, he did this without my asking. I appreciated his giving. When we finally got to the airport, he charged me 120euros. I would have gladly paid more, knowing he had given one and half hours of his money making time.
I was welling up with a feeling of gratitude for this human being; his kindness was in tiny gestures that would linger in my mind. He treated me as if we had known each other for ages, as though he was my friend or family. I was in awe that he didn’t try and get what he could from me; instead his world seemed filled with, what he could give.
Of all the kind gestures he gave, the most precious was a little piece of advice, “Sometimes one bad thing happening keeps many bad things from happening.” His prayer of protection was one I had heard before but the reminder seemed well timed since I just had an altercation with a friend that seemed bad. He had reminded me not to look at the bad thing that just happened but look ahead at the good that would soon come from the ashes of that bad thing. His love and kindness for something that was clearly an act of negligence on my part humbled me. He didn’t have to be so helpful or giving. I left Munich thinking, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could actually operate with that same love for all problems we encounter, big or small? I asked him for his name and number, I wanted to know this human being. I wanted to emulate his way of living. My intention was to learn, but he humbled me further and talked about his wife and kids and said, “Please come to my home when you are in Germany again, meet my kids.” In that brief moment, I felt a thread of connectedness and thought if there is a God, it exists in these moments of sharing and love.