Today I’m flying back from Winnipeg to Vancouver, with a 3 hour layover in Calgary. I’m not the biggest fan of layovers, but I was looking forward to catching up on some Netflix. Instead, something amazing happened!
There was a bit of a delay to get going from Winnipeg, and at the last minute, a man rushed on with two adorable little girls. I didn’t think anything of it, and enjoyed watching Hook for the duration of my flight. The man was ahead of me as we got off the plane, and he and his daughters stopped right in front of me at the door to the plane, right at the spot where you feel the cold air come in from outside. They all looked at each other, took a deep breath in, and laughed.
As we walked towards the terminal, he said that the weather was really nice, and I complained that it was cold. He said yes, but that he liked it. I asked him if he lived in Calgary, and if that’s why he was used to the cold, and he said ‘No, we just got here from Ethiopia. For the first time.’ Guys, they still smelled like the spicy, burning smell that I remember from East Africa.
How exciting! I welcomed them, and wished them luck, and prepared to walk to my gate. As I was leaving the tunnel, he asked me where to go for his luggage. He was struggling to carry two bright pink backpacks as well as his own bag, so I figured that I could just head down to luggage with them, since my flight wasn’t for another three hours. We chatted a bit along the way – he told me that he was waiting for friends who would help him settle into Calgary, find an apartment and a job. He told me that his first priority is to find a daycare for his girls. On the escalator down to the luggage area, he told his girls to hold my hands. Another woman smiled at us as we did so, and I told her that they had just arrived from Ethiopia. She turned around, gave the dad a big hug, and wished him a warm welcome.
We got to the luggage area, and his friends weren’t there. I sat with the girls while he went to retrieve their luggage, and then helped him find the information desk, where he was able to call his friends who were waiting in the wrong parking lot.
I stayed with them until their friends arrived. The dad thanked me a million times, the friends all thanked me, and the girls high-fived me.
I didn’t do this for any other reason than because he needed help and a bit of support – and I’m so happy that I was able to help make his first minutes in Calgary less stressful. I’m also really happy that that woman welcomed him so warmly.
Welcome to Canada guys!
(And while we’re on the topic, if anyone reading this blog knows how I could do this kind of thing more often as a volunteer, or even for a living, please let me know. I’ve been looking for years to find opportunities where I can help welcome and support new families as they arrive in Canada.)