Two things that happened last week reminded me of the capacity of people to do the right thing even while experiencing stress and uncertainty.
Late in the week as it became clear to me that flying to take care of some family business bordered on selfish and irresponsible given the rising concern about the Coronavirus (COVID-19), I decided to cancel my flight.
My attempts to cancel my ticket online were met with a message informing me that I had to call Delta Air Lines directly to attempt the cancellation. Call waiting times were estimated to be up to six hours, so I called, turned on the speaker and continued working at my desk while waiting for someone to answer. After about an hour, a customer service representative named Krissy picked up the phone.
The connection was fuzzy, so Krissy confirmed my number, hung up and called back within seconds. Almost immediately we were disconnected. She called back again. This time, I could hear her shout to a colleague "Are we down," but she apparently couldn't hear me. Twice more she called and we got disconnected. But Krissy tenaciously stayed at it, we talked, and she put through the credit without question.
Later that day, while I was in a meeting with a student shortly before she and all students were to leave campus for the rest of the semester because of the coronavirus, calls kept coming in on my cell phone from a number I didn't recognize. Initially, I ignored the calls, but on the fourth successive try, I answered the phone and was greeted by the property manager of an assisted living facility I had made plans to visit.
Tescia was apologetic about telling me that her facility had moved to limit all visitation from outsiders and that they wouldn't be able to accommodate my visit. She continued to be apologetic, but I told her I understood perfectly. She and I then exchanged words of concern for one another's day in dealing with rapidly developing plans that would affect both our and many of our colleague's work.
While it would be nice to believe that every customer service provider would be as accommodating as possible, we all have had experiences where this has not been the case. Both Krissy and Tescia were exceptional in showing kindness, patience and tenacity during what must have been a particularly exhausting and tension-filled day for each of them.
Almost every email I've received from administrators or colleagues at the university where I work (and there have been many emails) has ended with some variation of the sentiment: Please continue to take care of yourself and others.
During times of crisis when people grow exhausted, tense and sometimes short-tempered over the uncertainty of what's to come, such moments of kindness can be calming.
Whatever you happen to be doing, wherever you happen to be living or working from, please continue to take care of yourself and others. It's the right thing to do.
The Centers for Disease Control advice on preparing to respond to Coronavirus (COVID-19) can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/home/index.html. Harvard Medical School's online Coronavirus Resource Center is here at https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/coronavirus-resource-center.
Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business and The Good, the Bad, and Your Business: Choosing Right When Ethical Dilemmas Pull You Apart, is a senior lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School.
Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin
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