Jay Rifenbary

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Lessons in Attitude – Are You Optimistically Challenged?

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Recently I conducted a “No Excuse!” training presentation for an environmental engineering company in New Orleans. The itinerary for my return trip home to Albany included a connecting layover in Charlotte. Upon waiting in the gate area, preparing to board the final flight, I noticed a young lady who was missing the bottom half of both her legs, and was on prosthetic limbs. Surprisingly, she appeared to be quite comfortable and agile with them. My first thought was this accident might have occurred serving our country as a member of our military forces. I was tempted to approach her and subsequently ask the question, but I refrained, sensing it might make her feel uncomfortable, and I might be incorrect in my assumption. Landing in Albany, arriving at the baggage claim, I again noticed this young woman. It appeared her parents had met her, and they were welcoming her home. At this point I could not help my desire to know. Moments later I was introducing myself to her and her parents, and asked my question. She informed me that a couple of years ago she had been in a convoy south of Baghdad when an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded next to her vehicle resulting in the partial loss of both her limbs. As I stood there listening, I was attentive to the fact of how gracious, positive, and comfortable she was sharing her story with me. In turn, I thanked her for her service to our nation, and proceeded to give her a big hug. She responded, “You’re Welcome”. As I proceeded to exit the baggage claim I asked myself, “What did I wake up and whine about today, the weather, the world, my mistakes, what I don’t have, who did what to me years ago?”. Over the many years of experiencing humbling encounters such as this, I have learned to appreciate more and more the little blessings in life. To know each day is a gift, life is not what you are given but rather how you take it, (attitude); and friends and family should not be taken for granted.

Another recent incident further reinforced my belief in the positive attitude that exists in our fellow human beings. Having concluded a full day training session, I was being transported in the middle of rush hour to the Orlando International Airport via a Mears Limousine, provided to me by the generosity of my client. Approximately 4 miles from the airport terminal the limousine decided it was too exhausted to transport any more people, and broke down in the right hand lane of Semoran Boulevard, a very high volume thoroughfare in Orlando.

In a state of concern, the driver immediately attempted to acquire assistance utilizing his cell phone, but to no avail. Pondering the predicament, and knowing my flight was departing shortly, I realized drastic measures might need to be taken. Having been informed that there were no taxicabs in the area, and a replacement limousine might arrive after my scheduled departure, I made an Airborne/Ranger type decision, and decided to take matters into my own hands. I proceeded to exit the vehicle, obtain my luggage, and attempted to flag down a potential “Good Samaritan”, while screaming, “Is anyone going to the airport?”. Since the broken down limousine had stalled traffic, causing a severe backup, initially all I heard were beeping horns, offensive terminology, and observed inappropriate sign language. However, within several minutes a young couple heard my plea, proceeded to stop their vehicle, and offer assistance. Seconds later, my bags were in their car, and I was on my way to the airport to catch my return flight to Albany. After a brief introduction and some small talk, my new driver mentioned he needed fuel. We briefly stopped, and because of his kindness, I offered to pay for the fill up. Although he declined my offer, I insisted, and shared with him that I felt it was the least I could do. Minutes after we departed the gas station, I was at the Southwest Terminal saying goodbye, and thanking this couple who extended a gesture of kindness, and went out of their way to assist someone in need. So hats off to Rudy and Arlene for their selfless attitude, graciousness, and renewing the belief that kindness is alive and well. Attitude is a choice; make it a positive one today and everyday.



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