I used to work in a hotel a few years ago. We had an account with this one company that had Austrian workers come to the US, and stay months at a time in our hotel while they worked. Since they weren’t from the area, they were often in search of interesting things to do.
One man in particular stood out to me. We pored over maps of Arizona (where I worked) and came up with lists of places he could go to sight see. Among these places was obviously the grand canyon. I took it further by booking him a train trip. I even helped him figure out how to use his new digital camera that he bought especially for his time in Arizona. He was absolutely fascinated by the desert.
Fast forward a year or so…
I checked in an Austrian elderly couple one afternoon. Very kind people, although when I asked what brought them to the states, and Arizona in particular, I was very surprised with what I heard.
Apparently their son was the Austrian guy that had stayed so often in our hotel. He had gone back to Austria with a girl he had met here in the states, proposed to his girlfriend there and he had planned to sell everything he owned to move back to the states with her.
Sadly, a month before they were due to leave, he got into a car accident and died.
At this point his parents had already booked the flights, booked the hotel rooms, and the wedding plans had been made to take place in Arizona, since their son had loved the desert so much. So instead of cancelling their reservations, the grief-stricken parents decided to make the trip, and see the place that had completely captivated their son.
Hearing their story really touched me. I told them that I remembered their son, that I had talked to him extensively when he stayed at that hotel. I went over all the places that he had visited, and how much he talked about the beauty of the desert, and how he was so eager to show me pictures of the Grand Canyon (since I’ve never been there). The parents had tears in their eyes, and they thanked me.
When I think about it now, I can’t help but think that if I hadn’t gone out of my way to help their son in the first place, to make just that bit of extra effort to go through all those brochures, and spend all that time helping him plan his trips… I would not have been able to give his parents that information; To tell them how ecstatic he was about the places he visited.
The best part of all was because I knew all the places he went, I was able to set them up with a similar trip, to see exactly all the places their son had seen. When they checked out of the hotel, I was lucky enough to be working the morning shift. They thanked me, hugged me, and I walked them out to their car.
The wife grabbed my hand and pressed money into it, she apologized that she didn’t have any more American cash on her, but she was very grateful for everything I did for them during their stay.
I still have the money she gave me, a folded up 20 euro bill, in hopes that I can some day spend it in Austria. It will be hard to part with the money, I’ve held on to it for so long that I don’t even see it as currency. It’s more like a memory. But if I do make it over there, I will make it a memorable occasion and make sure to tell the story.