Southwest Airlines is noted for their friendly, “down-to-earth” method of serving the flying public. The airline is also known for serving peanuts and pretzels on their no frills flights. When the beverage and snack service begins on a Southwest flight, it's common to hear the attendants ask the passengers “Peanuts anyone?"
But when I was asked this familiar refrain while on a Southwest flight several years ago, something caught my eye when I looked up to respond to the question. It was not a flight attendant asking the question, it was a pilot. No, the co-pilot didn't leave the cockpit to serve peanuts! Rather it was a Southwest pilot who was deadheading from one city to another, which is rather common in the airline industry. Technically this means the pilot is off-duty.
What was uncommon was that during the snack service this particular pilot got out of his seat and volunteered to help the attendants serve the snacks. His white shirt had black, multi-striped shoulder bars, designating him as a senior pilot. But this pilot was not taking a snooze in the back of the passenger compartment, rather he was serving passengers peanuts and pretzels. It was quite a sight to see an airline captain serving snacks to passengers. He was not going to get a bonus of some kind for doing this. It was not part of his job description—piloting passenger planes for Southwest Airlines is. But he wanted to serve the passengers (and, no doubt, help the attendants) as an off-duty employee in this unique way.
This pilot was going from row to row asking each passenger, “peanuts anyone?” I observed one passenger after another do a double take as they become aware that a pilot was serving them. His attitude of service certainly made a big impression on my wife and me and, no doubt, on other passengers.
At a conference I attended some years ago a presenter gave an excellent presentation that focused on “servant-leadership.” The presenter told the story of how years ago Southwest Airlines began to use servant-leadership as their customer business model. Southwest Airlines continues to use that business philosophy to this day. It has paid off in terms of their bottom line as well as with their reputation in the airline industry. At the seminar we were told that even the president of Southwest Airlines has served the snack service at various times when flying on SW flights.
I was impressed that this experienced commercial pilot went out of his way to serve the passengers while off-duty. What a great example he is setting for the flying public. He represents his employer very well. It speaks about who he is as a person.
How many solutions to our spiritual problems can be found in this concept of becoming a better and more humble servant of God? It's much easier “to do as others do to us,” in order to get even, instead of humbly serving those who do not serve us well. It's commonplace for companies and some employees to not employ a servant attitude, and everyone suffers as a result.
Jesus Christ is the greatest of all servants who ever lived. He taught service as a way of life and lived it fully. His example embodies perfectly the mind-set of how to treat others. It's the basis of all relationships because it's based on showing love for others. Notice this in Matthew 20:25-28: “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Jesus Christ lived to serve and not to be served. He ultimately gave His life as a ransom for us and for everyone else. Truly, He is the Servant of all servants.
When we see a servant attitude displayed by someone at our school, where we work, at our Church or in our family, it's truly inspiring. When we serve others, using the model that Jesus Christ gave us to follow, others can be encouraged as well.
We really do reap what we sow, or put in the vernacular, “what goes around comes around.” We read this in Galatians 6:7-10: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
I didn't get a chance to thank the pilot for his service to us during that Southwest flight. My fault. But his outstanding example reminded me of what I need to be doing a lot more in my life. Service is based upon showing love to others. This is what the last six of the Ten Commandments describe in detail.
The pilot came back to our row a second time with his snack tray. “Peanuts anyone?”, he smiled. “Yes, please, and thank you for your service and example, servant-pilot.”
--From the “peanut gallery” on Southwest flight 1475.