Tears well up in the young man’s eyes – his voice fighting to remain steady.
A hotel concierge is telling me about how blessed he is to have a job and to be working for a good man.
“When the hurricane came, we all huddled inside as the storm passed over us,” he said. ‘Guests, employees, all of us.”
The hotel where he works is one of few open along the southernmost coastline of the Mexican Baja Peninsula. Today, six weeks after the storm came ashore, the landscape is dramatically changed since my last visit. Beaches and roadsides are littered with large expanses of multi-level buildings – many with exteriors stripped away by ferocious winds leaving behind gapping teeth where windows and doors once stood.
“Why is this place so different than the others?” I asked, curious why this particular hotel was open and operating at near normal levels.
“When the storm passed,” he said, “the owner came down here, called us all together, and told all us we would rebuild. Everyone would have a job and continue to get paid – only now our job was to put our place back together.”
I see moisture returning to his eyes as his voice agains grows unsteady but proud.
“He made sure we all got paid and no one lost their jobs. The next day he flew to the United States to purchase all the special glass and items we wouldn’t be able to get locally. Even though we were closed for weeks, he made sure we were all taken care of.”
Disasters happen – but many times it is in the aftermath we discover who and what we are made of. To this young man, and the hundreds of employees who worked in the service industry at this hotel, their boss will forever be known as a good man who stepped up for his employees and their families when they needed him most.
He pauses again and smiles. He is proud – not only of where he works, but also to be a part of something special. The president of Mexico, I’m told, came to survey the post-storm damage. Out of pride, the employees worked long hours to make the hotel as beautiful as possible for his visit – not to wallow in the desperation of the moment.
Every now and then you run across something extraordinary. This visit, for me, was one of those moments. The day after the storm, thousands of people found themselves wondering where to go and how their lives would forever be changed. And then, against all odds, out comes someone with the heart, resources, and honor to do the right thing.
Riding back to the airport I again noticed the thousands of rooms waiting vacant – most waiting for insurance checks or government payments. And to each those rooms are a direct link to thousands of service employees who no longer know where or what their future holds. And then I think back to the young concierge why tears so easily come to his eyes.
– 30 –