I was on an airplane last night, the last leg of a trip home from our company headquarters in Bristol, UK, when the pilot turned on his speaker and gave us some unfortunate news. Due to delays that were described to us as "congestion at the airport" (speculation among the passengers included bad weather and the fact that President Obama was flying in and out of JFK to visit Newtown, Connecticut), the pilot said he was going to pull the airplane away from the gate and park us on the tarmac; it was expected that we would have to sit for at least two hours before we could take off. Amidst the groans and "Are you kidding?" complaints, one voice of reason stood out.
"Let's make it a party!" said a woman a few rows behind me. As soon as the plane was parked, the flight attendants made sure we knew we could get up, mill around, use computers and phones, and even ask for refreshments. And so, it became a tarmac party. It was easy to break the ice because we all had something in common – a story to tell about where we were headed and what was going to happen because we were going to be late. That, of course, led to sharing stories about other airplane adventures.
The best kind of party evolved before our eyes – an event where complete strangers made easy, friendly conversation and shared time together, smiling, laughing, and not even noticing the passage of time. It was a surprise when the pilot told us our wait was over, but then, oddly, we were almost relieved when he said we were "number twenty-five for takeoff, so it's going to be another forty-five minutes."
We just as easily could have spent the evening on the plane grumbling about our situation, complaining to the flight attendants (who of course had no control over it at all), and feeling sorry for ourselves. Instead, a smile and a suggestion to make the best of a difficult situation turned the evening around for everyone.
The point is, we all have the power to look beyond the obvious and see the good in bad situations. The next time you're caught in traffic, stuck in a line, mad at the world for whatever injustice seems to have been dumped on you, try using an "it could be worse" mentality and find a way to make the situation better. You just might find that those around you appreciate you more for helping them weather the storm.