One day about eight years ago in the departure lounge of a flight from New York's LaGuardia airport to O'Hare in Chicago, I spotted a young boy in tears and obvious emotional distress. His mother at his side also appeared upset. Being a parent, I was naturally curious if I could be of assistance.
As it turned out, the flight was full, and they couldn't sit together. The boy was terrified to be separated from his mother. Those were the days when the first-class cabins were not always full and Nancy, the special service representative working with me that afternoon, seated mother and son up in first class.
In the short time we had to chat, we found out that Miles and his mom were returning to their home in Kansas City. They had spent the last two weeks at the Ronald McDonald House at Long Island Jewish Hospital. Miles is a surviving twin (his brother died at birth) and has had serious health problems with internal organs. In spite of his thirty-one major surgical procedures, his long-term prognosis was still in doubt. He would be back through LaGuardia many more times.
During his numerous trips, the friendship and bond between Miles's family and the special services staff grew closer, and we'd stop in on Miles during his stays at Ronald McDonald.
Miles particularly enjoyed his flights through LaGuardia as it allowed him time to spend time in our VIP lounge, where we have an entire wall filled with autographed pictures of the many celebrities who frequented our office. We soon added Miles's picture to the wall of fame.
Miles's hero, and the person he most admired, was country singer Garth Brooks. Miles would just sit and stare at Garth's picture.
One day, Mr. Brooks was traveling from LaGuardia to Nashville and was relaxing in the lounge waiting for his flight to depart. As he looked at the collection of photographs for any new additions, Garth inquired about the youngster with the big smile. We told him about Miles and the fact that he was currently recuperating from yet another procedure at Ronald McDonald. We also told him how much Miles loved and admired him.
Mr. Brooks left the lounge and headed off to the gate where the rest of his party was waiting.
A few minutes later he was back with his guitar and penned a few words of encouragement inside the guitar case. He asked us to please deliver the guitar and his cowboy hat to Miles at the hospital.
That evening, Nancy and Sam took Garth's guitar and hat to Miles. It was like the gift of life.
At first Miles couldn't believe that it was really a gift from his hero. As he comprehended that it was not a dream or a joke, he beamed a wide eternal smile. It was as if any discomfort he was having just disappeared.
On subsequent trips through LaGuardia, Garth would inquire about Miles, and about six months later he asked us to help him contact the family. Garth was going to be performing in Kansas City and he wanted Miles to be his guest. Not only was Miles seated in the front row, but he and Garth also had a lengthy private meeting backstage after the performance.
Although Miles would undergo many more treatments after that special evening, his broad smile greeted us with every subsequent visit, the face of an ailing boy transformed by the joy of a stranger with a guitar.