I reckon most folks who travel, even sporadically, know that Delta Air Lines is the major presence at the newly renamed Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Those who travel more frequently know, also, that AirTran Airways is now the second most important airline, in terms of economics, at Hartsfield-Jackson.
The general public may not be aware of all the behind-the-scenes politics that are played out on a daily basis between these and other carriers as they jockey with the City of Atlanta Aviation Authority for gate leases. AirTran is a local success story and wants badly to grow their operation at the world's busiest airport. But gate space is at a premium, and as Delta has secured most gates vacated as various other carriers left the Atlanta market, AirTran has to continue to play catch-up as the new century unfolds.
In the never-ending battle to capture as much of the traveling public's business as possible, both carriers recently unveiled new advertising campaigns. Both feature catchy slogans. And both slogans are germane to a much more important matter which I'd like to talk with you about today.
AirTran urges the traveling public to: "Go. There's Nothing Stopping You." And Delta tells us all that: "Good Goes Around."
So keep those slogans in mind as I finally get to what I really want to talk to you about today.
I want to urge you to stop what you're doing today for a few minutes, get a note pad and a pencil or pen, and go sit down at a table or desk or in a comfortable chair. I want you to make a couple of lists. They're likely to be short and, therefore, won't take a lot of your time.
So bear with me, OK?
Write down, in the first list, the names of the people you love who are still alive. In the second list, write the name of folks who are important to you in this community, or anywhere in the world, really. The first list might be pretty short, if you really, really think about it. I'm talking folks you love with all your heart, now. Folks who are on that short list when you pray, or when something special is occurring and you think of how you wish they were with you to see it.
Important as that first list is in your life, friend, I'm suggesting now that the second list will take you a little more time and is also really, really important. Write down the folks you see from time to time around and about town, or when you occasionally need a tire change, or an oil change, or a chicken sandwich, or a Christmas gift.
Perhaps you have an idea where this is headed.
Now that you have your lists, up at the top write in big letters the Delta Air Lines phrase: Good goes around.
At the bottom, write in big letters the AirTran slogan: Go. There's nothing stopping you.
At this point, if the fictitious Forrest Gump were writing this column, he'd simply close it out thusly: "And that's all I have to say about that."
But I'm not Gump and feel the need to belabor the point, so bear with me, OK?
The most important thing we can do, I've recently come to believe, is let the folks we care about know that we care about them. It is sometimes hard to do. There are folks we love who are embarrassed if you say "I love you" to them. Some just don't know how to return the sentiment. Others believe you should know they love you from their actions over the years.
Nonetheless, time is fleeting, and therefore the most precious commodity we have. None of us knows how much longer we'll be here, or how much longer those folks on the two lists will be here.
So time is of the essence.
How long has it been since you went to see an old buddy? And have you ever dropped in at the automotive repair shop that keeps you going, when you didn't need something, to just say hi to the service manager and the mechanics.
I've done that a few times. The first time I dropped in on Marshall Atha and all the grease monkeys in the service department at Walker Harris Autos, they thought I was a little strange. I just wanted to drop in when I didn't need something to tell them how much I appreciate them keeping me and my family on the road all these years, you know?
I've gotten to where I try to drop in every Saturday to see Pat Mayfield and her folks at Mayfield's Ace Hardware on the square, just to say thanks for all the times they've helped me out over the years.
And there's a lovely couple, Cecil and Nancy Brown, who for years and years ran Green Hill Nursery out on Highway 278 between town and the Alcovy River. Cecil and Nancy are retired now, and I finally found time to go see them a few weeks ago.
I'm not kinned to them. I only know them through church over the decades and from visiting Green Hill. But they're an important part of my life, and I just wanted them to know they matter to me.
As I grow older, I find it harder and harder to find a line distinguishing between whether I like folks or love them. In the end, I think, the essence of life comes down to blurring that line so as to make it indistinguishable.
You just love.
So now, friend, go back and look at those two lists you've compiled, and see if they don't really make up just one big list.
Now, think about time. It's flying. It seems at times that I've just set the hourglass up, and it's already time to turn it over, the sand is flying through there so fast.
Go see every last person on those lists. Tell them you love them. Tell them they matter. Tell them they've made a difference in your life. And if you can't go, call them. Or write them a letter on real paper and mail it with a real stamp on it. Send them that piece of paper they can hold in their hand with your name signed on it, which lets them know they're loved by you.
Don't even think about telling me why you can't do that. Don't even start ticking off logistical reasons why it has to wait until such and such is done, or until so and so gets finished with whatever.
Someone said that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. And whereas that advice pertains mostly to future events, the reality behind it is what I'm talking about here today. With time flying by so rapidly, you may not get a second chance to tell the folks on the list what you need to tell them.
So, speaking of flying, let's return now to the sage wisdom entailed in the AirTran and Delta advertising slogans.
Go. There's nothing stopping you. Good goes around.
Nat Harwell is a Newton County resident whose column appears Sundays in The Covington News.