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Dear TSA,

I appreciate the efforts in keeping our borders safe, but I believe there’s a better way to serve those traveling from our airports.

We are not cattle to be herded.

We are human beings with eternal souls.

Traveling by air can be a tense time for some. No one needs/deserves the added stress of being yelled at. Finding our way around an airport, obtaining boarding passes, checking luggage – that may or may not fall under weight restrictions, saying good-bye to loved ones, and then having to remove clothing and belongings to go through the security check-point, is an experience taut with emotion.

Every airport is different, and for those who only travel occasionally, it’s an added challenge to remember what to do, where to go, etc.

Last week I traveled between California and Florida, and had the unfortunate experience – along with dozens of travelers – of being treated less than human by some of the TSA employees at airport security check stations.

In preparing to fly out of the Fresno airport, a TSA airport security officer yelled at the people who didn’t follow her instructions exactly. How hard would it have been to offer a reminder of the procedures in a normal tone of voice?

Later that week in Orlando on a busy Saturday morning, close to 100 individuals stood in lines, waiting between a maze of crowd control posts and belts. Again, one of the TSA airport security “professionals” stood there yelling at those waiting in line, attempting to direct them to shorter lines several yards away (leading to the bins and conveyors). But in the mass of people and noise, it wasn’t apparent where one line began and another ended.

How much more effective – and pleasant – if she had walked up to the individuals and families, asked  them to follow her, and then walked over to the available aisles, directing them with true professionalism and courtesy.

There’s no reason for such a lack of human kindness. And it does not represent well our country or your agency.

Thank you for your consideration of these matters.

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Yes, twice in one week at two different airports.

In lifting my shirt to unbuckle my belt, taking off my shoes, standing in a specific spot and raising my arms above my head and being yelled at in the process  – the recurring image running through my head resembles Auschwitz.

And it unnerves me.

In having our borders compromised and our freedoms violated, we must now endure being searched for contraband. In this world gone wild the innocent are lumped with the guilty, and in airports I’m no longer free to move about at will.

I get it. And maybe I’m being overly sensitive. But it’s bad enough being yelled at when I deserve it. Much harder to tolerate when I don’t.

There’s a better way to lead. And if I hadn’t been pressed for time, I would have stepped up to show the TSA officers how it’s done. To pour a little kindness onto the crowd.

Hi! Are there four of you in your family? Follow me, please, and I’ll take you to an available aisle…

Hey, kids, isn’t this exciting! You get to fly! Where are you going…?

And you, Sir, Ma’am, if you’ll come this way, there’s room in this line right over here…

Oh, miss – you were probably so intent on removing the electronic devices (and keys and your money belt AND your one clear zipped quart-size bag with 3 ounces or less liquid/gel containers) from your bags, that you forgot to place your bags on the conveyor. No worries! Let me assist this gentleman while you slip over and set your bags down, and then we’ll get you through the scanner and on your way.

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Sure, TSA employees are probably tense, too. On edge. Overworked. Hating their job and living for the paycheck. But there’s no excuse for treating humans less than human.

Patience, kindness, humility – all marks of good leadership. Whatever task we’re given, whatever role we fill, reaching out to truly serve those in our sphere of influence makes a huge difference.

By thinking of someone other than myself. By treating you with the same courtesy I appreciate.

Because the world craves good leadership.

And every one of us can be a leader in some small way.

If we pay attention, it’s not that hard to figure out.

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