Seventeen-year-old Andrew is used to getting what he wants and treating people badly when he doesn’t get it, but his father decides it’s time Andrew learned a lesson about respect when he mistreats a flight attendant.
“Do you think he’ll be okay?”
Steven had been watching his seventeen-year-old son walk toward the airport boarding gate, but now he looked down at his wife.
“Of course Andrew will be okay,” he replied.
“I hope this new school can help him learn some humility.”
“But what if they treat him badly in the dorms?” Steven’s wife looked up at him. “He’s never been to boarding school before.”
“That’s the point.” Steven clenched his jaw. “Andrew has become spoiled and he needs to learn some tough lessons about life.”
Months later, Andrew was flying home for the holidays after his first semester of boarding school. He’d hated every minute of his time there and was eager to return to his high-powered computer and the luxury car he got for his sixteenth birthday.
“Hey, you.” Andrew waved to the flight attendant, a redhead woman with freckles.
“How can I help you, sir?” The flight attendant smiled at him.
“You can get me something better to snack on than these peanuts.” Andrew threw the bag of peanuts at her.
The flight attendant’s smile turned into a frown. “Sir, please don’t throw things at me.”
“I’ll do what I like,” Andrew replied. “You’re here to serve me, so stop complaining and do your job.”
“Don’t talk to her like that.” The older man in the seat beside Andrew turned to look at him.
“Just because it’s her job to serve us doesn’t mean you can disrespect her.”
Andrew rolled his eyes and snapped his fingers at the flight attendant. “I’m still waiting for my snack.”
The flight attendant walked away with her eyes downcast. The older man in the next seat shook his head.
“Your parents must be so disapointed in you,” the elderly man muttered.
“Nobody asked you, old man.” Andrew began scrolling through the movie options.
After a few minutes, the flight attendant returned with a pretzel.
“Here you go, sir,” she said and held out the pretzel to him. “If there’s anything else —”
Andrew sneered and slapped the pretzel out of her hand. “I don’t want a pretzel!”
The flight attendant recoiled, tears forming in her eyes. “Peanuts and pretzels are the only snacks we serve on this flight.”
“That’s pathetic, just like you.” Andrew leaned forward in his seat. “Go and fetch me a proper snack, now!”
“How dare you talk to her like that?” A woman rose from her seat across the aisle and put a hand on the flight attendant’s arm.
“If she did her job then I wouldn’t have to.” Andrew pointed at the flight attendant.
“She’s a servant, and a bad one too.”
The flight attendant burst into tears. The woman passenger tried to comfort her.
“Somebody ought to give you a hiding, young man.” The elderly passenger in the seat next to Andrew scowled at him.
“I agree.” Somebody placed a hand on his shoulder.
At that moment, Andrew understood what his father had been trying to teach him.
Andrew recognized that voice. He turned and stared in surprise when he saw his dad behind him. His face was red with anger.
“Dad, what are you doing here?” Andrew asked.
“Flying home from a business trip,” Steven replied. “I hoped we might meet on the plane, but I never imagined it would be like this. Apologize to this young lady and the other passengers immediately.”
Andrew hunched his shoulders and mumbled an apology. He didn’t see what the big deal was, but he knew better than to disobey his father when he was so angry.
When Andrew and his father got home, Steven marched him straight to his office on the second floor of the luxurious house.
“This comes to an end right now.”
Steven shut the door and turned to point at Andrew. “Your behavior is disgusting. I hoped that you might learn manners in boarding school, but it seems I was wrong.”
“Why are you making such a big deal out of this?” Andrew threw out his arms. “She’s just a flight attendant. It’s not like she’s important.”
“And that’s your problem, Andrew. You think you’re better than others because you were born into a wealthy family, and that you can treat others badly because of that.” Steven crossed his arms. “That’s going to change.”
“What does that mean?”
“You won’t be going back to that school. You’ll finish your education at a public school, and you’re going to spend your holiday working.”
“Working?” Andrew straightened up. “Are you giving me a job at your company?”
Steven smiled. “You could say that. I’m going to give you a job in my cleaning company, as a janitor.”
Andrew was horrified.
“I won’t do it!”
“You will because I’m also cutting off all your privileges. I’m taking your bank cards, your computer, your car, and your cell phone. I’m even taking your branded clothes.” Steven put his hands on his hips. “You’re going to find out what it means to respect people.”
Andrew had no choice. His father took his possessions from him, and he started his job as an airport janitor the next day.
Andrew knew nothing about cleaning. The older woman he was assigned to work with laughed at him for not knowing how to sweep or mop. He shouted at her for laughing at him and threatened to get her fired.
“No, you won’t,” she replied, shaking her finger at him. “Your father warned me about you, now get to work. These floors don’t clean themselves.”
Andrew sighed and started sweeping. He was clumsy, and his supervisor teased him about it. Andrew got angry, but there was nothing he could do about it.
He was cleaning the trash cans when something hit him. He turned and saw that somebody had thrown an empty takeaway carton at him.
“Hey!” Andrew shouted at the man who’d thrown the carton. “How dare you throw that at me.”
The man ignored Andrew, so he ran after him and grabbed his arm.
“I’m talking to you,” Andrew said.
The man shook Andrew off so hard that he fell to the ground. “Get your filthy hands off me, you dirty janitor.”
Andrew watched the man walk away in shock. Was this how it felt to be treated like you didn’t matter? Andrew didn’t like it. He looked around just as somebody kicked him.
“Get out of the way, you lazy bum.” The woman who’d kicked him sneered at him.
“I’m going to report you for sleeping on the job.”
At that moment, Andrew understood what his father had been trying to teach him. He knew now how much it hurt to be mistreated by people who thought they were better than you.
A flash of red caught his eye, and Andrew looked up. He recognized the flight attendant he’d been rude to and hurried across to her.
“I’m so sorry,” he said when he reached her. “I treated you so badly.”
The woman was surprised to see him, but she smiled when he apologized.
“I’m glad you’ve learned the error of your ways,” she said.
What can we learn from this story?
Everyone deserves respect. It doesn’t matter if somebody works a menial job; they’re still a person and deserve to be treated respectfully.
Sometimes children need to learn a lesson the hard way. It can be difficult for children to understand the true depth of important life lessons when they’ve never experienced that situation.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.