Yes, You Should Give Up Your Seat on the Plane

By November 1, 2022 December 13th, 2022 No Comments
Yes, you should give up your seat on the plane

I remember in college learning that a universal human fantasy is to be a hero. We want to pull someone from a burning building or a raging river. Fortunately, most of us never find ourselves in that situation. But every day someone needs to merge into our lane on the way home and we don’t let them because “they should have thought of that sooner.” Then we go home and complain about how rude everyone is.


I know social media sites make a lot of ad dollars not just by showing us things we like, but by showing us things we don’t like. I fall into the trap of reading articles and content that serve no purpose other than to fire me up.

There are two types of articles the Internet is serving to me right now just to get my blood pressure up. 

The first are stories of young healthy people who refuse to give up their seats on a plane so families with kids get to sit together. Their arguments go like this:

  1. I planned well in advance so the premium seat is my reward.
  2. It’s the family’s own fault that they got separated. They need to plan better.
  3. If I give up my seat, the family will never learn to plan ahead.
  4. I’m not sacrificing my comfort for a few hours.

The sites with the same slant will then follow up with a story about how Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos need to do more to help the poor and working class. What are their arguments?

  1. Billionaires think they earned their way to wealth, but in reality, the system is stacked for them.
  2. Billionaires blame the poor for being poor. How can they be so heartless?
  3. Billionaires think that if they help, the poor will never try to get ahead. This is wrong, no one wants to be poor.
  4. Billionaires could sacrifice millions of dollars and not miss it. 

To me, if you can’t give up your seat for a few hours, you can’t complain about billionaires being greedy.


I am fortunate enough to know a handful of people who, financially, have hit their finish line at a relatively young age. They have all they need financially. They are, to a person, among the very hardest working and ethical people I know. 

They are also, to a person, very generous with their time and money. They give a lot to help others.

I am also fortunate to have known them before they made it. When they were in their 20s struggling to support a growing family on a single income, they still donated what they could and volunteered a lot. They were active in their church and community groups. One started a nonprofit while running a business and raising three kids. 

My wife and I got married in college. The only time we overdrew our checking account was when we bought our wedding rings (hers was about $40 mine was about $130). We didn’t own a TV. I worked at a bank and bought my sports coats at Goodwill.

But both of our employers set clear expectations that we should donate to The United Way. We didn’t have the money spare but we did it. That lesson got us into a habit of giving that we’ve continued. 

When I’m asked what celebrity I want to have dinner with I answer Dolly Parton. I admire her impact on others and how her life mission is to give. More than once someone has responded to me saying, “Yeah, if I had a bazillion dollars, I’d be generous too.”

And I don’t believe them.

First, if you read Dolly’s story, you’ll learn she’s always been a giving soul, even when young and living in poverty. In my experience, if you give when you’re making $20k a year, you give even more when you make $100k a year. At the same time, if you don’t give at $20k a year, you will continue finding a reason to not give when you are making $100k a year.


Concerts create community – until they don’t. During the show, we sing along with hundreds or thousands of strangers. We wear band merch. We hug and dance and mosh together, brought together by a common thread.

But before the concert, we elbow past each other at the ticket line. We argue about who is in the wrong seat. We glare at the people who climb over us to go the bathroom. After the show, we block each other in the parking garage, run stop signs and lights, and play chicken trying to get to the exit.


I hope you never are in a situation where you have to save a drowning child or pull someone out of a burning building. But, I know in the next day you’ll be able to let someone merge into traffic ahead of you, donate to your local food bank, let someone walk into a crowded restaurant in front of you, or give up your seat on the plane for that mom who wants to be next to her kids. 

Whether it’s time or money, We make excuses to not help because we compare ourselves to Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. We think of ourselves as not having enough and needing to horde every dollar, our plane seat, and our spot in traffic. I challenge you to instead compare yourself to that homeless family living under 315 and then decide how much you can give.