Pohnpeian United Airlines employee honored for service above self

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press
May 2, 2016
Pohnpei, FSM—Rickson Oliver’s name has never been in The Kaselehlie Press, but in May a one page article about him appeared in Hemispheres, the inflight magazine of United Airlines with annual circulation of over 134 million copies.
There’s a reason for that. Rickson Oliver, whose family lives upstairs about 50 feet away from the back window of The Kaselehlie Press, never talks about Rickson Oliver. He’s always been the extraordinarily friendly, “smiley” and selfless guy I’ve liked since the moment I met him many years ago. But since Rickson doesn’t talk about Rickson, I never knew anything about the story that appeared in Hemispheres, or any other. He’s just Rickson, the guy who almost everyone likes immediately.
He’s the guy I hear through the back window of my office playing guitar and leading his tight knit, loving and beautiful extended family in their evening worship.

“How’s it going, Rickson?” I ask whenever I see him as he zooms by. “Oh, you know, Bill, I’m still breathing. I’m still alive,” he replies and flashes his trademark, winsome smile. And he is. He’s very alive and with each breath he takes he shares his life with everyone he meets.
But Rickson doesn’t talk about Rickson. It took a nomination by Nary Reyes his supervisor at United Airlines where Rickson works as a customer service representative for the 2015 United 100 to get even a small portion of his story out.
United Airlines has nearly 85,000 employees. Nearly 7000 of them were nominated for the 2015 United 100 award that annually honors 100 employees who go above and beyond for fellow employees, customers, and the company. It is one of the highest honors a United Airlines employee can receive. Rickson was one of the 2015 United 100 and travelled to Chicago to receive his award. But Rickson never said a word to The Kaselehlie Press about that award because Rickson doesn’t talk about Rickson.
“If you ever have the opportunity to travel to Pohnpei, Rickson would probably be one of the United customer service representatives you would remember,” Reyes wrote in his United 100 nomination. “He has the kind of attitude that makes everyone around him smile and instantly be in a great mood. But he doesn’t limit his greatness to his working hours. Rickson is always kind and always looking to help those in need outside of work as well,” she wrote.
The article written by Julia Wislocka that appeared in Hemispheres was entitled “A Remarkable Act of Kindness” and tells the story of the kind of compassion that Rickson has always displayed but never talks about.
A Pohnpeian who had flown to the Philippines many times for medical treatment returned home for the last time after his condition was considered untreatable. Rickson decided to visit him in his home to help brighten the man’s spirits. During his visit, Rickson realized that the man’s home was too small to house his entire family of six, the article said.
“His home was a 25 square foot wooden house,” Oliver told Hemispheres. “The space was just enough for him and his wife to sleep in. Their four kids had to live with their grandparents. I knew right then that I needed to do something for the family.”
The next Sunday at church, Rickson announced a plan of action. Without letting the family members know, he mobilized church members, friends, family, and colleagues to help build the family a new home.
In one hard day Oliver and fellow volunteers built a new home almost 10 times as large, a place for the family to enjoy together, the Hemisphere’s article said.
“As the sun set that day, I got a sense of satisfaction,” Oliver told Hemispheres. “I was so happy to see the family all moving into their new home. He and his wife couldn’t stop crying and thanking me, but it was because of the love and kindness from the community that this was possible. With just a few donated wooden boards, many helping hands, and a lot of love, we were able to give him and his family a bigger space to be together in his final days.”
I asked Rickson if we could get together to talk about the article. “You know, they exaggerated a little bit,” he said because Rickson doesn’t talk about Rickson; he just acts.