As poet and activist Maya Angelou encouraged, we can all "be a rainbow in someone's cloud." And, today, a single act of kindness can go a long way toward brightening someone's universe. What's more, research shows encouraging children to be kind has a positive influence on a slew of academic, health and social outcomes including increased self-esteem, motivation to learn and resilience.
So why not incorporate an extra dose of kindness into your upcoming vacation?
Here are five ideas to consider.
Pack an attitude of gratitude
Leave impatience and judgment behind, and showcase an attitude of gratitude as your travel resumes. Lead with a smile and offer thanks to those you meet along the way. From harried flight attendants, pilots, TSA agents and front desk personnel to tour guides, bus drivers, restaurant servers and room attendants, encourage the children to say thank you whenever appropriate. Consider leaving a handwritten note or crayon drawing along with your tip, an extra effort sure to garner a smile from the recipient. If you loved your hotel stay or guest ranch experience, leave a note congratulating the whole crew for a job well done.
Pay it forward
What goes around comes around. So give kindness a nudge in the right direction. Discuss (and model) how offering a seat or opening a door can be helpful. Encourage the heavily laden or parents managing a cranky child to go ahead in line. Perhaps a strong teen can assist a frail adult with removing a heavy piece of luggage from the overhead compartment. In the queue for a soda or coffee? Quietly pay for someone in uniform, the elderly or the front-line worker behind you in line. By simply taking notice, opportunities for extending kindness will multiply.
Pack for a purpose
Reserve a little space in your luggage for books, clothing or school supplies that will make a difference in the lives of others in your destination. The nonprofit organization Pack For A Purpose works with hundreds of hotels and tour operators in dozens of countries to help travelers contribute to those in need. Whether you stow pencils, a deflated soccer ball, a stethoscope or pet supplies in your bags, you and your family will return home knowing you've helped spread kindness beyond your own backyard.
The individuals who keep the travel and tourism industry humming continue to be among those hit hardest by our changing world. As you plan your future vacation, discuss how the places you will visit might be different or similar to your own home.
Near or far, burrow into the culture and make a point to learn about how and where the locals live, work and play. Skip the chains and seek out locally-owned eateries, shops and lodging. Visit local farmers markets. If the language is not your own, learn at least a few key phrases and practice them before and during the visit. With gas prices spiking, seek to uncover what's compelling closer to your own home.
Keep the planet in mind
Walk rather than ride. Cycle to and from. Seek out sustainable options. Turn the lights out when you leave. Recycle. Reuse. Stay on the trail. Keep the beach clean. Stow trash in all the right places. Leave no trace. Caring for the planet is yet another way of caring for each other.