A nine day vacation with 10 teenagers sounds like an excrutiating experince, but when they end up spreading joy it was a lesson for all. This past New Years was spent on a vacation with my 17 immediate family members…yes, 17 in all and 10 of them teenagers~ Yikes!!! However, I have to say it was the BEST vacation and experience we could have asked for. We spent two days of our travel in airports with long lines, layovers and hours and hours of delayed flights and this was still a GREAT time because we had a goal: Make people smile. It is amazing how contagious and heartwarming kindness can be.
It all started a few weeks earlier on a trip to a family Christmas celebration about two hours drive from our home. On the interstate my niece said, “Let’s see if we can make the people in the other cars smile”. The rest of the way there they sang, held Christmas coloring pages up to the window, gave people ‘thumbs up’, waved and just acted crazy. The response was immediate and usually reciprocated with smiles and waves back. Truckers pulled their horns, kids tapped their parents on the shoulder and laughed and many would approach for a second look. In fact, one couple got in the spirit and would make faces and fun gestures of their own as we alternated passing each other.
This continued through the airport and at the resort during our stay. In no time at all we made many friends, knew people and staff by name and were known as the ‘Smith Gang’. Rather than cringe that 10 boisturous and crazy teens were taking over the pool or going for their 4th round of ice cream cups, they were welcomed and thanked. They started pool games, a conga line and sang on stage during the New Years celebration where they stayed until 2:30 a.m., sharing music and joy with strangers.
The true tests was on the long journey home as tired, weary, school dreading kids who stuffed their suitcases with crumpled laundry full of sand. As we lounged in single airport seats that refuse to let travelers find a comfy position to pass the endless hours, they spread out behind the attendant station and watched their screens or slept…until they took the time to look around. In the spirit of their pledge a nearby traveler appearing stressed was asked how she was doing and where she was going. As it turned out she was trying to get to her son who had been crushed by a semi-truck at a driving school. She had learned of his accident at 10 a.m. and it was now 8 p.m. and our flight was delayed…again. Prayers and support passed the time literally and emotionally. There was also a young mother who did not speak English traveling alone with her exhausted two year old daughter. The kids loaned them a pillow to lay the child down and watched the little one while the mother took a much needed rest. In both cases, their acts of kindess were visibly appreciated. All in all, we started 2016 off right with smiles and kindness and truly experienced the gift of giving. Moral of the story: Joy is contagious~ spread it like the plague!