At the stopover in Chicago, heading to Portland, after the Chicago-bound travelers deplaned, we were allowed to relocate our seats on Southwest Air. Moving up front, a flight attendant asked if it as all right if the third seat in our row went to an eight year old traveling alone under the supervision of the crew. As newly minted grandparents, we agreed and spent the next several hours helping with word searches and teaching strategy on playing “dots.” It seems so natural to help the vulnerable; comforting a toddler in tears, helping a child, assisting a senior citizen, being kind and helpful to the handicapped. I believe it’s really hard-wired into most of us to naturally care for the more vulnerable.
Sometimes, this natural desire to help the vulnerable gets clouded when the vulnerability is less visible. People with a language barrier or in unfamiliar territory often need help. When we travel, we are less visually identifiable — unlike a child, the elderly or those dressed in clothing common to a foreign land.
Something as simple as seeking directions can trigger a pleasant interaction with a helpful local. It’s often not just taking time to give the directions, but also a hearty welcome to their “home” and a true delight into sharing the joys and sites of their community. These are often those brief moments that create some great memories of our journey as they not only give a flavor of the location visited, but reinforce how humanity is in fact alive and well in most places. Perhaps the truest joys we ever see come from the most vulnerable, like children or the elderly. Is there anyone alive that doesn’t just love the sound of a laughing toddler?
This is just another example of how travel both expands the mind and makes our lives more experienced and well-rounded. It in fact makes us better people. We understand the world around us more, understand our community more, makes us more tolerant, carry fewer resentments and also makes us cheerful helpers to those in need. We are all one people regardless of race, heritage and geography.
Let’s face it, nobody takes a vacation to feel needy. We vacation to get away from the office, see and experience cool things and spend time with loved ones. And most vacations deliver that, regardless of whether they are well-planned or spontaneous. The remnant benefit of coming back from vacation, not just relaxed and recharged but actually (even if just a small way) a better person, is a nice extra. Time to plan for your next vacations.