“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle,” read the quotation that popped up in my Instagram feed a few days ago. I felt like the air had left the room and I knew right away that this was something I wanted to share with you all. It’s something I’ve been saying for a long time and means a lot to me personally.
The one common denominator when we travel is the people. No matter what we do or where we go, we will at some point interact with other humans (for the most part). And yet many times instead of treating these people like, you know, people, we ignore the aphorism above and ultimately pay the price for it.
Life isn’t easy for anyone, it doesn’t matter if the problems are First World or not they’re still problems that affect us deeply. In my life I have known: alcoholics, cheating spouses, people who have suffered abuse, drug addicts and more. These same people are doctors, lawyers, economists, politicians and other highly functioning professionals. If you met them on the street you would see smart people with families and loved ones, but you would never see the battles they are fighting. Such is the case for all of us, although naturally not to the extremes perhaps in the cases I cited. Hence the importance, no, the necessity of treating people with respect and kindness no matter where you are.
I spend a lot of time in airports, it’s just part of my job. I have spent hours watching people, finding amusement in their quirky ways. Pajama-clad adolescents with pillows in tow for a long flight and businesspeople who can’t seem to put their phones down even for a second. I’ve also seen some reprehensible behavior in airports, tired and harassed travelers who take out their frustrations on the first people they see. Think for a moment what it must be like to work in an airport, especially as a gate agent. All day, every day they have to deal with people complaining about everything from seat assignments to late/cancelled flights. They are yelled at, cursed out and sometimes even physically assaulted. They never asked for this, they entered the travel industry not law enforcement. Ignore for the moment that treating another human like this is reprehensible, those responsible for these actions are the least likely to get what they want. After being criticized, made fun of and cursed at those gate agents are probably not too keen to help their harassers. Instead who is rewarded? Those travelers who treat others, even airline employees, with the kindness and respect that they deserve.
This can be extended to every aspect of not only the travel experience, but life. Being kind to people while traveling opens up experiences you may have never expected. A simple “hi” led me to a remarkable dining experience in Israel and giving a fellow traveler a light at the airport in LA provided one of the funniest travel stories I’ve ever heard. The only travel tip that really matters in my opinion is to always be kind.
We are entering into the holiday season, a time when most people walk with a skip in their step and it seems almost easier to be kind to your fellow man. I challenge you all to extend this happy mental state well into the New Year, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because you never know what lies just beneath the surface of those who surround you.