Our family took an impromptu trip to Disneyland this weekend. We kept hearing about the fabulous nighttime parade and fireworks, so decided to find a spot early in order to see them both. You would think getting there an hour ahead of time would leave plenty of time but no, it didn’t. We had to find a small space in between three different families. The attitudes of those families made me think a lot about how our kids see us act towards others.

Behind the empty spot, a mom and her son welcomed us and offered to let us squeeze in. She and the mom next to her had become friendly and the kids were talking to each other. My mother struck up a conversation with the mother sitting next to us and found out all about her family from Yemen and their life there. The scene felt like a party rather than a wait.

In front of us, two people stretched out to save as much space as possible. When their family joined them, the two that had been there left and told the two people with a baby to “take as much room as you can, we’ve waited long enough.” They then pretended that the party behind them wasn’t happening as they leaned across a long sidewalk curb.

So, I sat there, butt flattening on the concrete, seeing both the kind and generous families behind us and the stoic stretched family in front and thought about what my kids were learning. Technically, the people in front of us were right. They had saved the space for quite a while, they had a right to use it. However, those behind us also had a right to use the space and instead choose generosity. Their kids, and by extension mine, could see the happiness in being kind.

Such enlightening situations like this can’t really be created. They just sort of happen. Opportunities to model this sort of action have to be seized when they present themselves which means we have to be on the look out.

For example:

  • At the grocery store, let the person who only has one item go in front of you in line.
  • Instead of fighting for position on the freeway, let your kids hear you say things like “Go ahead” or “Thank you” with a wave.
  • Teach them to hold the door open for others.
  • Insist that they use please and thank you with everyone, not just your family.

When your kids watch you interact with the world with kindness and generosity, they learn that not only does it put more happiness into the world but generally improves your own circumstances. Take advantage of these moments to let them see you.