Normally around this time of year, I do an article or two centered on Valentine's Day, but this year I wanted to do something a little different. While I do believe that the sarcastic chuckle of our Five People You Don't Want to Be series is the cheapest Disney therapy going, I thought we might spread the love this February with a special edition filled with positivity. Let's review some of the different types of behavior that we love running into in the Disney parks.
Just to be clear, this is the list you do want to be on. <---- DO.
I took on board your suggestions and really considered all of them when making this list. Instead of focusing on that small selection of extreme acts of kindness, I found myself more attracted to the consistent examples of goodwill and courtesy that seem to be a fading practice these days. You know, those things that never get the recognition they deserve, but if everyone did it, the world would be a better place? Let's take a look.
The Pay-It-Forward Family
First on our list of do-gooder traits is the Pay-It-Forward Family. These are the people that pass on anything they don't need to the next family that might. It could be the paper FastPasses from Disneyland for an attraction they can't stay to enjoy or a balloon they bought to keep their now-sleeping baby amused that can be passed on to the next distressed young child needing a distraction.
Whatever they no longer need back at the resort isn't discarded in a heap somewhere but instead might be left for the hard-working mousekeeping staff with a note to keep if usable. Perhaps it's flowers that were delivered as a surprise but won't last the journey home or unused event tickets that they could enjoy.
An extreme version of this would be the family that brings special surprises, like gift cards or trinkets, to give out when in the parks to unsuspecting guests or cast members. Just a way to say thank you and to go the extra mile.
This one is so simple, yet, it almost always gets overlooked. The Doorman (or woman) always reaches for the door and holds it open for those behind them. Others come and go, letting the door or gate swing shut in the face of guests behind them. But the door (wo)man is always the last one standing, even when the people behind stream through without so much as a smile or nod.
This person also doubles back just after exiting when they see a struggling parent with a stroller or a senior citizen that could use a hand. They often go out of their way to make life just a touch easier whenever possible.
Service with a smile; this person could easily be mistaken for a cast member as it turns out that this basic common courtesy isn't so common. I'm proud to say this is a service my 10-year-old son takes very seriously as he routinely will hold the door open for everyone, sometimes for whole minutes at a time.
How could this have possibly made it onto the list, you say? It's simple: too many people have lost their manners. There was a time when everyone thanked the cast members for loading the rides or assisting them with a purchase. Nowadays, it is rare enough that when you do hear it, it catches your attention.
Those pleasantries that we were taught to extend in any given situation have fallen by the wayside, leaving the way clear for entitlement and ignorance to dismiss those assisting us with silence. Taking the extra 2 seconds to say thank you to the cast member that serves your popcorn or the couple that stands back to let you go ahead in the line in front of them creates an air of appreciation that can be infectious for those around you. A simple please or thank you sentiment reminds us that we are human and not above appreciating the contribution those around us make, no matter how big or small.
Children take their cues from all adults around them, not just the ones they came with. Displaying a good example of a considerate and courteous act can have a lasting effect, reinforcing positive behavior to everyone around you.
The Polite Paraders
You didn't have time to camp out for two hours for the parade, and subsequently, you find yourself standing at the back of the pack with kids that can't see the action. That is, until The Polite Paraders sitting near the gutter invite your kids to come forward and watch in front of them. The short stature of children won't bother their view, but the simple act of noticing is enough to touch you with all the warm feels.
You peer through the gaps as they enjoy a front-row seat a few feet ahead of you, all while making friends with other children sitting nearby. It's a small act of kindness, but one that doesn't happen as often as it could without disturbing anyone's vantage point.
The Knowing Smilers
Disney Days can be magical, but they can also be challenging. Managing families, crowds, weather, expectations, and meltdowns; let's just say it doesn't always go to plan. Those perfect moments we dream about for the months beforehand don't always come as easily as we would like them to.
When things start to go wrong, and you find yourself dealing with a screaming, overtired child or a relationship disagreement, sometimes all you need to take the edge off it for someone close by to give you that look—that smile. You know, the one that says, I get it, we've all been there, and it is going to be ok. In those moments of heightened emotions, a little understanding goes a long way.
I will never forget one occasion in the parks when my children were little, and I felt so overwhelmed - not remembering the circumstances - when an older woman whispered over my shoulder, you are doing a good job, you've got this. I could have turned around and inappropriately hugged her at that very moment.
Smiles are free, and they can make much more of a difference to the next person than you will ever realize. And before someone points out that with masks, smiling is redundant, let me assure you, it isn't. The way someone's face and eyes light up when they are smiling is more powerful than any mask can cover.
Are these basic? Without a doubt; however, those seem to be the things that I appreciate most and see the least. Sure, you can go out of your way to do more, but really, if everyone just used simple common sense and manners, maybe there wouldn't be any need to do more.
I hope you found something in this list that made you smile. Perhaps it reminded you of an encounter you've had in the parks or something you do that has affected other people. Either way, we are all about the love this week as we look forward to Valentine's Day this coming weekend.
Please share some of the best things you have seen occur in the parks below, and let's keep that warm and fuzzy feeling on a roll. If you still need those V-Day tips, check out the following: Five Disney-Inspired Valentine’s Day Ideas for the Last Minute at Home, Last-Minute Valentine’s Ideas for your Day at Disney, and How to Up Your Valentine’s Game at Disney.
*Feature image photo credit: Michelle Perrin-Crawford