Last week my wife and I took our 13-year-old grandson to Disney World in Florida as a birthday treat. We joined thousands of other people at Epcot one day and at Animal Kingdom the next. Given the 90 plus heat and the crowds, I approached this trip with mixed feelings – anticipation of my joy of being with him and his joy of being there. Yet I feared the heat and crowds. In Disney speak, they call my experience “the magic.” In my faith, we would call it a miracle.
We settled into the Disney ritual of long walks to desired attractions followed by long lines of 60-180 minutes to get on the ride followed by a short intense ride experience. We, like others, seemed to accept the cost-benefit equation and relax and enjoy it. To me, that is the first miracle. Accepting what appears to be totally unacceptable.
My inner angry guy could have easily whined and raged about the abuse of people for a capitalist profit. I did engage my grandson in a discussion of how Walt Disney was both a great innovator and a great capitalist. Over time, it appears the capitalist is leading the Disney parade.
At Animal Kingdom, the premier experience these days, based on line size, is riding on an Avatar to the world of Pandora. It was a cloudy, hot, humid day with clear threats of a rainstorm at any moment. The Disney app reported the wait time in line for this ride between 180 and 210 minutes. Let me help you with the math – that is 3 to 3.5 hours!
As much as that prospect sent horror to every cell of my body, I was given the grace of remembering why I was there. We were giving a gift to our grandson. Going on this ride is the gift he was most excited about. So, we proceeded to the line as the clouds darkened and rain started. Our faith was rewarded. I could distract myself by getting out of line every half hour to go refill our water bottles. We were inside by the time the heavy rain came. The three hours passed and we were on the ride.
It is an amazing ride and look into the world beyond us. I imagine the Disney people would say this is an example of how Walt’s legacy of innovation and capitalism are still thriving. Perhaps.
As we spent our two days in heat, crowds, rides and fun, we were not the only ones stretching and believing in the miracle of the gift of simply being there. I took delight in watching the people and the love being expressed in so many different ways. So many families with children of all ages. So many grandparents in so many different physical conditions – some nimble and others getting around only with the help of a scooter or wheelchair.
Most of these people looked happy and joyful to be there. They bought Disney shirts and caps to show their enthusiasm – another victory for capitalism from my perspective. But obviously important to many. Either they were there because the experience nourished their own soul or had at some past moment or because they were with someone who they thought would enjoy the gift.
Besides looking for the love and joy among my fellow Disney adventurers, I couldn’t help but see the pain of people with varying limitations trying to keep up and be with their families. And the pain of people going to extraordinary lengths to satisfy their children’s whims, causing me to wonder about how the economics of this visit would impact the family long-term.
Yes, going to Disney is a huge screen view of our world and the many and diverse people in it. The beauty and the warts are all there for anyone to see. In two days, amidst all these people, we witnessed only two serious meltdowns. In one case, a couple was having a loud dispute and the man screamed at the woman as she stormed off: “I hate everything about you.” Another time in the late afternoon, a man enjoying a beer and who had obviously had way too many beers yelled at his wife: “I was just getting the damn pizza because the #$%^*! kids wanted it.”
While these scenes were troubling to watch, it is beyond amazing that we encountered only two ugly situations amidst the wicked heat, the many different kinds of pressures on families (what to do, how much to spend, what to eat, etc.) and the lines and crowds.
Reflecting on this experience, I can only conclude I was given the grace to be there and be loving and kind beyond my natural capacity. And from what I could observe, many if not most of the people there were given the same gift or grace. What is that gift? I suspect none of us really know. But many of us do know that believing in the power of good and kindness seems to work wonders. Where have you observed the gift of faith lately?