It’s the day after our vacation at Walt Disney World in Orlando. As glad as I am we came home early -- we shaved a day from our hotel bill and we’re back with our pets -- I can’t help feeling a bit…well…blah. Then again, it’s always difficult coming back from a good, fun vacation and settling back into reality. I find it’s even doubly so when we get back from Disney. You see, there’s always a part of me that never wants to leave. The worst, for me, is leaving the countries at Epcot, or The Magic Kingdom; especially at night, after the huge fireworks.
If only I could live on Main Street or one of the countries! But that wouldn't be real life, would it?
The first time I went to Disney was February of 1996. I was 33 and slipped into a childhood I never really had. I didn’t know what to do with the overwhelming emotions except to tear up with joy. I’d never felt such raw bliss.
I was also conflicted between the wonderful escapism offered at Disney and the knowledge that in a few days I’d have to return to my daily grind. Those feelings have not changed. If anything, they’ve become more powerful as I’ve grown older. Given the growing political and religious climates in our country, the feelings have become sharper still.
During that first visit to WDW, I found myself wondering why we all couldn’t just live in a world where everyone smiled and left everyone else alone? I kept looking at the happy faces, listening to the music as we walked along, and the child inside me kept screaming, “This is how it should be! Why can't it be this all the time?”
And then there was that voice. You know the one. The “Parent” voice. The one that says, “Because,” without ever backing the one-word claim or offering proof of why living such a fantasy life wouldn’t work.
We’ve visited Disney so many times I can see the chinks in the facade if I stare long enough. Yes, I know people who’ve worked there that report it’s not all smiles and sunshine behind the scenes. Yes, these people have called Disney all sorts of things, none of which come close to what Disney calls itself: The Happiest Place on Earth. And, yes, it’s a money pit; a place where people go and lose their souls to the devil, having to work double shifts just to pay for the plastic junk their children don’t really need.
However, removing all that from the equation, it’s still a place that I find to be magical. Only at Disney have I felt that just about anything I can dream is actually possible. Let me give you an example.
Several years ago, when we went up for my partner’s birthday, I snuck into the Muppet shop at Hollywood Studios to purchase a Kermit figure my partner really wanted. The purchase took a little longer than expected, what with the undecided just milling about but I texted my partner, pretending to be ill in the bathroom, as I completed my purchase then made arrangements to have Kermit delivered at a specific place and time.
The man I worked with moved heaven and earth. In fact, I’m still not sure of what he did or how he pulled it off. All I know is that the following night, while having dinner at The California Grill at the top of The Contemporary, Kermit the Frog, playing his banjo, was delivered to our table, as requested. It was flawless. We weren’t even staying at that hotel!
And no, it didn’t cost extra to have it delivered. What it took was a handful of people that were either curious enough to see it through or willing to go above and beyond their job descriptions to make someone happy.
Fast forward to this past week.
My partner and I were riding the Kali Rapids at The Animal Kingdom. For those who don’t know what it is, The Kali Rapids is like a giant inner tube that seats 12 and bobs up and down on the water, with a very high chance of getting you sopping wet.
There were eight of us that day: my partner and I, a Brazilian couple, their two sons, and another couple we think were father and son. Perfect strangers, having a fun time laughing and teasing each other over the anticipation of getting wet. Then, when we all got drenched, it was glorious as we all laughed and shrieked, enjoying ourselves as children, despite cultural differences and grown-up demeanor. There was no hatred, no judgment, no categorizing or shoving one another into a box. It was clear by everyone’s reaction that the only thing on our minds was the experience.
It made me wonder. If eight perfect strangers could co-exist peacefully and share a “magical moment,” what other wonders could we share? How much further could we carry on with that feeling of living in the now? From there, my mind leapt to another thought, one that might be far-fetched but perhaps not as crazy as it sounds.
Is it possible that, perhaps, we can create a fun and peaceful environment, thus changing what we perceive as “the real world” even if it is only one moment at a time?
I realize I’m probably looking at the world through rose-colored lenses and that offering up a ride at Disney as an example of peace is perhaps a slight oversimplification of human nature. Still…if the thought is there, if it came to me, might it not be possible to carry out? I mean, if we’re willing to adapt to a peaceful unity and co-existence in the most fantastical of all places, why not in the real world?
I don’t expect to change the world or make anyone see things the way I do. But if each of us stopped for five minutes and made a conscious effort to live a moment with no judgments or preconceived notions of others; if we imagined positivity for a friend, a family member, a neighbor; if we put aside our political and religious beliefs and stood as one, what might we be able to achieve?
Alas, I’m about as close to a satisfying answer as I am to a prize of ten million tax-free dollars. However, if any of you have thoughts on the topic -- whether it be on ways to start implementing peace or a way to get to that ten million -- please feel free to share. I’m open.