Glancing at the woman to my left, I smiled. Her arms were full of warm, rumpled toddlers, two little girls who were obviously exhausted from a long day at the Magic Kingdom. The tiny princess closest to me clutched her glowing star-wand and shifted to get comfortable. The bus gently swayed, rocking the girls into a fitful rest on the journey to our resort.
Lost in thought, I felt a small sneaker nudge my leg and the princess whimpered a bit. Assuring her apologetic mother that I didn’t mind, I shifted my purse to the right, hoping to give this sweet, exhausted child a bit of space to stretch out.
Once more I heard a soft whimper, followed by a gurgle, a splat, and suddenly my left thigh was hot and wet. I knew instantly what had happened, even before I took inventory of the half-digested juice and crackers that covered my lap. The mama beside me looked on in horror, her mouth a perfect ‘o’ of shock and dismay.
I’m sure you can imagine the rest of that bus ride. One strained young woman with her arms full of sleepy children repeatedly apologizing…me, calmly reassuring her that it was fine as I used the few tissues and wipes in my purse to mop up the mess. I thought the poor woman would start crying as the bus slowed to a stop in front of our resort.
Looking her in the eye, I spoke clearly and evenly. “It’s really, really okay. I have four kids of my own and I’ve been there! There’s nothing here that won’t wash.” I smiled and wished her luck as I waddled into the hotel to change and find the laundry facilities.
It’s now been over a week since we returned home from our big Disney World vacation and my husband and I have been discussing and analyzing some of the things we so love about this ‘happiest place on earth’. A few things really stood out.
- There were tired, sobbing children everywhere we went, yet we felt nothing but compassion for the parents. When a little person would melt down in hysterics, we noted that virtually everyone nearby would smile with understanding and walk on with zero judgment for the harried parents. And getting barfed on just isn’t that big of a deal when you’re looking at a frazzled mama with eyes of empathy.
- Though it was hot and humid and the the lines were long, people were generally friendly. When the lines merged, we all politely took turns, happily allowing others to go first. There was a refreshing solicitousness as we all helped to ensure that families and groups weren’t separated. Our common purpose seemed to bring out a common courtesy that is all too often lacking in our modern society.
- There was a camaraderie even among strangers as we chatted in line, awaiting our turn for a bit of fabricated adventure. Again, our common purpose brought us together, people from all around the world. Whether we spoke the same language or not, we connected with eyes and smiles. Gender, nationality, race and age became totally irrelevant. It was beautiful.
- On one of our days, we enjoyed a fine dining experience, a place that proved to be far fancier than we had anticipated. We had spent the day in the park and entered the restaurant looking like something the cat had hucked up on the rug. Seriously. Half of us were still soaked from a river-rapid ride and we all were hot, sweaty, and disheveled. Yet the staff at this establishment treated us as royalty, waiting on us attentively, answering questions and completely ignoring our unkempt state. When I caught a look at myself in the ladies room after our meal and saw how frightful I looked, I was super impressed by the respect our servers had shown.
All in all, our vacation was lovely and as my husband and I discussed these points last night a powerful thought flashed through my mind.
Isn’t this how the church is supposed to be?
Shouldn’t people be able to enter our churches and feel our compassion? Shouldn’t our common purpose draw us together in a spirit of love, all petty judgments melting away as we come together in our desire to honor Christ? Shouldn’t we put others before ourselves, looking out for and caring for all of God’s people? Shouldn’t we treat all who enter with respect, regardless of appearance?
Shouldn’t the church be the happiest place on earth?
But the church isn’t a building or a particular group of people, is it? The church is us. So the question becomes, how are we doing with this?
For me? Some days are better than others, but mostly I find myself falling shorter than I’d like. I’m too quick to condemn, too wrapped up in my own self, too busy to really see the opportunities in front of me. Most days I only reflect the Father’s love dimly.
Hmmm. Perhaps this secular bastion of commercialism called Disney has something to teach us, yes? I believe I’ll tuck this thought away and the next time I find myself falling short of who I desire to be, I’ll remember the magic of Disney World, sprinkle a bit of that pixie dust, and remember to fly.
Want to join me?
Grace and peace,
P.S. Just for kicks and giggles I thought I’d share a few of my favorites from our trip. I gotta say, I LOVE the teen years! These people are so much fun to hang out with!