Not long ago, my husband had a business trip to Orlando, Florida so we took our boys, ages seven and nine, for the first time to Walt Disney World Resort. My husband had his business meeting the first day we were there, so it was decided that I would take the boys as early as possible to enjoy some of the Magic Kingdom which is geared for younger children before we were to rendezvous with the paterfamilias for lunch. We had been cautioned that the park was expected to be very crowded on this particular weekend and as the day promised warm sunshine with a hint of late-spring breeze it was with great care that I planned our excursion so that we would avoid “all the other thousands of people!” Concerned with only maneuvering my children to the best spots I dragged the boys out of bed very early to start our adventure. Determined to be ahead of everyone else I rushed my children through breakfast and down to the waiting shuttle bus. I positioned them to exit the shuttle quickly, and prepared them to get through the gates purposefully and past security efficiently. (We were going to get the full “Disney” experience even if we had to break our necks to do it!)
First on the list was the iconic “it’s a small world.” Ushered onto the third boat ride of the day, I crowed with pride, “We beat all those other people!” As we settled into our seats we were engulfed in the familiar children’s song and entered the first of many large rooms of the exhibit. Greeting us were animatronic children attired in brightly colored costumes representing the different peoples and regions of the world, “singing” the theme song in their own language. Room after room of these children represented all the peoples and cultures of the world. The boys were wide-eyed and intent as they listened to the song being sung in different languages as we entered each separate room. They enthusiastically guessed what traditional dress represented which country. “This is what the ‘Disney’ experience is all about.” I thought to myself.
Near the end of the ride, we entered a narrow passage where all the many different languages are played together one over one another so that a listener can decipher the unity of the melody but it is almost impossible to isolate just one voice or one language. Brightly colored, rather loud and somewhat chaotic, it was almost overwhelming to one’s senses. Then, the narrow passage gives way to the largest of rooms –the finale of the tour. In this room, there is the one song, playing in unison, in one language as all of the animatronics from the previous rooms are presented together, still dressed in their vestiges of origin but without the dividing colors. If you’ve experienced this for yourself, you know that this finale displays all of the characters dressed in white with accents of silver and shimmering with a faint turquoise blue. As we rounded the corner to drink in our first glimpse into this massive, beautiful scene that twinkles with tiny lights, I heard a gasp and watched as my seven year old son said with a smile on his face, “This is how it is with God’s plan, Mommy. This is how God sees us.” The nine year old piped up, “Yeah, it’s about how we are all different and it’s hard to understand sometimes – like back there (pointing to the narrow passage way we just left) – but we are still all singing the same song.” Then almost before he finished his sentence the younger brother spoke up again completing this thought: “Yeah, but God sees us as all the same. God sees us like in here: all dressed differently, but no costume is brighter or prettier than another one. In here they’re all singing together. Everyone is the same to God. See, Mommy? This room is definitely how God planned us to be.”
Hurdled into a moment of unexpected contemplation, I realized with shame that I had abruptly gone about my morning absorbed in self-importance, singularly trying to “beat” everyone else. Unexplainably, words came echoing from a hymn sung in church recently: “Take time to be holy as the world rushes on…(William D. Longstaff; 1882).” With great joy and comfort, I sank into a peaceful moment of holiness – a gift from God right there on the holy ground of Walt Disney World.
Grateful for the moment of reflection I emerged wanting to see those around me rather than rushing past them. As we waited in line or talked to others in the park that day, I couldn’t help but reflect on “how God sees us.” My view of what it means to be “holy” was altered, too.
The ride through “it’s a small world” certainly made my Disney experience more thoughtful and I think that’s what Walt Disney had planned all those years ago. While “it’s a small world” was most likely not meant to be a representation of “God’s Plan,” I am fairly certain that even Walt Disney himself would appreciate the truth that revealed itself through that moment: How amazingly beautiful, clear and holy the world can be if we intentionally take time to see it through the eyes of a child.