Do you know why I love Disney World….Land….Paris? (Probably the others, too, but hey- I haven’t been there so I’m withholding judgment) It’s because I can escape. No, I don’t have a particularly distressing life. I work hard, my husband and kids do too, and we enjoy throwing away reality and diving into a fairy tale. Every once in awhile, though, I stop and think about those whose lives are, well….traumatic. I mean, can you imagine? More than that, can you imagine what a trip to Disney World would mean to them?
If you are like me, you worry every time your child gets a sniffle. My eleven-year-old daughter had a terrible flu recently, and it just about made me batty. She was coughing, not sleeping and ended up unnecessarily losing eleven pounds. I worried that she had Mono or pneumonia, and I slept on the floor next to her for a week so I could listen to her breathe. We protect our children with helmets, 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, coats buttoned up to their chins, and countless kisses. Most of us are lucky enough to only need to face the skinned knees and occasional ear infection. When the thought that something could go terribly wrong enters my mind, I find myself quickly sweeping it away with a “lalala I can’t hear you” mentality.
For some, this thought is reality, and sticking fingers in their ears will not make it go away. Their babies are facing life-threatening diseases. Every morning they awaken to this unimaginable truth.
When I was a young girl, a family moved in next door to me. I would go to my fence and call to their dog who was a beautiful Golden Retriever named Sunshine. One day, a girl about my age came outside. It was a bright day, and I noticed that her hair shone golden just like Sunshine’s. Nikki came over to my yard to swing, and we became friends. At this young age, I didn’t pay attention to the fact that she wasn’t in school with me. She was there when I came home….until she wasn’t. She didn’t come out to swing. After awhile, I knocked on her door. Her dad let me inside and took me to her room. I was shocked to see Nikki in bed, her beautiful golden hair on her dresser and not on her head. It was then that I learned she had Leukemia. Nikki wanted to be a regular girl. She wanted to go to school, to the mall, to restaurants…on vacation. She couldn’t. Her life was limited to her home and the occasional play date on my swing. The stresses of her disease even caused her parents’ marriage to crumble.
Where is the magic in the everyday for these children who experience pain that most of us can’t comprehend? Even the little girl in the lonely hospital room, hooked up to machines still dreams she’s a princess. The little boy needing dialysis still wants to take a rocket to Mars. They are regular kids with regular wishes. They just have much more substantial limitations.
I may regularly fall short when it comes to doing the right thing, but I am so proud that the company I have come to adore doesn’t idly sit by. These families who face the daily struggle and harsh reality of childhood illness have a small respite thanks to the Make-a-Wish-Foundation, of which the Disney Company is a top contributor. Disney would not be able to support this cause so fully without all the Nuts like us who go to Disney every chance we get. Of course, there are many other ways to provide even more if the notion grabs you.
Disney gives these families a reprieve from the everyday. They give children a week where they can feel like regular kids, and parents can relax and enjoy their families. If that isn’t magical, then I don’t know what is. It is this magic that can plant the seed that anything is possible. Health…is possible. Quality of life is golden, and laughter and joy are so very healing–spiritually as well as physically.
Illness doesn’t diminish dreams; it only makes them more extraordinary when they come true.
Just one more reason to love Disney.