Before I begin, I want to give all of you a little heads up… this is going to be pretty long. But, I promise it will be well worth the time it takes you to read all of it. I am combining what could easily be two posts, but I feel there is enough of a connection between the two posts that combining them into one is fitting. I hope you enjoy reading it, and I hope it inspires you to maybe take another look at the way you live your life and interact with others on a daily basis.
Those of you who know me well, and those of you who don’t know me, but have read my previous posts, know that I am a die-hard fan of Disney. I live close to Walt Disney World and spend as much time as possible in the parks. There is very little in the parks that I am able to experience that I haven’t yet experienced. I love certain things about all of the parks, but Magic Kingdom is my personal happy place. No matter what is going on in my life or what I have dealt with that day, when I enter Magic Kingdom, all of the stress and negativity from the outside world just melts away. This is the place where I can truly live in the moment and not have a care in the world. As anything Disney-related should be, my time in the parks is just pure happiness.
I have certain spots where I prefer to watch the parade and fireworks every day. I have spots where I like to go to get away from the crowds and feel like I have some privacy for a little while. There are certain things going on throughout the day that I plan my entire day around.
Now that I have experienced nearly everything that I am able to experience in the parks, I am proud of the fact that I can help other guests find certain places throughout the parks, and that I can make recommendations to help make their experience a little bit better.
Visiting the parks as much as I do, it’s easy to forget that not everyone is as fortunate as I am. People travel here from all over the world, but not everyone has the luxury of visiting the Disney parks five days a week. Whenever somebody tells me they are visiting for the first time, or that they don’t know if they will ever get a chance to come back, I want them to get as much joy from their experience as possible. I want them to experience the parks the way I do.
I should note, I am not employed by Disney and am in no way (other than being a huge fan) associated with the company.
Since I have experienced most of my favorite things countless times, I find that I now get more joy from watching other people enjoy their experience as much as I do than I get from actually enjoying it myself.
A few months ago, while waiting for the afternoon parade to start, I met an elderly lady from New Jersey who had first visited Magic Kingdom shortly after the park opened, back in 1971. She told me that she was starting to have health issues and that travel has become difficult for her. For those reasons, she decided that would be her last trip to WDW. Throughout the parade that day, several of the characters and other performers happened to see her and spoke to her. A few of them gave her hugs. When the parade ended, she was in tears and said that experience was the highlight of her trip. I wished her well before we parted, and that experience obviously had a lasting impact on both of us, considering I still remember it months later. Seeing how happy this lady was and knowing how special that trip was for her has made that one of my all-time favorite experiences at one of the parades.
About a week after that memorable parade experience, I was waiting for the parade again when a family from England walked up next to me. They were visiting WDW for the first time. They told me that their youngest son who has Down Syndrome had wanted to visit WDW since he first learned to speak. His favorite movie is Beauty and the Beast. At the beginning of the parade, Beast waved to me. I waved back, and then pointed to the young boy sitting next to me. Beast waved to the boy, and Belle blew him a kiss. The boy cried for the rest of the parade and started shaking from excitement and happiness. Seeing how excited the boy was, the rest of his family started crying. They knew it was a moment he had been looking forward to his whole young life.
Fast forward to earlier this week. I spent a great day at Magic Kingdom, and was able to get my favorite spot to watch the fireworks toward the end of the night. A large group of young ladies surrounded me and waited about an hour before fireworks started. I overheard them talking about how excited they were to see the new fireworks show for the first time. Two girls in their group had seen the new fireworks show, which just debuted less than three months ago. The rest had never seen it, but were anxious to see it, because the previous show had become a tradition for them on their annual Disney trips. The girls who had seen the show already told the rest of their group that they would all be crying halfway through the show. I chimed in and told them that I am a regular park guest and that the new show is far superior to the show they had grown to love on previous trips. I also made sure to mention to them that the specific spot we were in is my favorite spot in the entire park.
As the show began, they were all singing and dancing along to the music and were in awe of the fireworks. As their friends predicted, halfway through the show they were all crying. The show hadn’t ended yet, but they were already talking about how they can’t wait to come back on their next trip and enjoy that experience again. Seeing the joy that moment brought to these young ladies made my whole day. It was hands down the highlight of what had already been an amazing day.
Any time that I am able to make someone else’s experience in the parks a little bit better, I am happy to do it. Things as simple as inviting a young child to stand or sit in front of me so they can have a better view of a parade, or giving up my spot completely for a first time park guest so they can fully experience something I’ve already seen 100 times can make an enormous difference in their enjoyment of that moment. I have seen all of my favorite shows and attractions literally well over 100 times. I don’t need to have a perfect view every time. I am happy to share with people who haven’t had those opportunities before.
I could go on and on about great experiences I’ve had in the parks in the time that I have been an annual passholder, but not everyone can relate to the experiences I’ve had in the Disney parks. Not everyone is a fan of Disney either. Everyone has their own interests. However, you don’t have to be at Disney to have these types of experiences. They can happen anywhere in the world. It’s about sharing the magic and the joy you feel from whatever it is you’re most passionate about.
When I began planning to move to Orlando to attend a golf school, I knew that I wanted to find a way to use golf to help others in some way, but I just didn’t know how to go about it. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in the golf industry after I finished school. My main focus was improving my own golf game.
Within just a few short weeks of starting school, I realized that I was more interested in helping others learn to play golf than I was in actually playing myself. Teaching became my main focus for the rest of the time I was in school. The answers I had searched for before moving to Orlando came to me naturally. I realized that I wanted to help people by not only teaching them to play golf, but by also inspiring them to improve themselves off of the golf course. I coached youth baseball back when I was in high school and college, so getting involved in youth golf seemed to be a natural fit for me. I am now the director and lead instructor of a junior golf program for kids with special needs of all kinds. Our program is every bit as focused on teaching valuable life skills as it is about teaching golf.
I was born with a physical disability called Spina Bifida. My disability has forced me to find my own ways to do the same things as my peers, but it really hasn’t slowed me down much. While working with special needs kids and teaching them to play the great game of golf, I hope to set a good example and to be a positive role model. Whether they decide to play golf for the rest of their lives, or it’s just a temporary interest, I hope I can inspire these kids to never give up and to never settle for less than what they deserve. My whole life, people have told me I wouldn’t be able to do the same things that “normal” people can do. I have always taken great pride in finding ways to prove people wrong. I don’t want this to sound like I’m bragging, but I’m glad, looking back, that so many people have said I wouldn’t be able to do what “normal” people do. The reason I’m glad they have said that is because I honestly feel that a lot of things about me are special. I don’t want to be “normal” and just fit in. I stand out and am proud of it. I stand out physically, because I look different from other people when I do most things. More importantly, I stand out because of my personality and my drive and determination to persevere. I don’t mean to imply at any point in this post that I feel like I’m a hero or that I’m better than other people. I just live my life the way that makes sense to me. I live the way I believe everybody should live, which is doing the best we’re able to do in our own unique situation in life.
I have met so many able bodied people in my life who have been faced with a difficult situation and have immediately said, “I can’t”, “It’s too hard”, and “I give up”. That is something that I just can’t relate to, as common as it is. There are definitely things in this world that I’m not able to do, but my inability to do those things has nothing to do with lack of effort on my part. If I fail in any situation, I will go down swinging every time. I ALWAYS try my best. Nothing in the world beats the feeling of proving somebody wrong when they don’t believe in you. It’s an incredible feeling, and it’s something that I want everyone to experience. I want to inspire people to keep trying their best, and to do really great things in this world. Simple gestures that require almost no time or effort can make a world of difference to the people around you. Share the magic with them!!
As I said, you don’t need to be at Disney to create a magical moment for someone. You don’t need to be in any special situation at all. Something as simple as smiling at a stranger and saying “hello” as you pass by could be enough to turn their whole day around. You never know what the people around you are going through. You never know how much a small, simple gesture could mean to them. Just think how much better this whole world would be if we all did our own small part to contribute to the happiness and positivity of those around us. People say world peace and universal happiness can’t exist. I couldn’t possibly disagree more. It absolutely CAN exist, if we all work together and make it happen. It takes all of us working together to share the magic of our happiest moments throughout the world.
Think about it… when was the last time you went out of your way to do something nice for a complete stranger? Do you really, genuinely feel joyful when you see happiness in others? Do you try to have a positive impact on the world every day? No wonderful gesture is too small to have a positive impact on the world. You have to start somewhere. I challenge all of you who read this post to go out into the world and do something nice for somebody. Make them smile. Don’t ask for anything in return. Whether you stay close to home or travel around the world, find a way to spread the love and happiness to everyone around you. You might be surprised how good it feels to know you were able to, in some way, make the world a better place than it was before that moment.
Thank you to all of you who took the time to read all of this!! I hope it means something to you, and I hope it has inspired you to go out into the world and spread positivity, happiness, and love to everybody you meet.