It was another hot Friday in Southern California. Families were laughing, babies and toddlers in desperate need of a nap were crying, but who cares when you’re in the “Happiest Place on Earth”, right?
You guessed it, we were at Disneyland.
We thought this would be a great stress reliever since the entire week had been a “nightmare” of stem cell procedures on Jacoby. So, here we were.
It was literally an “out of body” experience as I watched families all WALK onto rides together. Only 3 short months before, this had been us. No wheelchairs… no disabilities. As my mind continued sorting through the past, a precious little girl ran by in a Cinderella costume… rewind 5 or 6 years… that was our precious Jacoby. O God, please help us. I am dying here.
Honestly, each minute seemed like an hour. I couldn’t help but notice the constant stares we were receiving. It was almost as if people could tell we had NO IDEA what we were doing. The once beautiful and delightful cobblestone streets of Disneyland had become a daunting and annoying obstacle for Jacoby in her wheelchair.
We were looking for a “new normal”, but it was not going to be an easy process. In fact, we could see it was going to take everything we had… and then some.
The rides had lost their “flare” and our other kids could sense the sadness we were desperately trying to hide from them. So we all decided to ditch the rides for a while and go look through shops.
Then, out of the corner of our eyes, we saw him… It was none other than good ol’ Goofy!
Who in their right mind doesn’t like Goofy?
We all quickly ran over in line to take pictures with him. Finally… I thought… something Jacoby can do. However, when Jacoby saw the length of the line, she decided she might get overheated waiting and wheeled over under a nearby tree to wait with us for our other kiddos. My heart sunk just watching her, but there was absolutely nothing I could do to change her new reality.
However, what happened next endeared me to the precious, floppy-eared, Disney character for life!
Somehow, in the midst of a long line of kiddos yelling his name and tugging at his bright overalls, Goofy glanced over at Jacoby and quickly motioned that he would be right back. He ran over to the tree and bent down in front of Jacoby and waved an exaggerated “hello”. Without wasting a minute, he walked around to the side of her and gave her a great big “Goofy” hug. He proceeded to point at my camera and I gratefully jumped in front of them and took their picture. Jacoby was smiling from ear to ear… we both started laughing. But, I also cried some silent tears of joy… some tears of thankfulness, really. God used Goofy in a big way that Friday afternoon. Frankly, he made our tickets to Disneyland worth every penny.
I still can’t even begin to tell you how much that act of thoughtfulness meant to us that day; but I’ll never forget it. The little things really do matter in life, don’t they?
Goofy realized what so many people fail to see, yet want to understand. Plain and simple, he knew the power of acknowledgement. Not. Pity.
You see, before Jacoby’s accident, I used to teach my children to look away and not stare when passing someone with a disability. Not because I wanted to dishonor these people in any way, but because I TRUELY thought that would be the polite thing to do.
But. I. Couldn’t. Have. Been. More. Wrong.
When you make eye contact (acknowledgement) and smile or nod at someone with a disability, you are saying,
“I see you”…
“I know you have purpose”…
“We both have a story to tell”…
That simple act of kindness says many words that may or may not ever be spoken, but dignity was given, and that’s enough.
“Acknowledgement” is the first step to TRUELY understanding these precious people. And why not throw in a smile, a nod of the head, a quick hello. Who knows…? It may be the beginning of a great friendship.
Life’s too short to be disengaged anymore, don’t you think? Look around you, “Goofy” opportunities are everywhere. It starts with us; let’s do this!
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. –2 Corinthians 16:9