It peppers my life in ways even my wife doesn’t understand. It’s not the kind of intense that’s chaotic or obsessive, but intense in the way that it holds deep meaning in my life. The theme parks especially have a special place in my heart. A Disney theme park was the place I got my first job, was the place I met my first girlfriend, and was the place I bought my wife a Minnie Mouse ring and promised one day I would marry her. I came through on that promise by the way.
I love Disney because it hearkens back to an idealism about the world we are sorely missing. With reality TV everywhere we turn, we seldom get to imagine the way life COULD be. Today even our sit-coms are based “in reality.” When I was growing up, we watched shows like Brady Bunch, Happy Days, Family Ties and The Cosby Show. The reason these shows were so popular were not because anybody actually lived like that, but because they showed us the kind of life we aspired to have. The kind where parents make the right decisions in raising their kids. The kind where love and understanding triumph over selfishness and self-centeredness. And it brought hope we could rise above it all.
If you want reality TV, you simply have to turn on the news to see the worst in one another. But where is the counterbalance? Where are the images and examples that we can look up to and live for? They seem to be disappearing these days. One of the reasons I became a pastor was because I fully and whole-heartedly believe God offers us hope for a better life if we only reached out and took it. And I don’t mean in a blind faith kind of way either, but if we embraced what God has to teach us – to love one another – we could reshape the world! And that’s the kind of hope I want to share with others..
To me Disney offers that kind of hope. In a world filled with horrible realities, Disney often offers us a better way. One of the things I loved about working in the parks was the concept of the “berm.” The berm was a big wall that shut out the outside world. Beyond the berm was every trouble and worry that dotted our lives. But for a brief instant in time, when you walked beneath that sign that said, “Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy” you did just that. You lived in a place where magic exists and dreams do come true. Is it the reality of our world today? No, but it could be. And it should be.
We often take vacations at a Disney theme park, not just because they are fun and family-friendly, but because I want my family to have this hope in their lives. I want them to know that for an instant and maybe right now only in this place, does this kind of idealism exist in the world. But it does exist! Other theme parks may offer more thrilling rides or more dangerous rides, but none of them offer you a better way to live. We see this idealism in the animated movies Disney creates and we watch them come to life in the parks and we can hope at least for the day this idealism remains alive and well and can inspire us to make the world a better place. That’s why I’m a Disney Dad, because I want to make this world a better place for my children. Every child deserves to have hope, happiness, and love in their lives. Don’t you think?