What mom in her right mind takes her two special needs kiddos to Walt Disney World during the Christmas holidays? I mean, wait times are longer than the summer tent revival altar call … and people are more wound up than the church lady who received a dose of the Holy Spirit during that tent revival meeting. But my kiddos are suckers for Goofy in a Santa suit, and I am too. So off we went.
Due to the throngs of Disney fans (short for fanatics for a very good reason), the Disability Access system was on overload and crashed. As a result, for two days in a row, in order to get the much needed paper version of the disability pass, Hopey and I stood in line at Guest Relations for forty-five minutes. The sole intention of the pass, mind you, is to avoid long lines. Go figure.
In typical Hopey fashion, as we waited our turn in the queue, she tried her darnedest to make friends with everyone around her the only way she knows how. She hooked her hands into the pockets of the man in front of her and yanked hard … nearly pulled the man’s britches clear to his knees. I honestly did get a shot of his white skivvies. He turned around and glared at me as if I was supposed to know she was going to pants him. He’d been defenseless, poor guy, but he wasn’t her only target. She grabbed a boob or two, pinched a teenage boy so hard he yelped, turned flips over the queue line chains, and kissed about a half dozen strangers. By the time we reached the counter on both days, the Disney attendant was very pleased to hand me a pass and scoot us out the door and on our way.
We rode Everest, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Slinky Dog Dash, Thunder Mountain Railroad, Test Track and Tower of Terror. While Hopey enjoys Dumbo, Pooh, Small World, and the Peter Pan ride … she lives for the thrill rides. Each line though, even with the Disability Access Pass, was terribly long. And in each line, I worked as diligently to manage her as she worked to “make friends”.
By the time we hit Rockin’ Roller Coaster, I was exhausted. She looked up at me with that mischievous twinkle in her eyes, and I begged her to just stand in line patiently like everyone else. I would’ve had better luck getting an oak tree to dance the Vietnamese Waltz. With a tummy full of Mickey Bars, the sugar high was real.
As we waited, Hopey couldn’t help but stretch her arms out and touch anyone she could reach. Every fiber of her being longed to share her excitement with the people around her. Her face beamed with the biggest smile. I imagine she wanted to tell everyone how thrilled she was to be at the most magical place on earth, but with no words, the best she could do was to tap the person next to her, in front of her, and behind her. “We’re all riding this together, and it’s gonna be awesome!” is what she wanted to say. But to many people in the line, she was an aggravation. Eyes rolled. People turned their backs to her. And some even shot me the angry eyes.
I apologized to several people, and I actually hate when I do that. What’s there to apologize for? My daughter is filled to the brim and overflowing with unbridled and uninhibited joy, but she’s unable to verbalize what she’s feeling. What else can she do but to try to pull those around her into her world. “Look at me! See? I’m just as happy as you are to ride this ride!” She speaks the only way she can … with facial expressions, actions, and behavior.
We eventually made our way into the holding room for the pre-show, the one where Steven Tyler gives all the Disney
fans fanatics backstage passes and a limo ride, and Hopey and I ended up in front of the room right next to the door. But when the door opened up to allow guests to ride the ride, everyone pushed in front of her. They acted like they didn’t see her and shoved right past her. In response, I held her close to me and told her to hold on, that we’d wait and be the last in line.
And that’s when it happened.
This man suddenly appeared in front of us, and shouted: “This is unbelievable!” He then jumped in front of everyone who was moving forward ahead of us, threw his arms wide open, and continued: “Everybody stop and let this young lady get out to the ride. She’s at the front, you’re all cutting in front of her, and it’s rude!”
A young guy tried to dart around him, but he put his hand out in front of the guy. “That’s not gonna happen!” he stated flatly. “It’s this angel’s turn.”
And just like that, he’d made a way for us to go in.
You might not know this, but every special needs mom is given a sixth sense. It comes with the territory and is a not so subtle bead on the heart of people toward the special needs community at large, but especially toward her own child who has special needs. Within seconds of meeting someone, for instance, I can tell whether the person is accepting (or not) of my two children who sport an extra chromosome. In the special needs world, people are either all in or all out. There’s no middle ground. Even family members and long time friends will sometimes drop out of your life and forget your kiddo. Being a special needs mom … and being an individual who is differently abled … is not for the faint of heart.
There are those, however, who are all in, and let me tell you, those people glow with a brightness that outshines the sun on its best day. They dig their heels in deep and embrace that you are the ringleader of a circus where your child is the clown, the juggler, the knife thrower, the trapeze artist, the escape artist, and sometimes the ferocious lion … all rolled up into one. But mostly our kiddos are the cute clown, eager to be funny, to charm and to make others happy. And oh, how those amazing saints love our little clowns. They choose mercy, grace, love, and acceptance. They laugh when they could judge. They press in when they could pull away. They choose to be there. No excuses. No matter what.
This complete stranger was one of them. He was all in.
It’s in moments like that when I get an extraordinary glimpse behind the veil to see what God sees. The best in humanity. No one else in that line or in that holding room saw Hopey. I mean, yes, they looked at her. But they didn’t really SEE her. This man, however, grinned when he saw her hands flapping with enthusiasm. He allowed her to reach out and touch his arm, made eye contact with her, and spoke to her. Then he took a giant leap further when he publicly acknowledged her and defended her.
But most important of all, the stranger ended up making a difference.
As we waited the last few minutes for the ride, several of the people who’d been in line with us, those who’d previously ignored Hope, smiled at her. A couple of people asked me if she was excited. One guy gave her a high five. I’d like to think they finally saw what they’d missed before and wanted to make up for it. It didn’t matter to Hopey. She was happy to share in the excitement with whoever would allow it.
To the ordinary heroes who choose to “see” what others miss. Thank you.
“A true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.” — Zeus (Hercules)
Just my thoughts,