So my family and I are finished with day 4 of our Disney World visit. We've had a fantastic time so far, staying again at Wilderness Lodge (which we love), going to a Halloween Party, Hollywood Studios, and Magic Kingdom.
What amazes me is how many people are just miserable at Disney World. We see people who are rude to other guests, mean to their kids or the servers, or generally get angry about silly things--as though Disney made that lightning come and shut down the roller coaster just before you got on...JUST TO ANNOY YOU.
In case you were curious, I have a few thoughts of how to avoid being THAT GUY at a vacation (to Disney or elsewhere). I think if you can just remember three things, your vacation can be great as well.
All three of these, as you will see, grow out of my worldview as a Christian. So they're probably harder to explain to non-believers. Of course, non-believers probably aren't reading my blog for advice on a Disney vacation so...who cares.
1. Give grace - to everyone
If there is one single piece of advice I could give, it is that you should wake up each morning and remind yourself to give grace to everyone you meet. Because any time you cram several thousand sinful, imperfect people into a theme park you WILL have negative interactions. You're going to bump into someone. Or a ride will break down just before you get on it. Someone will accidentally cut in line. Someone will hit your Mickey ice cream bar onto your kid's princess dress that you spent hours on and keep walking. Your kids will throw a fit about something stupid. These things happen, guys.
My wife and I probably say the word "Grace" to each other ten times a day at the parks. Any time one of us is a bit frustrated over something unimportant, or someone does something which could ruin our day, we'll look at the other and simply say, "Grace." It is a good reminder that, as a Jesus-follower, we are going to forgive and forgive and forgive and forgive. Let the person stay in line ahead of you, without saying anything. Who cares? Is being one person ahead in line really worth an argument and ruining everyone's day? Isn't it better to laugh off a slight or messy clothes or a bump in the crowd than to hold a grudge--which ultimately only hurts you and those you love and came on your trip with?
And you know what? It works on many levels. Giving grace to others has several impacts. Sometimes, the others notice, and feel the warmth of undeserved forgiveness. Sometimes it changes other people's behavior. Sometimes it brightens up someone's day who wasn't even there. And sometimes, all it does is keep you from getting your day ruined.
Grace is healthy for the soul. As you received it from God, so too pass it along to those around you.
2. Remember why you're here
If you went to a theme park, you paid a bunch of money. And you battled crowds. And you waited in lines. Why? We all do it for the same reason--to have joy. Now of course, I'm not talking about the Christian virtue of joy, merely a shadow of it: but wow, what a shadow. Going on roller coasters with your son, sharing an ice cream, giggling at the Laugh Factory's corny jokes, racing lego cars in Downtown Disney, or just hanging out at the pool...these are priceless times. (And no, I get nothing from Disney for saying this!) (But yes, Disney, if you happen to read this and WANT to give me something, I accept!)
The point is, you came here to get joy, to have some fun. And if you forget that, you can end up ruining the whole trip.
Everyone says their focus is fun...but it's not. Most of the unhappy people I see at Disney are not actually committed to having fun. Some are committed to riding as many rides as possible--and they are willing to make themselves or their kids miserable if needed, coming to the park at rope drop and staying until closure, carefully plotting every moment. Some are committed to experiencing certain rides, and if that ride is down for maintenance, then the trip is ruined. Some want to save money, so they have a plan for that (a terrible plan, because they chose to go to Disney, so you'll have better luck boiling the ocean than saving money here).
But if the focus is fun, then things change. Today our kids were exhausted, because we had a full day yesterday followed by an early breakfast. By 4 pm, they were starting to get tired. We could have pushed it...done a second Halloween party, eaten and tried to rally, etc. We could have decided that "more = better" and pushed for more rides.
Know what we did instead?
We took the boat back to the hotel. And rested. The boys watched "Dog with a Blog" or whatever was on Disney XD. The wife did some laundry. I read on my iPad and wrote this post. Why? Because our focus is FUN. And fun comes when everyone is enjoying themselves. Cramming in two extra rides and causing a tantrum does not help lead to fun.
If you are focused on joy, then sometimes you will rest. Sometimes you will show up early. Sometimes you will stay late. Sometimes you will stop and just enjoy a long, leisurely lunch. Sometimes you will skip your planned FastPass or reservation because your son really wants to ride Rockin' Roller Coaster just one more time.
3. Remember, it's not about you
I run the risk of Jesus-juking here, so I'll tread carefully. But good Christians who live disciple lives come to Disney and act totally out of character. They act like things are different here "because it's my vacation," or "because I paid a lot of money to be here." Those facts do not mean that all of a sudden, your Christian faith takes a vacation. It never does, for a disciple.
Disciples can enjoy themselves. Disciples can go to Disney. But they don't leave their discipleship at the gates.
Now, I'm not suggesting that you should be here handing out tracts or having a worship service. What I am saying is that you should remember: The people around you are more important than anything you do. More important than your ride with your kids. More important than how much money you paid. More important than your place in line. More important than your vacation time.
The people all around you are the image-bearers of Almighty God, created in the image of the Eternal One, made for a purpose and designed to be your eternal brother or sister in Christ. They will live forever--either in eternal splendor or horror--and the massive conglomerate that is the Disney corporation will crumble into dust long before they do. They will live forever, as will you.
So don't forget: life is not about you. When you turned your life over to Christ, you gave that up. You gave up the right to be your own king, and became a subject of the Holy King. You are surrounded by people who are either His subjects, or who He wants to be His subjects. Treat them with the respect they deserve. Don't leave your Christianity at the gates.