Long before my wife and I took our son to DisneyWorld he heard the iconic, catchy, and terrible song “It’s a Small World” and believed the lyrics to be “It’s a Small World, I suppose.” We got a great laugh about it and looked forward to taking him on the actual ride so he could learn the song correctly. However now that we’ve been to the Magic Kingdom together, I think he might have been right all along.
A visit to any of the Disney parks reveals the world isn’t small, but quite obese. Over-indulgent consumption is on display everywhere and the only magical thing about it is the realization it crosses boundaries of race, budget, and culture. In any part of the park the number of strollers (which is immense because of the kid-centric world) is nearly matched by the number of wheelchairs. And it’s not what you think…
I’m not singling out wheelchairs as a problem, nor do I have anything but respect and compassion for those confined to a chair by no fault of their own. In contrast, the vast majority of people wheeling around the Disney expanse are simply too fat and out of shape to walk around the park. This became clear after seeing multiple occupants getting out easily to ride rides, sitting cross legged as if in a recliner, or wheeling over to a food stand to buy more ways to stuff themselves.
I will acknowledge there’s a prodigious amount of walking involved in any Disney adventure. Additionally, I realize we use our cars for most everything in our lives, including driving-through for food, so the idea of walking around for multiple days is mostly foreign to a large percentage of our population. But are we really helping anyone by offering motorized scooters or oversized wheelchairs for people who essentially can’t be bothered to put one foot in front of another?
The older and busier I get, the more I recognize the value in comfort and convenience, but seeing this pushes me to think we’ve crossed a threshold and are catering to lazy. My seventy-five year old father-in-law walked the parks with us carrying a backpack, and he’s no iron-man. Of course we aren’t all equally capable or athletic. But I’m talking about walking on flat concrete in Florida.
I’m sure there will be more Disney trips in the future, but I suspect this will be the last time my son will have a stroller. When he’s eight or ten, instead of four, how will I explain the people around him who don’t seem hindered in any way as they roll through the park and continue to stuff themselves. What’s the lesson for him in this…. “The less you decide to do, the more culture will adapt to your needs”? “Pay a bit more and be lazy”? I can’t think of any positive life lessons lurking in this example of over-consumption.
Throughout the park, Walt Disney’s quotes, the shows, or bits of the movies all share messages of dreaming big, striving, treating others well, and pushing yourself. Yet those hearing the message are taking, consuming, ignoring those around them, and asking for more as long as they don’t have to get out of their chair.
The result is a small world indeed.