When I headed to Disney World with my family earlier this week, I hoped for things to go well, meaning peace among the crowds, good weather and safe flights. Other than that, I feared for the splurge of American vacations.
Little did I know that our Mickey Mouse experience would prove to be a wealth of inspiration and teaching moments I couldn’t have anticipated.
One of the first lessons came from Disney revelers themselves. I must say, with all due respect, that a good portion of them might have overindulged in Disney meals and treats.
Having been to Disney World a long time ago for a three-day splurge with my “American family” in a brand new Magic Kingdom (as an exchange student), I learned that those were not exemplary days for one’s diet. As I longed for a salad, fruits, and rice and beans back then, I was offered over and over a hefty dose of hamburgers and hot dogs in order to stay put for more fun to come!
At the cost of dating myself here, I must say those were the days when fast food and salads didn’t mix yet. Salad bars and their practical style in certain restaurants only became commonplace long after my high school years. I was already a mom of a toddler when Burger King ads waved bell peppers on TV and asked “does this ring a bell?”
So, with my often-criticized daily speech about food “choices,” this week I quietly referred to passers-by as representatives of body sizes we must strive to avoid.
I know when youngsters are eager for fun and how this culture has spread the news that a lot of sugar and a lot of salt may be just the answer to one’s primal food impulses, not to mention the incredible fat. So, as we smelled the French fries and watched the colorful cotton candy, humongous lollipops and Mickey-shaped ice cream bars go by, I made reservations at places where salads were served.
Bingo! Everybody picked a salad to start with!
After main courses and a delight in this little respite from the hustle and bustle of the crowds, well, maybe desserts would wait. And they did.
I don’t think my family will say that I’m the Grinch who spoiled Disney World, but I may well go into history as the one whose talk about choices didn’t take a break. There were ice creams, though, but a couple, not a dozen.
A second lesson came at Epcot, where we all enjoyed the exposure to the different countries and a touch of their cultures. However, upon hearing a comment on how great it is to know the world this way, well, with all due respect to Disney enterprises, I had to initiate a conversation about how far this allegory is from the real world.
The world, we pondered with our 7th grader, is a place where differences abound, poverty is everywhere and the needs are major. Not to take away from our three-day delight and a break from the duties and apprehensions, but yes, we had to point out what a privilege that was and what a fantasy! Even much, much bigger than any fairy tale could provide.
Last but not least came the chance to appreciate one’s mind and to give credit where credit is due.
As we paraded through the stores that grabbed our attention and enrolled us as part of the millions who now advertise this entity on our own bodies, I insisted we must know more about Walt Disney himself, the man with the dream and drive, not just the royalties.
At MGM studios, we went for the Disney exhibit with memorabilia of his earlier days and references to him as a young boy. Disney was fond of his early life in Marceline, MO, where his father had bought a farm. His experience there was short, but important enough to make him value simple life in early America. That exhibit, one with no special effects and lots of basic scrapbook fixtures, pointed to his struggles and praised his drive to make something happen. It was there that I learned that Epcot stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow – a place to evolve and always teach!
A special movie at the end shows footage of Disney himself, including sound-bites where he shared his views of a need for a place for families to have fun together. I began to think how we owe it to this great man to teach our children to keep their dreams alive but also their self-control in place.
After all this experience I keep imagining more educational options to make Disney revelers understand their world of choices and consequences.
As pointed out at Epcot’s “Imagination Station,” we must use our minds and dream. “We do not know what we can’t imagine,” they had in big letters at the “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience” exhibit hall.
As I hope for minds to open to the promise of tomorrow, I also keep imagining a Disney store where we can come back to grains and other healthy habits of a bygone era.
Please imagine with me! “We do not know what we can’t imagine!”
Este artigo foi originalmente publicado no Metrowest Daily News, em fevereiro de 2002.