The Happiest Place on Earth
With my kids writing midterm exams this week, that means “Yeshiva week” is not far behind. “What is Yeshiva week?” you ask. It is the make-up vacation for kids in Yeshiva who don’t get the normal Christmas break that everyone else gets. And since there are not enough Jewish holidays in the calendar, they need to get this week off as well.
It actually works out well since vacation and travel expenses are a lot cheaper at the end of January versus the crazy travel weeks at the end of December. That is, of course, pre-Covid when people used to do such things. To make it even easier, Disney World usually offers Florida residents a special that cuts the price dramatically for a 3-day pass. The savings don’t quite make up for the private school tuition, but it’s a nice perk.
Ah, the good old days when we drove up to Orlando to Disney World. What can you say – how can you not love Disney World? There is absolutely no judgment going on there and you can act and dress as you wish. How else can you explain adults wearing funny looking ears, dorky t-shirts and walking around ripping the meat from huge turkey legs with their teeth, and not be self-conscious?! If they would do such things anywhere else, they would be arrested or at least asked to leave. This is probably why they say that Disney is “The Happiest Place on Earth”.
I teach a class called The Spiritual Bucket List. It’s about spiritual things that a person ought to do in their lifetime. Some of them are one-off acts and others are ongoing things that one should strive to incorporate into their lives. One of the ongoing ones is making people feel good – gratuitously. Jewish tradition teaches that the second Temple was destroyed because of שנאת חינם gratuitous hatred that people had for one another. Too often pettiness envelopes our lives and we look disdainfully at another over minor things.
To remedy this flaw I recommend going out of your way to proactively make others feel good. Rather than focus on the thing you might not like in another, try to focus on what you like and let them know it.
This can be a relatively easy thing to do since, with a little effort, it’s not too hard to figure out what a person might be into and what he or she will never tire talking about. For example, the easiest way to do this is to ask parents about their kids, or even better, grandkids. Isn’t it amazing how parents and grandparents will always love talking about and sharing their “nachas” of their progeny? This is a no-brainer to make others feel good.
I remember a number of years back a guy from College Hunk Movers showed up at Aish to remove a heavy piece of furniture from our center. Despite the name of the company, he was clearly not a college student, nor much of a hunk either. He was old and bald and I am not sure he had any college degree to speak of. But after joking with him and his partner about this incongruity, I did take note of his long ponytail. I immediately asked him how long it had been since he cut it, and without missing a beat he told me 17 years. Yup, when you see a bald guy with an 18” pony tail, you know it’s his “thing” and he is very proud of it. So bring it up in conversation – all it will do is make him feel good.
Getting back to Disney, at our last outing a few years back we went to the Lego store in Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney). While the kids were looking around and playing with the Lego blocks, I took note of a chubbyish cashier fellow behind the counter. Everyone at Disney has name tags with their city of origin on it, so I went up to Charles from Orlando and asked him if I could get a photo with him. He was somewhat taken aback at the request, which is what I kind of figured.
You see, at Disney everyone wants a picture with Mickey or Goofy or Aladdin or Elsa. Or maybe one with the Green Army guy, the Star Wars character, the gold statue-like person who is able to freeze his movements or Snow White or one of the myriad of amazingly in-shape dancers that dot the park. But how often do people go up to the cashier at the Lego store and ask for his photo? Never, he told me. I was the first. “You made my day – thanks, no one has ever asked me that.”
After taking the photo, Karen joined me and we asked him what it was like being born and bred in Orlando under the umbrella of Disney and about his job and life. He likes it; it’s a good company that treats you well, has good benefits and a fantastic working environment where people are always nice. His parents actually met in Disney many years ago. His mom worked on the Monorail and his dad was “a custodian, which is a nice word for a janitor” – his words not mine. We shmuzzed like this for a few minutes.
And then when it came time to check out and pay for the Lego-themed mug we found with our granddaughter’s name, Maya on it, Charles quickly picked up a dice-like object next to him, scanned it and gave us a 20% discount on the mug.
I wasn’t looking for any discounts from Charles, but this is how it often turns out in life. Be nice to people, take them seriously, treat everyone with dignity and respect, learn about their life and make them feel special… and before you know it, it comes full circle and they give it right back to you.
And that is how you can truly create The Happiest Place on Earth.
There’s a time for everyone if they only learn
That the twisting kaleidoscope moves us all in turn…
And can you feel the love tonight?
How it’s laid to rest
It’s enough to make kings and vagabonds
Believe the very best
-Sir Elton John, The Lion King