The late Paul Harvey is one of my father’s all-time favorite radio personalities. He especially loved his program, The Rest of the Story. These popular segments contained little known or forgotten facts on a variety of subjects and always left out some key element of the story until the very end. That’s when Harvey would conclude with his signature tagline, “And now you know the rest of the story.”
Although I never actually listened to this program myself, I started thinking about it on a recent family trip to Disney World. While at the Magic Kingdom a few months ago, I insisted that our family go on the It’s a Small World ride. And yes, now that I am an adult I do realize how utterly creepy and culturally insensitive those animatronic dolls are and how annoying that theme song can be. As I was about to get off the ride, this twenty-something young woman sitting behind us abruptly leapt over my seat, stepped on the bench next to me and exited the ride before we even had a chance to move, leaving her wet and dirty footprint behind. I was so shocked and annoyed by this that I was rendered speechless. I could only think to myself, “Are you kidding me?”
If I was more adept at social media, I probably would have posted a picture of the muddy footprint on Instagram with #itsarudeworldafterall. Instead, I began scripting in my head how I would dramatically retell this episode on the way to Splash Mountain and use it as a teaching moment for our boys and a fitting reminder of how important common courtesy is. And then I saw the same woman coming back to the boat just as quickly as she had exited. Except this time she was pushing a wheelchair. When I finally turned around in my seat I noticed another young woman sitting behind us. It was obvious that she had cerebral palsy or something that similarly affected her body movement and balance. As her friend or caretaker, as I now surmised, approached the boat, a few of the Disney cast members followed and helped her carefully guide the young woman out of the ride and into the wheelchair. And then they were gone.
I sat in the boat dumbstruck by this unexpected turn of events. I felt like such a heel. I had relegated the full story into a mere, incomplete headline – “Girl rushes off water ride, rudely leaving dirty footprint in her wake.” What was supposed to be a learning opportunity for my children was instead a life lesson for me. I immediately considered how rashly I had jumped to conclusions, how quickly I summed up the situation in my head, how completely justified I felt being annoyed, and, ultimately, how utterly wrong I had been. And the difference between being ignorantly misguided and keenly aware was only a matter of seconds. I could have easily gotten off that ride and never seen that wheelchair or the young woman sitting behind me. I would have gone about my day feeling holier than thou as I preached over and over again the importance of common decency to our boys and guffawed at that dirty footprint until the fireworks show that night. Oh, the irony.
The problem is, headlines are easy to construct, and the truth is often more complicated to understand. So we tend to stick with what’s simple, knowing that the world is complex. Indeed, it’s a world of laughter, and a world of tears. It’s a world of hopes and a world of fears. There’s so much that we share, that it’s time we’re aware, it’s a small world after all.
Yes, that experience still haunts me, but obviously not nearly as much as the It’s a Small World theme song, which I cannot seem to get out of my head. I am pretty sure you will be humming it to yourself the rest of the day, too. That theme song is currently played approximately 1,200 times a day at five different Disney theme parks around the world. Amazingly, it is one of the only Disney entities without a copyright so the song can remain a true gift to the world. Of course, that doesn't make those dolls any less creepy, but it does make that song a little less annoying.
And now you know the rest of the story.