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This story is from an edition of "The Main Street Diary" that was distributed to Cast Members last month. It's long, but definitely a worthwhile read. Go ahead and break out your Kleenex in advance...


In the '90s, snobbish preoccupation with outdoing and one-upmanship of job titles became an infuriating reality. Competition begins immediately following introductions. “Where do you work?” and “What do you do?” used to be polite conversation pieces; however, now they are finely honed weapons used to judge a level of respect you are to be afforded and where your place in society is arranged.

What happened to the time when an honest day's work, at any occupation, was reason enough for society to consider you worthy of respect? I can see that those days are long gone. People have important initials following their name and newly decorated titles to describe their line of work. Example: a “housewife” is no longer considered politically correct; now we call them “domestic engineers.” As far as I know, they still do the same work they always did; but somehow with this new distinguished title, scrubbing toilets and doing laundry sounds rather glamorous. HA! I bet the housewives of the world will agree their work has never changed throughout the years—only society's perception of the respectability of it.

However, I must confess that as much as I'm ridiculing this trend, I gave into this pressure many times myself. I have worked for Walt Disney World Co. for over ten years. During this time, I have had many different jobs and many different titles such as Attractions Hostess, Parking Hostess, Global Training Facilitator, and Vacation Planner. However, I have always felt those titles were not lofty enough to compete well in society; so I frequently and lavishly embellished them to others. Nevertheless, one experience completely changed my outlook on life, my job, and society's silly expectations.

When I first started working for Disney, I was an Attractions Hostess (which is a glorified way to say I operated the rides and assisted Guests). Every day several Cast Members were chosen to do crowd control for the daily parade. Since this is Florida, and it is normally 110 degrees outside, being chosen to leave our air-conditioned attraction to stand along the parade route was not an honor! Needless to say, we all had to take turns with this unpopular duty; but many bribes and begging allowed some Cast Members to trade off their turns. I also tried to avoid it but would make the most of it when I had to go.

At the parade route, Cast Members are assigned a designated area of responsibility. I usually received the area reserved for Guests with disabilities since no one else wanted to be responsible for such a busy area. It was in this section that I met Sarah. She was participating in the “Make A Wish” Foundation, which allows children with terminal illnesses to experience the Walt Disney World® Resort. When I looked at her, I felt as if my heart would break. Sarah was eight years old, but she was so tiny and frail I wouldn't have guessed her to be that old. Her arms were pitifully thin, as the rest of her body. She was in a wheelchair; and next to her was a canister of oxygen with tubes extending up her body to her nose. Her skin and face were a pale gray, and she had lost all of her hair during her chemotherapy. I immediately set out to cheer her up. Sarah's parents told me that despite all that she had been through to fight off the cancer, she kept a positive attitude because of her desire to meet Mickey Mouse before she died.

Sarah had a private appointment to meet with Mickey for later that evening, but she was tiring faster than they expected. Her parents were concerned that once she took her medications, she wouldn't have the energy to go see Mickey. While we were waiting for the parade to start, I kept Sarah smiling by telling her Mickey couldn't wait to meet her. Once the parade started, I made a phone call to rearrange Sarah's meeting time to be directly after Mickey finished the parade.

I had the pleasure of escorting Sarah and her family to their private session with Mickey. Her parents were effusive with their gratitude for what I had done, but I got all the thanks I needed from the look in Sarah's eyes when she saw Mickey up close for the first time. Mickey took Sarah's thin trembling hand in his and brought it to his mouth for a tender kiss. Sarah looked up at her father, with tears in her eyes, and asked, “Daddy, if I were to get better, can we come here again?” Her father looked at her with sadness in his eyes and replied, “Of course, we can, sweetheart.”

I knew from my previous conversation with her parents that Sarah's doctors felt she was too frail to recuperate from the chemotherapy, let alone the effects of the cancer. I was saddened by Sarah's obvious pain and trauma in her young life; yet, happy that I had the power to brighten her world . . . even if only for a moment. Of course, knowing I had this power was not enough to make me secure with how my job title would measure up. No, it took more. My experiences had to come full circle before I could realize my full potential.

Nine and one-half years had passed since my encounter with Sarah; and my job titles had changed several times over those years. I was working for the Human Resource department when the experience of a lifetime happened to me. My job was teaching our newly hired Cast Members all about the Disney heritage, traditions, and responsibilities that would be expected of them when working in the Magic Kingdom® Park. I loved being part of shaping and influencing our new Cast Members.

As the facilitator of this orientation class, I would start the day with a short tour to familiarize everyone with the general layout of the Magic Kingdom® Park. Next, we moved to the classroom for introductions. This was my favorite part of the whole day. I asked the Cast Members to stand up and tell us their name, their hometown, their hobbies, and, finally, to share with us the reason for choosing to work at the Walt Disney World® Resort. As the third to last person took her turn, I received the greatest shock and the greatest gift in my life. She was a petite girl with blonde hair and a giant smile. She said:

“My name is Sarah; my hometown is Atlanta, Georgia; my hobby is working with children with disabilities; and I chose to work for Disney because of YOU, Jennifer!”

At first, I didn't understand her meaning. I assumed that perhaps she meant me, as in representation of all Disney Cast Members . . . but as she continued to talk, I realized she really meant me specifically.

She said, “You probably don't remember me; but I recognized you immediately . . . nine or ten years ago we met. I had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and my final wish was to meet Mickey Mouse. You helped make that dream become a reality, and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. During the times that I was sure that I could not withstand one more treatment of chemotherapy, I remembered my dream to meet Mickey Mouse face to face. I was determined to see that dream come true . . . and thanks to you, it did!

After the meeting with Mickey, I realized that I had set a goal that seemed impossible to reach . . . and despite all the odds and negative predictions, I had reached it. Then it occurred to me . . . if I did it once, I could do it again. And I did!

I have been in total remission for seven years. The doctors were amazed and called it a miracle; but I knew it was faith and a dream. My dream was to come to work at the Walt Disney World® Resort with Mickey Mouse and create that same sense of hope and accomplishment for others. My dream has finally come true, and you don't know what an honor it is for me to find you here and share my triumph!”

When she finished her speech, there was not a dry eye in the room. I was awestruck. Actually, I was overwhelmed with so many emotions; they were spilling over with my tears. What luck . . . out of the billions of people in this world, the two of us meeting again. It must be fate that created this intricate pattern so that both our lives would be profoundly impacted by our encounters with each another. Then, I realized: it wasn't fate; it was a blessing . . . a true testament to showcase the sheer magnitude of human spirits uniting.

This blessing has changed my entire outlook on life. Now, I treasure the precious moments when I see my fellow humans breaking out of their bonds of cynicism and defensiveness to really see one another and dare to make a true connection. I also treasure my power to create happiness and laughter for others. We all have that power . . . but some of us have forgotten how to use it.

My new outlook on life has also helped me to realize that the constraints that society places on us are avoidable. If you are happy with yourself, you will no longer feel the pressure to create a lofty job title or decorate your occupation. The respect you crave will come from inside YOU and will make you feel validated and complete.

As for Sarah, and the many others whose lives have intertwined with mine, even briefly, I am thankful for each and every contact . . . for it has taught me how to cherish and respect others, as well as myself. So now, when people ask me, “What do you do for a living?”; I just smile with pride and say, “I make 'magic'.” . . . Jennifer Carter


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