Saturday, June 5, 2010

An Interesting Day

NOTICE:  Beginning Monday, June 7, this blog will feature a week of some of my very favorite stories from Kissimmee as part of my Schoolzout Blowout!  Don't miss it!

When you live in Kissimmee, you develop an interesting relationship with Walt Disney World.  Many members of our church were Cast Members who made a living because of WDW and the service industry that had grown up around it.  Kissimmee had transformed from a sleepy little town where cattle ranching and the Silver Spurs Rodeo defined its personality into part of the biggest travel destination on earth.  As a result of all of this, there are many residents who love WDW...and many who do not!  It doesn't take long to understand that most everything Disney does has an impact on you and the people you serve.

On June 3rd, 1995, we planned a "Disney Day" for the youth.  So many of our students had free access to the parks, and it seemed like a good way to kick-off our summer events.  I had already made the plans and published them in our summer brochure when our pastor, John Willis, called me in his office to give me some new information.  June 3rd was the annual Gay Day at WDW; a date when gays and lesbians from all over the country would gather at WDW in a celebration of gay pride.  I knew a lot about WDW, but I did not know such a day existed.  John was concerned that we might be walking into a tempest.

There are a couple of misunderstood points I want to clarify about this day.  Disney does not sponsor it, advertise it or promote it.  It is a day organized by others, just as you might organize a family reunion at WDW.  Just like such a reunion, Disney cannot turn you away just because you are different.  And just like with most extended families (like mine!) if enough people show up, you get some pretty strange folks.  Gay Day is no exception.

After a lot of discussion, it was decided we would go, but would go to the Disney/MGM Studios Theme Park, expecting most of the crowd to be at the Magic Kingdom.  That was probably true, but there was still a big crowd at the Studios as well.  We discovered immediately that participants in the special day had been told to wear red.  If you had accidentally worn a red shirt, and didn't want to be identified with the group, Disney would provide you with a free t-shirt to wear.  I am pretty sure a couple of our youth wore red on purpose just to get the free shirt; in any case, they went home with free clothing!  At no point did I ever feel bothered or threatened by the crowd, but there were certainly some interesting characters around, and not just the ones pictured at the top!  I remember riding The Great Movie Ride with a man in a bright red boa, a white fedora and ruby slippers.  He was with a large group of friends and they were clearly having a blast.  Some of our group began to make some comments about their group, and it was a great opportunity to remind them that everyone is a child of God, and that Jesus had warned about pointing out the specks in the eyes of others while missing the logs in our own.  It was a great day with some wonderful teaching moments.  The truth is we saw some really strange people that day.  The question is, over the years, how many times were WE the really strange people to others?

We survived the day and left with great stories to tell about the many interesting people we had seen.  Connor Lewis and a few others who had "park-hopping" tickets actually ventured over to the MK and came back with some wild stories.  Some of our youth were taken aback by the things they saw that day; others were just wildly entertained by the sights.  I hope we left with a bit more compassion for those who are labeled by society as different.  I have had dear friends (and youth group members) over the years who are gay or lesbian, many of whom are committed followers of Jesus.  I know that Jesus understands what these friends go through, because no one was ever more different than Him.  He was so different it got Him killed.  So next time you find yourself wearing a red shirt, remember that God's family, just like your own, is a very diverse family.  Every family member deserves love.  We all have our issues, don't we?  I don't know about you, but I've got no stones to throw...

Because of Jesus,


  1. What's funny, is we took my daughter to her first ever trip to WDW this past Saturday, which also happened to be during Gay Days. It certainly reminded me of that trip we made all those years ago. We had a great time then, and we did again this past weekend! My daughter loved seeing all the princesses...

  2. That is awesome, Connor! I hope your daughter will also enjoy the picture of you being attacked by a chicken head! I hope you and your family are well!!!


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