I have been on the Disney College Program for six months now. Who knew that six months out of my comfort zone and amidst so much unknown would change me this much. Here are some things that I have learned on the Disney College Program.
Life Lessons from the Life-Changing Events in Orlando on the Disney College Program, Fall 2016
From the catastrophic events that have occurred so far on my program down here in Orlando, I have been forced to the realization that the world is full of calamity, disaster, and adversity. I am no longer in my ignorant bubble with my self-constructed walls that blocked the idea of unexplained tragedy in the world. Here are the events that happened:
- Pulse Shooting, Orlando – June 12, 2016. 2 AM. One gunman mercilessly shot down 50 club goers. 53 more were critically injured. This occurred in downtown Orlando 12 miles from my apartment. My roommate was less than 2 miles from the Pulse night club with our friends. This radicalized my world. There was insight that the gunman was initially targeting Disney Springs for his rampage. When I heard this news, I hit an epic realization. If this man was targeting Disney Springs, a Disney shopping place without security, what was keeping him or his companions from targeting my work, Blizzard Beach? My workplace didn’t have security. There was nothing stopping another Mateen from entering that park with a gun and shooting 50 people.
I came to work prepared to die.
All day at work the next day, I cried out to God. I thanked Him for the blessings I have experienced in my life thus far. All day I was waiting for something catastrophic to happen. This forced a realization. That night, I asked myself, “what if today was the last day that I get to live on earth? Have I wasted my life? Have I exerted every effort I have on loving other people and making a difference?” My answer was, no. Absolutely not. I have not made a difference to the extent of my ability. What a reality check.
2. Alligator Attack & Death of 2-Year-Old Boy, Disney World, Orlando – June 14, 2016. 11 PM. A two-year-old boy was filling his sand pail bucket in Disney’s lagoon in 1 foot deep water when an alligator grabbed him and dragged him into the lagoon. Imagine you are on vacation, trying to live in peaceful bliss for a few weeks…and you end up leaving without a member of your family. This is everyone’s worst fear. And for this family, that fear became a reality.
-The lagoon before the incident.-
This was a freak accident that left all of Disney World in shock–the guests and the cast members. Everyone was wondering how something so horrible could happen to an innocent young boy. The father was quoted saying, “we will forever struggle to comprehend why this happened to our sweet baby.”
Yet again, there are inexplainable tragedies. Why should a little boy, who hasn’t even reached Kindergarten, be taken from this world in such an odd way?
3. Hurricane Matthew Surged the East Coast of FloridaOctober 6, 2016. 9 AM. The governor of Florida declared a state of emergency for the eastern coast of Florida. He exclaimed over the television, “this hurricane will kill you and your children.” Waking up to this announcement was the second time on my program that I was scared for my life. My friends and I fled to the other side of the coast in a friend’s condo to take shelter and ride out the hurricane. Meanwhile, thousands of cast members took shelter at work overnight back at Disney World, which shut down for just the fifth time since its opening. We all waited anxiously overnight for the hurricane to hit.
Hurricane Matthew was a very powerful, long-lived and deadly tropical cyclone which became the first Category 5 Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Felix in 2007. Thankfully, the storm veered off the coast in the middle of the night. Although it did not hit Orlando as hard as predicted, it impacted thousands on the islands near Florida. 800 people were reported dead in Haiti after the hurricane, and 200 more have died from aftermath of the hurricane. Hundreds more were affected in the Bahamas.
This event brought up the renowned question among me and my colleagues. Why do natural disasters occur? Why do innocent people die?
Here is what the Disney College Program has taught me amidst these tragedies:
1. There is power in community.
Rebirth, growth, and community occur amongst tragedy and suffering. After the Pulse shooting in downtown Orlando and the death of the innocent little boy at Disney World, Orlando has shown the utmost support for each of its citizens. Posts were being made with the hashtag: “#Orlandostrong.”
I am proud to be part of a community that rallies after such a horrible massacre. My Church in Orlando supported and loved for the victims of the shooting, whether it was providing funeral homes and food for the affected families. Thousands of people came to downtown Orlando with flowers to commemorate the dead. Peers, friends, and coworkers supported each other in the heightened emotions that proceed such a devastating event.
The community of Orlando after the Pulse massacre has taught me that this type of love for each other is necessary every single day, no matter how big the calamity at hand is. If someone in your community needs help, extend your hand to them. Love them like they were a part of your family. Care for each other. Have empathy. Don’t make it so that a horrible disaster has to occur for you to show love. Love like Christ loves you. Making a difference starts with you.
2. You will never be able to figure out why bad things happen.
If you are like me, you are trying to analyze these types of situations and figure out why events like this occur. Here are a few things that I know. First, it is true that there are indubitable reasons for why tragedies have occurred. This specifically relates to personal testimonies. You lost your job and were forced to move; yet, in your new location you made invaluable connections that impacted your life forever. You can make that connection.
However, sometimes bad things happen and you can’t seem to make that connection. And you may not be able to. In your mind, there is no reason why this event happened, and you
get resentful. But here’s what you can know: there is an all-knowing, loving God who created the universe and he is behind you in this situation. Even though you aregoing through a hard time, he is still the loving God that He was before. And what you can know is that if He can orchestrate the universe and perform inexplicable miracles, you can have peace in knowing that the events in your life happen for your good. There are not enough pages in the world that can be written on the different reasons why we endure suffering. And I will touch on it in a different post. But what you can know is that there is a reason and it is because God loves you. Hold onto that and you will have an everlasting hope that gives you peace.
3. Walt Disney said it well:
I’m sure you can point to a time in your life when you have failed at something. In the moment, you were so disappointed at your “failure.” Yet, looking back at it, you see that that failure enabled you to be successful in the future. Walt Disney said it very well. Adversity, troubles, and obstacles build you. This man failed several times, yet he was one of the most successful men in America. But it’s not just about dealing with your failures. The point is, failures are necessary. Therefore, one of the worst things you can do in life is not try to change the world simply because you are afraid to fail. That is the biggest failure in itself.
Actualize your dreams. Never give up. Push forward. And don’t be afraid to fail.
4. Because we have a perfectly good & loving creator, bad things happen for the good of those who love him.
Personal experiences with depression, cancer, death, poverty, etc., are the most impactful situations you can be in. This is because God uses these situations for good, if you let Him use you. If not, aren’t you just struggling in vain? If not, what is the point?
Battle through your adversity knowing that it is for the greater good. It is for the testing of your faith and your character. Battle knowing that your survival story could save someone else. Battle knowing that you are a light in the world and it takes darkness to make a light shine.
There is a purpose for everything we endure.
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” -James 1:12