A day at a Theme Park: it starts by paying between $50(Zoo) – $99 (Disney) dollars to get in. That alone makes you fortunate already for being able to afford it. Then, expect to walk for miles and stand in line for several hours to see places and ride attractions. After what seems forever (it has only been one hour but the endless walking makes everyone work an appetite) you stop to get a snack ($$$). Three miles later kids beg for lunch. The hamburgers and fries smell incredibly good so ,even if you snuck in a healthy pack of hearty whole wheat sandwiches, string cheese and cut-up fruit, you end up buying the burgers or pizza at some point. ($$$).
But you feel kind of good because you used a $6 off coupon for each ticket. Five or six hours later, after endless walking and waiting in line and acting as a referee between your kids, you are all on the verge of major grumpiness so it is unanimously decided it is time to go. The souvenir shop is right there at the corner of Restrooms and Exit- where you are almost obligated to walk by. So, to avoid whines and aggravate the gump-odometer, you let your kids have a modestly priced gift. Every single time I visit a park I wonder “How can parents with 3, 4 or more kids afford this?”
This is the routine I invariably experience at the Zoo, Sea world, Legoland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios…you name it.
But lately, I have noticed this trend- which I sware did not exist when I was ten.
“Fast Lane” pass for $40 o so more and forget the lines! Or this one at the Wild Animal Park: want to watch the Cheetah Run up close? Pay a little extra to stand in the Comfortable shaded area with the best view of the whole 3 second run! Yes, don’t be a loser that comes 30 minutes early to cook under the scorching heat all to get a partial view of the 3 second run.
Or this one…too tired or lazy to walk? Rent a Segway for only $90.00!
The list goes on and on.
When I first saw this VIP sections to see the cheetah, I was furious. I felt discriminated and made felt less because I couldn’t afford to pay more for each of us to see the stupid animal run! I decided later not to let it ruin my day and during my visits after that one, I let it slide. Then, during my last visit to Knotts, after waiting exactly 75 minutes to ride a Roller Coaster with the kids, I saw the affluent “Fast Passers” entering the ride through the exit, thanks to their powerful wristbands , rage overtook me again.
If I was sitting in the corporate offices of any of these parks, developing Marketing Strategies to increase income, it would all make perfect sense. I am a Marketer by school, but as a consumer trying to make the best out of our income and having some fun with the kids, I despise these schemes.
Yesterday, while I was commuting to work, I noticed all the homeless that usually populate the downtown blocks where I work. It was early morning, still a bit dark, and quite chilly. Some were sitting on the sidewalks, just zoning out. Some putting away their blankets into their stolen shopping carts. Some chatting and smoking. Some still sleeping. As I drove by, close enough to see their faces and them mine, I realized that I was the person in the VIP section with a better view of the city. The better meal, the softer bed and the paying job. I wondered if they felt the same frustration and anger as I did at the zoo.
They were the ones looking up at all others above them in the economic and social ladder. Some people are fast to judge the homeless: “they probably made bad choices throughout their lives and ended up like that” or this one that sounds almost comical to me “they must have been into drug dealing and ended up in jail, and then on the streets”.
What the hell do WE know about how they got there? If they have tried hard or not, if they are hungry, if they are on the verge of committing suicide or actually happy about not being attached to “things” like we the VIP people are.?
We don’t know and we probably never will. I once read a book by John Grisham The Street Lawyer that forever changed the way I feel about the thousands of people living on the streets and in shelters. So now, whenever I cross my path with one of them I don’t judge or assume, I only observe and take into account the innumerable things I posses, the feelings I own, the people I am fortunate to know, and confirm that I am in fact in the VIP section for many millions of people in this world.
There is always more to want, more to feel like we need even though we don’t, more places we want to see. Once I read an email about the common phases we go through in life and it clearly showed that many of us, think of happiness as a state that is attainable “when I have this or that”. I will be truly happy when I get that job; you will get the job and then think happiness is just around the corner when you buy that car. But that happiness lasts only as long as the “new car scent”, so you think “I will be happy when I buy my own house and stop renting”.
I read this email about ten years ago and I am glad I read it. I usually trash all chain email but something caught my attention and I read the whole thing. When I was done reading I was determined to feel happy as often as I could with whatever I had at present. To aspire for more and to be ambitious is totally ok, as long as it is not the requisite for my state of happiness.
I still live by that and it has given my a peace of mind and enjoyment of my simple days that I am grateful for.
I have heard one too many times the world-wide known cliche “Life is Precious”. There are many times in which this over used phrase comes in handy, to better my gloomy mood, to just feel good and appreciative about one more day on earth, and to appreciate the lives of those awesome people around me and those who make this earth a better place with exemplary actions.
However, there are times in which I wonder: Is Life really precious for others? I recently watched a video (the video is 6 years old) about 2 kids, Esther and Sam, living in a tiny abandoned town in Uganda. Seven years old, but weighing what a healthy 4 year old would. A member of the San Damiano Foundation (1) found them both laying on the ground, covered in dirt, and half naked; their 8 year old sister had gone to fetch water in a small tub to bathe them. They had both been hit with Polio so they couldn’t walk , and because of the malnutrition, they were too weak to drag themselves. The 8 year old sister was the one that cared for them. Video captures the sister bathing the kids, as they cried out in discomfort. The scene was absolutely devastating. The knots in my throat hurt as I watched.
These poor children were fortunate to have been found by this Foundation. I later found an update showing the care they received after they were found: healthy diets, physical therapy and education. The children were unrecognizable.
I am certain that for millions of people in the world life doesn’t seem precious at all; they could even wonder “why was I born? why was I abandoned? why won’t anyone help”.
So to believe and feel that Life is Precious is already a gift. I hope more and more people are aware of this, we, the “VIP ones”, need to feel compelled to help in whatever measure we can. I am committed to teach this to my kids by example. To care for the ones in need, to share, to enjoy the gift of giving and not only receiving. To appreciate the excessive “things” that we have taken for granted.