“Mommy look at that one!”
I looked down at my youngest daughter, Claire, as she sat in her wheelchair gazing up at a giant stuffed Marie (the adorable white kitten from Aristocats). I picked up the stuffed animal and handed it to her.
Claire beamed as she held her. She squeezed her tight. My heart smiled as I watched her, wearing Belle’s yellow ballroom gown.
She handed her back as I asked, “How much do you think she costs?” I glanced at the price tag.
“I don’t know.”
“She cost a lot. And she’s VERY big. She’s almost as big as you! She’s super cute, though!”
I put Marie back on the shelf and we continued to meander through the gift shop, then headed outdoors.
Claire, my sister in law, and I stood outside the Briar Patch Gift Shop, taking in the sights and the sound of Disney’s Magic Kingdom. I heard happy screams drift from Thunder Mountain Railroad as the smell of popcorn and cotton candy wafted through the night air.
“When will they be back?” Claire asked. “How much longer until the show?”
“Not much longer. As soon as it’s over we’ll head back to The Village,” I said.
The Village I was talking about was Give Kids the World Village, an enchanted place designed especially for children with critical illnesses. We were staying there for a week courtesy of the Mak-A-Wish Foundation. Claire had wished to go to Disneyland, but they surprised her with a bigger trip to Disney World.
Claire was elated to receive a wish but had been feeling poorly for the past seven months. Most of the day at Magic Kingdom went well, but she started feeling pretty crummy right after dinner and was ready to leave. We were torn between leaving right away and pressing through so we could watch Once Upon A Time, the nighttime show, something we all wanted to see.
She decided to try to press through. Rides weren’t sounding great, though, so she requested we look through some gift shops while the rest of the family hopped on the Thunder Mountain Railroad for a quick ride.
As I stood there, alternating between taking in my surroundings, worrying about Claire, and praying she would feel better and that her whole trip wouldn’t be overshadowed by pain, a voice interrupted my thoughts.
I turned around and saw a beautiful lady standing there. Her makeup was glittery and fun, perfect for a day in the park.
Quietly, she spoke to me, so that Claire couldn’t hear her.
“I saw your daughter with Marie in the gift shop, and I was wondering if we could buy it for her.”
Thoughts immediately started coursing through my brain. How incredibly sweet! Marie! Claire would be in LOVE.
Those positive thoughts were quickly followed by negative ones. Does she feel sorry for Claire? That’s a lot of money to spend on a stranger. Claire doesn’t need a stuffed animal to be happy. Marie is so big. How will we ever fit her on the airplane? We don’t need a handout. We already were granted a Wish Trip. We don’t need more.
Then I switched to thinking about it from her perspective. She wanted to do something kind. I was scared to let her do it because of my pride and the inconvenience. I quickly made my choice.
“Yes. That is incredibly kind of you. She would love that,” I told her.
The lady smiled, turned back, and walked into the gift shop.
My eyes started watering. Claire noticed.
“What was the lady talking to you about? Why are you crying?” she asked.
“She was asking me a question. You’ll see what it was about in a few minutes. They’re not sad tears. They’re happy ones,” I replied.
After a couple of minutes, we saw her come out of the gift shop and walk toward us, two young girls and a gentleman in tow. The older of the two girls was Claire’s age and holding the giant stuffed Marie.
“Hi!” they said.
Claire looked at me, then looked at them, clueless.
The mom smiled and spoke to Claire. “I’m Natalie and these are my girls. They wanted to get something for you.”
“This is for you,” said the older daughter and handed Claire the stuffed animal.
Claire was so shocked she didn’t smile and barely let out a small whisper. “Thank you.”
We chatted for a minute about their trip, thanked them profusely for their generosity, wished them a wonderful time, and said goodbye.
Claire cuddled Marie, stared at her, then cuddled her some more.
Marie mostly fit in a small purple sackpack on the way home, her head sticking out the top, bringing a smile to all who saw her. And since Allan was the only person without a personal item, she became his designated personal item for the ride home. I still chuckle as I picture him carrying her through the airport and onto the plane. Best dad ever.
Now, when people ask Claire to tell them her greatest highlight from her Wish Trip, she tells them the story of Marie.
It’s a story full of love, generosity, and the kindness of strangers.
It’s a story of the best magic at Magic Kingdom. The magic of compassion.
Claire cuddling her magical gift, Marie, from Aristocats