In 2001 and 2002, I worked at the Happiest Place on Earth. Yep, Disneyland California.
It was a pretty great job for a college student. I had a costume. I worked in a place called Fantasyland. On Saturday nights, I got to see a world-class fireworks show and an electric parade. I was given nifty enamel pins to decorate my lanyard. The dazzle, the music, the aroma of buttered popcorn—it was quite happy.
Did I see people at Disneyland who were NOT happy to be there? You bet! I saw bored teenagers who would’ve been on their phones (if smartphones had existed). I saw indescribably cranky babies flailing their chubby limbs in all directions. I saw annoyed parents grinding their teeth at overpriced churros. There were times when I wasn’t all that happy myself (like the time I double-derailed one of the boats on my attraction, and it took Facilities an hour to fix it).
At the end of the day, Disneyland is an illusion, and Disney leadership knows it. In fact, they use theatrical language on purpose to remind their workers that they’re in a show. For example, employees are called “cast members,” and we were encouraged not to “break character” with guests by displaying negative emotions that would ruin the “Disney magic.” We worked “onstage” with guests, and ate lunch “backstage” in the break room. It’s a carefully crafted experience that draws people toward a feeling of happiness, but it’s not real.
Where can we go to find TRUE happiness? Is there a place on earth where we can experience genuine contentment and satisfaction? Is there a doorway that we can walk through that leads to that place?
I think that scripture reveals a possible doorway. The doorway is labeled GRATITUDE.
Take a second and think about a few things you’re thankful for. List five things real quick. (Deep inhale) Ahhhh, doesn’t that feel better?
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says that it’s God’s will for His followers to give thanks in all circumstances.
Deuteronomy 8:10 says, “When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee.” How often do I give thanks AFTER a good meal?
Alma 34:38 sums it up beautifully: “Live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.”
Gratitude forces me to focus on what I do have—not what I don’t have. And when, with God’s help, I shift my perspective that way, it’s like stepping through a doorway into Grateful Heart Land. And, even though it has no zip code, it’s real.
What’s the price of admission? First, I have to fork over envy and complaint—that’s a start. But it doesn’t quite cover the ticket cost. Thankfully, Jesus paid it all.
We hope that you enjoy reading all the scriptures about gratitude in week three of our Contentment Study.