“Welcome to Holland”
Emily Perl Kingsley was a writer for “Sesame Street” when her son, Jason Kingsley, was born with Down syndrome in 1974.
Kingsley’s personal experiences inspired her to include people with disabilities in the “Sesame Street” cast, including an actor in a wheelchair and even her own son. After his debut on the show at 15 months old, Jason went on to appear in 55 episodes.
In 1987, Kingsley wrote the enduring essay “Welcome to Holland” about how raising a child with a disability caused her to shift her perspective and find beauty where she stood. The full essay is reprinted here.
© Emily Perl Kingsley
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability—to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this . . .
When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip—to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. Michelangelo’s “David.” The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”
“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”
But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around . . . and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills . . . and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy . . . and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say: “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away . . . because the loss of that dream is a very, very significant loss.
But . . . if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things . . . about Holland. WT
SGI President Ikeda’s Guidance
“Our Attitude Changes Everything”
The following is excerpted from SGI President Ikeda’s The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, Part 2, p. 43.
A single flower can completely transform a bleak atmosphere. The important thing, therefore, is to have the spirit, the determination, to improve your environment, to change it for the better, if even just a little. Especially as practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism striving earnestly in faith, we cannot fail to vibrantly transform our lives. We will definitely enjoy happiness and prosperity. This is an unchanging principle of Buddhism.
Our attitude changes everything. This is one of the great wonders of life, and at the same time, an undeniable reality.
A proverb says, “Do not complain that the rosebush has thorns, but rejoice that the thornbush has roses.” Our perception changes depending on our outlook, becoming bright, beautiful and expansive.
Nichiren Daishonin speaks of the “wonderful workings of one mind” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 30). The focused mind of faith
in the Gohonzon has power and functions that are truly immense and wondrous. When the fundamental engine of our “one mind”—our inner attitude, or resolve—starts running, the gears of all phenomena of the three thousand realms are set in motion. Everything starts to change. We move everything in a bright and positive direction.
When embraced by the great life state of Buddhahood, then we ourselves, those around us, and the land in which we live will all shine with the light of happiness and hope. This is the power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo of the “actual three thousand realms in a single moment of life.” At work here is the Buddhist principle of dynamic transformation. WT