In San Antonio, Texas a unique park has been created with the goal of uniting people young and old with the common element of play.
Inspired by a young girl with physical disabilities, Morgan’s Wonderland creates an atmosphere where people can safely enjoy time with family and friends, regardless of any physical or mental disability.
This 25 acre park caters especially towards people with special needs and provides for guests a first-class area where people can relax and have fun.
Accommodating Every Person
Morgan’s Wonderland is an interactive and inclusive park where people with special needs and their family and friends can interact and enjoy all aspects of play. Traditionally, parks are designed and built, then accommodations are made for people with physical or mental limitations. Morgan’s Wonderland was not created this way: all obstacles were identified first, with its design following second. The entire park is accessible, safe, and fun for people of all ages.
This recreation area leads the way in providing inclusive, family orientated activities. In 2007, the Gordon Hartman Family Foundation created Sports Outdoor and Recreation (SOAR) as a non-profit organization to raise money and provide administration for the park. Fundraising came from many sources, including the City of San Antonio, the State of Texas, family and friends, and various charities and corporations.
In just a few short years, Morgan’s Wonderland opened with the mission to “provide a safe, clean, beautiful environment free of economic barriers for special needs individuals of all ages.”
Features of Morgan’s Wonderland
The park has many attractions that can be enjoyed by every person:
an event area and gymnasium with basketball, volley ball, and tennis access
an interactive sensory area that includes a theater, horse stable, fix-it shop, grocery store, and a television station
accessible 1930s style train
accessible cars that travel a track throughout the park
8 acre lake with fishing access
accessible playgrounds and wheelchair/adaptive swings
water park area
various pavilions and rest areas
Morgan’s Wonderland is the first “ultra-accessible family fun park” of its kind in the world. Individuals with special needs are admitted with no cost, and other guests to the park are charged a nominal entrance fee.
I had quite the rainbow experience one late afternoon.
It seems to me that rainbows are learning how to interact with people. Or perhaps, we are learning how to connect with rainbows.
I don’t know if you have ever thought about having unusual rainbow experiences. If not, perhaps what happened to me may prepare you for unusual rainbow experiences.
Kauai, the Island of Rainbows
Kauai is the northern most island in the Hawaiian island chain. The island seems to have many facets that make for wonderful reflective types of possibilities. Maybe rainbows are particularly attracted to multi-faceted environments, such as Kauai, the Garden Island. I now believe “close encounter of a rainbow kind” type of experiences may soon be recognized as a special class of phenomena.
Getting on with my story…I was sitting in front of my computer working away on a task that was a bit boring and repetitious. Music was playing in the background providing a soothing sound to help me focus. The repeated action from working on the task at hand and the melody of the music placed me in a sort of trance-like state.
As I was typing away I suddenly heard someone speak to me. Yet there was no one in the room. But the voice continued. Then suddenly I realized I was having a telepathic experience and the messages I was receiving was quite persistent. The voice urgently said, “Get up. Get your camera and go!” Whew, it was so loud.
I was jolted out of my chair because I felt so deeply I needed to follow the voice that carried this direct command so strongly into my thoughts. As I stood up I thought to myself, “What a loud and clear communication.” I happily and eagerly paid attention.
Double Rainbow Spectrum
Immediately I stopped what I was doing and jumped up and grabbed my old camera out of its bag. The two of us headed out the door to Mustang Sally, our pink Mustang convertible. As I slide behind the big steering wheel I knew I needed to head toward the Hyatt Hotel, so I did. It took about 3 minutes of driving from the time I jumped into Mustang Sally until I received a stunning visual scene. Synchronistically I had this strange sensation that I was about to have a one of those close encounters that I had heard about but never really experienced.
I suddenly got all tingly, and as I looked over at the base of a small caldera we know as Poipu crater, I saw not only a single, but a double decker, awesome, vibrating, radiating spectrum.
“Yummy!” I said out loud, and a full range of sensations flowed wildly inside of me.
Out came the camera, and snap, crackle, pop! I stopped the car, jumped out, and I was flashing away. The air was so erie and the sky had a very strange golden glow. I thought for sure I was about to receive a very mind altering experience.
The Race with the Rainbow Began
Then, all of a sudden the rainbow began to move. It started heading for the old sugar mill in Koloa. This started the race. I wanted to see if I could get to the mill before the rainbow did. I again jumped into Mustang Sally and peeled out onto the smoothly paved highway. I was driving faster and faster. I could hear the flapping of the comfortable top on the car, which was yielding to the swirling whirling trade winds known to flow through this area.
Then it happened … and all of a sudden, the rainbow and I seemed to merge. The car filled with bouncing light moving every which way. “Whoa!” I thought, “Who is going to believe this?”
Bathed in Rainbow Light
It was like being sucked into a third kind of experience that I imagined only leprechauns knew about…unexplainable really. The car’s side view mirror was reflecting my close encounter, so I knew it was real. I had no fear as one might have in a close encounter of the third kind. I was smiling from ear to ear!
What I found to be so very exciting about this rainbow encounter was I had arrived to the Koloa sugar mill at the exact moment the rainbow did, too. It was like we were one. When I stepped out of the car, the rainbow eagerly moved to its place just above the top of the sugar mill. It just knew it was waiting for me to take a perfect photograph as this living rainbow expanded it’s colors making sure to present a perfect image.
That day brought me so many gifts, and I learned that a picture is truly worth a thousand words, or more!
Art therapy is a healing practice used to increase the overall health of one’s body, mind, and spirit. It’s a therapy that can easily be successful for people of all ages and for people suffering from many different challenges, such as illness or trauma.
The American Art Therapy Association was established to help promote the healing aspects of art and how it can improve the overall quality of one’s life.
Art therapy is often used when working with the aging population, as it is effective with increasing people’s self-perception, memory, and coordination.
Wellness with Art Therapy
Research has shown that the creative process has many benefits, including:
helping with managing stress levels;
developing conflict resolution skills;
balancing emotions; and
improving cognitive clarity.
Useful for everybody of all ages, art therapy helps with personal development because the creating and reflecting aspects of art increases self-awareness.
Accepting Aging Through Creative Expression
As we age, there are many things that change in life that sometimes we may not be willing to accept or have a hard time coming to terms with: we lose people, we lose our health, we lose our home, and we lose our mobility. Depression is common among elderly people, in addition to confusion and low self-esteem.
Art helps people come to terms with various aspects of aging and can help people reclaim their identity. Because art is full of choices people have the freedom to make, it helps ease the feeling of dependency that aging people may feel. Growing older is often viewed as merely a day-to-day survival issue, whereas creative expression lays emphasis on the person’s experiences, memories, and relationships.
American Art Therapy Association
With over 5,000 members globally within 36 chapters, the American Art Therapy Association strives to promote the effectiveness of art therapy for every type of person of every age. The Association supports legislation involving art therapy at both the state and federal levels of government and supports different research projects, educational programs, and clinical uses of art therapy.
The following video was produced with help from the American Art Therapy Association with the goal of showing people how effective this creative therapy is for the elderly population. It is an example of rediscovering one’s joy and happiness through expression.
As art therapist Wendy Miller notes, “[Art is] not a luxury; it’s really a necessity.”
Everyone has a purpose. Everyone has a contribution to make. Everyone has a place in this world. When these realizations are made, our global community is enhanced with joy, knowledge, love, and endless opportunity.
From what began as an honest quest of his own personal transformation, award-winning filmmaker Demian Lichtenstein, along with his sister Shajen Joy Aziz, created Discover The Gift (Equilibrium Entertainment).
This has since manifested into a movement of self-illumination for everyone to experience the extraordinary and powerful journey of self-discovery.
Create Your Own Reality
What happens when one starts questioning the purpose of their life’s purpose? For Lichtenstein, this questioning led to Discover The Gift, a powerful documentary film illustrating the realization that each person on earth is here to release special gifts and powers that lay within.
In the film, Lichtenstein notes that individuals are a “singular manifestation of a cosmic destiny,” and as each person realizes his or her gift, they graduate to the next stage of their own evolution. This, in turn, stimulates the gifts in others.
The stunningly written and produced film depicts Lichtenstein’s admission—and that of Aziz—of not being present in their own presence and the struggle to emerge as true, authentic beings. Through a series of honest discussions, both Lichtenstein and Aziz come together after years of separation and discovered they individually have gifts to offer the world. And, through the process, they realized a gift they can share in unison: so began Discover The Gift.
The Process of Enlightenment
On the path of discovering life purpose, one will discover how to intentionally change their thoughts to manifest an honest and pure existence. It’s a discovery of living a life not made by one’s parents, clergy, or even politicians, but of finding the thing that makes one think, “I was born for this!”
How can one find his or her gift? It can come about in many different ways. For example, silence and solitude can help one become more in tune with themselves. This is an opportunity to give one’s self permission to dream, to forgive, and to love one’s self and others.
Life is just like a mirror: this is one of the most profound message delivered in the film. The human mind creates life for us. Life is the process of what we pay attention to or what we focus on. Lichtenstein advises viewers to follow their hearts in order to discover the greatest gift and adventures that could come their way. The only obstacle in life is ourselves!
Eight Universal Spiritual Laws to Change Your Life
The film and corresponding book by the same title discuss eight simple, yet profound, principles that help individuals discover their true potential:
This beautifully-created film includes the inspirational guidance from over 40 global leaders, each who offers their spiritual wisdom and guidance to viewers. Discover The Gift is about the possibilities that exist within every individual and society as a whole. This film delivers a powerful, universal message that will leave a lasting impression with everyone who watches and takes its meaning to heart.
The Second Annual Awareness Film Festival
Discover The Gift made its debut at the second annual Awareness Festival, held early May, 2011 in Hollywood, CA. The mission of the Awareness Festival is to present films that bring awareness and open viewers’ eyes to some of the world’s most pressing issues regarding ecological perspectives, political impacts, the understanding of health and wellbeing, and scientific progress.
The Awareness Festival was created by the non-profit charity organization HealOneWorld.org. Funds generated from the event go to support the organization’s mission to help people learn about and receive preventative and alternative health care approaches to wellness.
Both the film and book of Discover the Gift is available for preorder prior to their release on June 14, 2011.
Discover The Gift (Harmony) is also a book of inspiration designed to show readers how each one has a special purpose in life that must be shared with the world. The book complements the movie, and unfolds the authors’ personal self-journeys of discovery while offering guidance for readers to do the same. The book is available in hardcover, as a Kindle download, or an audio CD.
The Discover The Gift book and video are a powerful combination and serve as a collective catalyst for unlocking individual and combined potential for creating more love, joy, and happiness in the world.
Based upon a novel written by Catherine Ryan Hyde, Pay It Forward (Simon & Schuster), the Pay It Forward Foundation promotes the global social movement based on a simple plan of action.
The idea upon which the foundation was created is simple: anyone can change the world.
The Pay It Forward Foundation seeks to educate students of its mission and works with teachers on developing strategies of how they too can pay it forward.
Catherine Ryan Hyde is an example of what happens when we follow our inner urges, and how one small thought turned into an action can ripple to make a vast difference in many other people’s lives.
The Pay It Forward Foundation
Staffed mostly by volunteers committed to its simple but profound mission, the Pay It Forward Foundation encourages everyone to do a simple act at any time for anyone in any place. Paying it forward means doing a favor for someone without any expectation of being paid back—save for encouraging the recipient of the favor to in turn to pay it forward to someone else.
The idea behind his movement is to never assume a favor you pay is too small or too insignificant, as to someone else it could mean the world. How do you know that this exact opportunity won’t change the life of a complete stranger in ways you can’t even imagine?
Catherine Ryan Hyde, Esteemed Writer and Inspiration
Catherine Ryan Hyde is an established author with several acclaimed books to her name, including Second Hand Heart (Transworld UK) and Jumpstart the World (Knopf). Her short stories have been featured in several prominent literary journals, and many have gone on to win top literary awards.
Her 2000 novel Pay It Forward was developed into a popular movie of the same name, and was acknowledged by the American Library Association for its Best Books for Young Adults list. The novel appeared on several national bestsellers lists. The message of the book has inspired many people to try paying it forward in their own lives, and serves as the basis for the Pay It Forward Foundation.
Beside writing, Hyde also delivers public speaking addresses, including ones based on her pay it forward idea. The following is a transcript of Hyde candidly discussing her inspiration for paying it forward.
Setting: Echo Park, Late at Night
So, here I am in this bad section of Echo Park . . . I don’t know, does anyone know Echo Park in Los Angeles? Some of you actually do! And if you don’t, don’t run and check it out, just take my word for it, okay? It’s not really the place to be late at night. However, I lived there, which narrowed my options.
So, I’m driving home, and I should tell you that the car I was driving was not in good condition, because—at least I’m pleased to be able to say that I was young 24 years ago (I know, it’s hard to imagine)—I had this theory about cars when I was younger. I thought it cost less money if you didn’t take your car to the mechanic. It’s a logical theory when you think about it, because mechanics cost money, so you don’t go, you save money, you know? That’s one of those theories that works very well until the day it doesn’t anymore. So this is a story about the day it stopped working.
So, I’m coming home late. I get to the end of the ramp, you know, the freeway ramp where there’s a stop sign at Echo Park Lane. And I put my foot on the brake, and the engine stalled—which may sound unusual to you, but it always did every time I put my foot on the brake. That’s what happens when you don’t go to the mechanic! And then something that had never happened before: headlights, dash lights, all of the electric on my car, out.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
So, now I’m out there in the dark. That’s a new one. And while I’m pondering this, I noticed that there’s a curled smoke—right away you know this is not good news, right? Where ever the smoke is, however the smoke is, right away you’re thinking, “That’s not good news!”—coming through the firewall from the engine side. And it’s curling up under the dashboard, and it’s beginning to fill up the passenger compartment where I sit.
Now, when you’re in a car in a bad neighborhood late at night—you probably know this already—you have a very powerful incentive to stay there with the door locked. But now the car’s filling up with smoke, which has got to be a textbook definition of being between a rock and a hard place. Right? So, once again, just so you don’t have to go out and do your own research, I will tell you the smoke wins. You’re going to get out of the car at that point. So I got out of the car.
Now I’m outdoors in this bad neighborhood late at night. And I looked up and I saw that there were two men, two total strangers, running in my direction very fast. And one of them is holding a blanket.
Strangers Help Out of the Blue
Many thoughts danced in my head. Not a single which had anything to do with rescue. As a matter of fact, I think the first thought in my head was that I’d never made out a will. And then of course I realized that it didn’t matter because I had nothing to leave to anyone, anyway. Except the car, which is on fire.
So, I really thought that those were going to be the last few moments of my life. I mean, you’ve had that moment where your life flashes before your eyes. Really, never occurred to me that they might have been running to my aid. But oddly enough, that’s exactly what happened.
Apparently they had been driving by—I say apparently because I never really got to talk to them—saw the trouble that I was in, pulled their own car over to the side of the road, took a blanket out of their own trunk, [and] one of them popped the hood of my car. You know, popped it from the inside—the other one actually opened it. [He] leaned his whole upper body into my flaming engine compartment and put the fire out with the blanket.
Total Strangers Save Lives
Now, just to stop and review what I find important in this story: his upper body, my flaming engine compartment. Isn’t that an interesting combination between total strangers?
So, right around the time he got the fire put out the fire department showed up, which I thought was interesting because none of us called them. Okay, so once again, the kids go, “Okay, so someone had a cell phone and you didn’t know it. “ No, not in 1978, I really don’t think so. Apparently some other good Samaritan driving on the freeway behind us had seen what was happening and called the fire department.
Now, I absolutely guarantee you in that situation I would have done that for a stranger. If I had seen you broken down with your car burning I would have stopped at the next call box and called the fire department for you. Not sure about the thing with the upper body in the flames. I don’t know about now, but at the time I don’t think I would have been ready for that.
Life and Death Situation
And, so, to make a long story short—perhaps it’s too late for that, I’m not sure—in the confusion of talking to the fire department . . . and by the way, one of the things that I learned from them is that we all could have been killed. You know, a car on fire is a lot like a Molotov cocktail, when you think about it. You know, you have a big tank of flammable liquid with a fuse that goes into it, and once it’s burning it’s, you know . . . you have some problems.
So, I turned around to thank these men who I thought were standing behind me listening to all of this, thinking, “Boy, this better be a good thank you!” Right? This was the biggest favor I had ever gotten in my life. This had better be a good thank you . . . and discovered that they had already packed up and driven away.
So, I didn’t even say thank you! I mean, I tried, but I didn’t know they’d do that.
The Birth of Paying it Forward
And so what happened as a result of this, you know, people will say to me, “So, if they hadn’t stopped and done that for you, none of this pay-it-forward-thing ever would have happened.” And I like to take it even a step further and say that if they had stayed around to be thanked, maybe the rest of this wouldn’t have happened. If they’d stayed around, you know, I would have gotten their address. I would have sent them a Christmas card every year for the rest of their life. You know, 24 years later, it’s almost December, I would have sent them a Christmas card and maybe that would have felt like enough.
But as it was I had received this huge favor and I hadn’t done anything to pay it back. So what was I going to do?
So I found myself—for those of you who know anything about the pay-it-forward concept, you are probably guessing where we are going with this story—I found myself on the lookout for someone in trouble. I thought, “Okay, sooner or later I’ll find someone in trouble and I’ll stop and pay that favor to them instead.”