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Disney Recognizes a Teen’s Kindness

by Dr. Vicki Rackner

What do you do when you witness someone in pain? A 76-year old woman, a 16-year old high school student and Mickey Mouse offer a shining example.

My cousin Shirley Rackner decided to celebrate her 76th birthday by running a marathon. She trained for nine months, then flew to Anaheim to compete in the Disneyland Half Marathon.

After the normal doubts about whether she would make it to the finish line, Shirley felt a sense of exhilaration as she passed the 12.5 mile mark. The end was in sight.

Just then–a half mile before the finish line– two people trying to pass Shirley pushed her to the ground. She was taken by ambulance to the hospital where doctors treated her injured face and broken wrist.

Shirley arrived at the airport later that day, feeling both the physical pain from the fall and the pain of disappointment.

Sixteen-year-old Sarah White, also on the way home after running the marathon, approached Shirley at the airport. Was Shirley the women who fell so close to the finish line? Shirley told Sarah the story, and then they parted ways.

As Shirley sat in an airport restaurant, Sarah approached her table. The teenager said that Shirley deserved a metal, and offered hers as a gift. Shirley initially refused, saying it was Sarah’s metal. Sarah said that she and her family insisted. Shirley accepted the gift, and Sarah conducted an award ceremony right there in the restaurant. Shirley said the ceremony made her arm feel better.

This would be a great story if it ended there, but there’s more. When Shirley got home, she contacted Disney to ask that they send a replacement metal to Sarah. Disney had a better idea.

Yesterday Sarah thought she was going to a pep rally at her school. She had no idea that Disney had conspired with the Blanchet High School’s administrators and Shirley and the press to throw a celebration. At the assembly, Sarah was invited to the podium, and the marathon story was told. Imagine the school’s delight when Mickey Mouse himself presented Sarah with her metal.

pb1807071They gym was filled with  festivity as a whole school celebrated the kindness of a 16-year-old who found a heroic way to respond to the pain of a stranger.

I celebrate Sarah’s parents and community who nurtured Sarah along this path. Further, I celebrate Shirley’s willingness to accept Sarah’s gift; this story would not have happened if Shirley had rejected Sarah’s metal. (Note: If you give to others generously then refuse others’ gifts, please reread the last sentence.) I also celebrate Disney’s role in this story. Because of the presence of the legendary Mickey Mouse, many, many people will hear this story.

Does this story inspire you to reach out and make a positive difference to a person in pain? Go to to learn how. You’ll find a link to the seven simple Pain Stompers steps; it’s like learning to administer “CPR” to a person with physical, emotional or financial pain. Anyone can do it.

It’s almost time for family holiday gatherings. Go prepared! You’re invited to a special lecture about how to respond to the pain of people you love on Wed, Nov 24 at 7:00 PM. Click here for more details.

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