Holland: A Parable in the World of Disabilities

There’s an old parable in the world of disabilities, thought to be written by a parent. Imagine this:

You’ve dreamt your whole life of visiting Italy.  From the time you were a child, you spent hours and hours watching classic films set on sun-soaked beaches and old cobbled streets: Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn zipping through Rome on a Vespa; Michael Caine charming his way to riches; the melancholy loss of the Cinema Paradiso fading away.

The history. The people. The food. The landscape. You were in love before you even arrived. You just couldn’t wait to get there.

And finally, you’re old enough. You book your ticket for a month’s long tour of the country, and immediately you devour all that you can: you buy guidebooks and maps. Your stomach clenches in anticipation every time you daydream about the sound of the wind through the cracks in the Coliseum walls, the cold breeze in your face aboard a gondola, the sweet bite of limoncello on your tongue. You practice your Italian, you plan your itinerary. And even with months of planning and preparation, it still doesn’t feel like enough, surely you’ve missed something important, surely you’re not ready yet.

But it’s okay. You’re going to Italy, just like you’ve always wanted. You know enough, and that which you don’t know you can figure out along the way. There are nerves on the way to the airport, excitement and anxiousness. It’s really happening at last. You board the plane, snuggle into your window seat, and close your eyes.

Hours later, you set down your dog-eared guidebook as the plane’s wheels bounce along the tarmac. The pilot’s voice crackles through the speakers: “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Holland.”

Holland?! What do you mean Holland?! I’m supposed to be in Italy! Italy is what I signed up for, Italy is what I wanted! My whole life I’ve dreamt of going to Italy! This is unfair, take me to Italy, now!

You demand answers, but no one can give you any. Who knows how you ended up in Holland; did you book the wrong flight? Did the airline make a mistake? No one knows, and it doesn’t matter. There will be no Italy for you. You’ve landed in Holland, and in Holland you will stay.

At first, you’re shocked. You did not prepare for Holland. You know nothing about Holland. Everything you learned about Italy is now useless. So you do the only thing you know how to do: in a daze, you go buy more guidebooks and learn about Holland. You learn a whole new language and meet a group of people you never would have met otherwise. After your initial discombobulation, you find Holland is actually a beautiful country in its own right.

As the shock wears off, you realize you realize that Holland has its own unique beauty. It’s different than Italy, but it is beautiful all the same. The pace of life is a little slower, but there is still much to do. The pace of life is a little slower, a little more laid-back but there is still much to do. It’s not so flashy, so brash as Italy. After you’ve acclimated, learned a bit of the language, conversed with the lovely Dutch people, you begin to catch your breath. You begin to open your eyes and look around.

Holland has windmills.
Holland has Rembrandts.
Holland has tulips.

And like Venice, Amsterdam even has canals. Perhaps things are not so different after all.

But when you check your phone, you see everyone else is busy on their own Italian vacations. Their photos are full of fun activities. of memories they’ll cherish forever. And for every photo you see, there is a sting deep inside you that will never leave. That is where I was supposed to go, that was my dream. Everything I planned was for Italy.

But spend your vacation wishing that you were in Italy, and you will never appreciate the tulips, of which the very best in the world can be found only in Holland.

No one plans on their child having a disability, but if it happens, find the tulips and you will find joy.

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