I’m a dancer – of the ballroom, latin, swing variety – and love it! Just over six years ago, I learned that the owner of a studio where I recently had started dancing had a son with Down Syndrome and was offering a free dance class to those with Down Syndrome and similar disabilities. The program had grown and needed more volunteers.
It sounded like fun and my husband and I decided we’d attend a class to see what it was all about. The group met once a week on Wednesdays and while we were both crazy busy with our jobs, family and other community commitments, we thought that if we liked it (and we were pretty sure we would), that we’d find a way to clear our schedules and volunteer one Wednesday a month.
When we entered the studio, the magic began.
After introductions, the music started and we danced basic waltz, tango, foxtrot, cha cha and swing steps with the students. The class learned choreography for “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (which soon became their signature dance – and a tearjerker for audiences wherever they perform).
The love of music and movement overcame all shyness, doubt and insecurities these students had. The expression of joy was so abundant, with glowing faces and brilliant smiles. Dancing the right steps or in time with the music didn’t matter, to any of us. Delight perfumed the air. At the end of the class, parents and caregivers shook our hands and hugged us, expressing their gratitude for the “gift” we gave their “kids” (aged 8 – 48 at the time, most of them adults).
The “gift” was mine!
We were hooked, and unless out-of-town or ill, we’ve been to every class ever since. The class now has a waiting list for students, we've added more dance styles and perform at community events.
I’m convinced - the greatest gift you can give yourself is to give to others.
I’m sure you can relate to those awful days when you feel like the life is being sucked out of you and all you want to do is plop yourself in a chair or on the couch. Even on those days, I went to class anyway.
And with the smiles, hugs and high-fives, I'd leave feeling great, like I'd inhaled a breath of new life. Every time - Best. Decision. Ever.
I never thought I would become as involved as I have, and it was amazing to me to see how I was able to “make the time” for this group. It became so energizing, how could I not make the time?
And I bet there’s something out there for you too. How can you give back? What do you care about or enjoy? It doesn’t matter how small it may seem - even just an hour a month. School, church, a community group - find something you love.
"Whatever I have given, I have gained." Leonard Nimoy
Your health and wellbeing are intertwined with all the elements of your life, including your relationships at work, with family and in the community. It’s a complex, glorious interaction. When you give, you feel good, you like yourself – perhaps just a little bit more – and with that emotional shift, you make better decisions about how you treat yourself.
This group recently sponsored the 2nd Annual Special Ballroom Festival for dancers with disabilities. Thought I’d share a few photos – smiles all around, not just the competing students, but the volunteers as well!
Wishing you the gift of giving!