The Gift Was Mine!

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!
Karen

The Shoes Don’t Matter

Last week a group of dance friends was talking about the weekend’s upcoming Fall Ball, the big dance event of the season, held in a lovely grand ballroom with a wonderful and rare large dance floor.  One friend really wanted to go, but said she really wasn’t sure she would.  Her reason was a broken toe, and actually not so much the toe – it was healing really well and she could dance. The problem was she couldn’t put on a pair of shoes that didn’t put pressure on just the wrong spot.  So she could go and dance, but she couldn’t wear shoes.
 
In her mind, the venue and the event had a measure of decorum, certain expectations of behavior and dress, which of course included wearing shoes. She was concerned -“What will people think?”  Of course, all her friends jumped in and told her it didn’t matter. Several offered her helpful solutions and disguises, but in the end – she still wouldn’t be wearing shoes.
 
And yes, some people would notice. Some would think it was inappropriate and some may even chatter about it. What about you - have you ever hesitated to do something because of what others might think?  Put it into perspective.
 
When you think about your life, what will you regret more, the things you didn’t do or the things you did, but that someone might have criticized?
 
Life’s too short for that! You’ve got one life, live it the way you want to – with shoes or not!
 
And if you find yourself sometimes on the other side of that story – maybe mumbling some snarky comment when you see someone “not wearing shoes,” I’d like to share a story I heard several years ago that was really transformational for me.   
 
The story goes something like this:
There was a man on the subway with four young children.  He was sitting numb-like while his children were misbehaving and acting out.  A fellow rider was disgusted and said to him “Can’t you control them?”  The dejected father apologized for his children’s behavior and felt he needed further explanation, telling his fellow passenger that they were coming from the hospital where his wife had just died. They hadn’t had much sleep, the kids really didn’t understand what had happened….
 
I’m sure I need not say more. That story really struck me and stuck with me. When I think about questioning or criticizing another, it often pops into my mind. Yes, this story is extreme, but the reality is we don’t know all that’s going on in someone else’s life, whether it’s a broken toe or a deceased spouse. 
 
So instead of judging, let’s try some compassion.  There are lots of benefits – we live the way we want to and let others do the same. 
 
  
Wishing you compassion,
Karen