Let’s Dance has taken us into so many unusual places and sometimes we find ourselves in mixed groups. In Alburquerque, NM we visited a community that was clearly low-income and mixed. Some folks where elderly while others where simply clearly struggling with their bodies. There where many people recovering from a stroke and generally the group was very diverse not only in color, in abilities, backgrounds, and age.
Clearly the community was struggling with the chaos and low staff. We helped to put the group in the best circle possible and got the program started. We like to have name tags on everyone but in this group, we were grateful to have everyone in the room. This group of folks had come from their room in curiosity about the music, slowly the dining area where we held the program filled up. More and more folks would brave outside their private rooms in long term care to come out and see where that unusual music was coming from. Many of them had questions like “What is the name of that instrument?” While Bright Hawk answered questions, talked about music and began to share fun travel stories Hollis welcomed everyone. A man slipped in after the program began and sat way in the back. Hollis made an effort to welcome him a couple of times through the program but each time he would just shake his head “No”. The rest of the group would find themselves in awe of the instrument and intrigued by the travel stories.
Hollis finds themselves wondering about the man that is outside the circle, during the story of Ubuntu. Ubuntu is a story that Bright Hawk tells that carries a deep message about “taking care of each other’. Hollis wonders why this man won’t draw closer if he is really loving the program and they also notice he doesn’t seem to even be able to smile. He clearly suffered from some sort of paralyzation as he only had use of one arm. He pushed himself in with his wheelchair, that one arm was rock-solid muscle. Both of his arms were covered with tattoos and Hollis noticed markings that indicated this man had been part of a local gang. They were wearing old sweat pants and a simple plain muscle tee-shirt and he had a black teardrop tattoo on his face. His face was becoming more saddened as Bright Hawk went on with her story of Ubuntu.
Hollis approached the man for the dance of Ubuntu. Squatting down so he looked down to see Hollis in front of him from his wheelchair, Hollis placed their hand gently on his knee and said, “Hey Man, don’t you want to join the circle you can hear and see her better.” He glared at Hollis with flaring nostrils as if Hollis had just thrown salt on an old wound. “I don’t deserve to be part of that circle.” He said it with such discipline and sternness Hollis was almost taken aback but felt deep compassion for that man at the moment. Hollis is very well educated on gang tattoos, gang life and the general vibration of this community and has sometimes even contemplated working with prison populations. Hollis glared back with just as much passion, knowledge and sternness in their convictions and stated the truth. “Every person deserves to be part of the group.” He glares back now even a bit more fired up with anger for Hollis’ persistence about joining the group. He states with anger and pain just under the surface of his voice and he says with his best fake politeness, “You don’t know what I have done. I don’t deserve to be in that circle.” Now Hollis clearly understood what was happening at this moment and said, “There are no BAD people, only people that have done some bad things. You deserve to belong my friend. Want to dance?” In the first moment, he looked shocked at what Hollis said and then in his coolest of attitude he agreed to dance with Hollis and even used his chair to spin around. Eventually, after a long dance, he took a spot in the circle with the rest of the group.
As Hollis noticed his face throughout the rest of the program Hollis could tell there was light now within him. Although it didn’t fix everything, it lit a candle inside this man’s heart that could now offer more to the world. He smiled and listened to the stories with delight, just like the rest of the group. He even did the hula when it came time and gave Hollis one of the warmest biggest hugs ever by a one-armed man. He thanked Hollis at the ending and left to his room. A woman approached Hollis at the end of the program. Hollis was packing up and she insisted Hollis look her in the eyes.
She said, “I don’t know what you said to my nephew but you changed his world! Keep doing what you’re doing! Thank you, I haven’t seen him smile since he got here. Thank you! May God bless your journey all along the way! You are doing God’s work!” She hugged Hollis and they both smiled with a tear dripping from their eyes. They both knew that her nephew had just awakened to the next chapter of his life.
Let’s Dance visits all income levels, no matter how much they can afford to pay. Often we do fundraisers for communities that would like us to visit but can barely afford the minimum. Some communities are happy to pay a little more so that we never have to say NO to a community. Taking care of our elders, special needs, and people in long term care is an act of compassion. We know that these situations are not easy and we also know that love is in high demand, especially in nursing care. Nurses are working hard just to keep up the nursing care each person needs and lower-income places are often short on staff. Let’s Dance provides uplifting fresh positive energy to places that are chaotic, overwhelmed and depressing. “A Nation’s Greatness is in how it treats its weakest members.” *Anonymous (mis-quote by Mahatma Ghandi)