"...I hope you still feel small
When you stand by the ocean
Whenever one door closes,
I hope one more opens
Promise me you'll give faith
a fighting chance
And when you get the choice
to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance..."
- Lee Ann Wommack
My friend, Brooke, posted this Youtube video on her facebook profile with the message: "This is what I want to do with my life now!"
After watching it I can understand why.
I got a little taste of the spirit of this video during my trip to South Africa over the last few weeks. Being thousands of miles from anything familiar...except my daughters face...it was easy to see that there are some things that all people have in common. We all want the same things...we want to feel like we have a reason for dancing...at a beloved child's happy wedding, the success of a friend's new business, our own heart's racing with the joy and passion of true love, the smile on a neighbor's face when we show up with cookies on Christmas Eve...the triumph of good over evil, honesty over dishonesty, grace over arrogance, and love over hate.
The last leg of my travel took me into, and through, a long night on a crowded (not an empty seat to be found) jet...or should I say a bus on wings! By the time we reached Washington/Dulles International airport in D.C. we were tired from trying to sleep in narrow seats, an hour late, all rushing to get through customs, collect checked baggage, re-clear it through ATS, and jump on shuttles that would taxi us to new gates for connecting flights. Forty-five frantic minutes after our plane touched down I was standing at the gate for my flight to St. Louis only to discover that it would be delayed another four and a half hours.
I decided to wait with as much grace and joy as I could muster after 36 hours without sleep and vowed to actually celebrate Christmas in Terminal A. Once I made my pact to do it, and do it with love, I looked around and saw that it wasn't such a bad place to be stuck for the morning. The shops along the terminal were festooned with pine boughs, glittering strings of tiny white lights, and red velvet bows. The scent of baked muffins, scones, and bagels from the coffeehop/bakery next to my gate was lovely, and people were smiling. I decided to smile too.
I wandered the terminal collecting a hot chocolate from the recently naturalized US citizen with three small children who lived 15 miles from the airport and only made minimum wage, but loved making travelers feel welcome in "the capital of our United States of America", and a bagel from the young woman whose ID holder held her official badge on one side and a picture of her at her high school graduation in cap and gown holding her 13 month old daughter who was getting a singing teddy bear for Christmas. I then settled into a seat at the gate with my knitting and my breakfast to commune with the stranded strangers, and spread my traveling office out on the seat next to me.
Within minutes I saw a familiar face. It was the jolly man from the first row in economy on my long transatlantic flight, who had greeted me with a smile each time I exited the business class loo (I was such a rebel...I think he felt we were in cahoots in defying the "this loo is for first class passengers only" message from the cabin crew) and made me feel like we were part of a "community" way back there in the cheaper seats.
He, his mom, and sister were now waiting for their connecting flight at the gate next to mine and we easily struck up a conversation. They lived in Capetown and had traveled to the states for the holidays to visit a son/brother in Atlanta. Before long we were sharing andecdotes and laughter. At one point the sister...who now felt like an old friend...said, "I don't know how other women balance work and motherhood..." A trailing sentence that left me with a sense of sisterhood after only 30 minutes of conversation and 10,000 miles of shared misery on an Airbus 349.
I suddenly realized that we were not from different cultures or places, we were from the same place. The place that all mothers share as a homeland...the place where we want to be good mothers and yet also give our children an example of living lives of contribution and vision, purpose and passion. We were sisters of the same Mother who had vested us with a desire to "do it right"...whatever "right" was....
This realization was like waking to a larger sense of family. It was reminiscent of an experience I had as a child when looking up at the windows of an apartment building late one night while driving through a random Midwest city on a family vacation I caught a glimpse of a couple talking in their kitchen. For the first time I realized that the universe did not revolve around me. These people did not even know I existed and yet they had full lives with cares and interests I didn't even know about. It was paradigm shifting for me then...and it was paradigm re-aligning for me last week.
As I go about my days preparing for the holidays...I pray that I can remember that people everywhere are looking for an opportunity to dance. I hope my smile, some small kindness shown or good deed done can give them reason to kick up their heels and celebrate the life we share as children of the same joy-inspiring homeland.
Thanks Brooke...for reminding me of how I want to live my life, II Samuel says it best..."And David danced before the Lord with all his might"....I'm with David on this one!