Quick story I thought I’d share here, as it’s been running through my mind the last two days:
I’m the music leader for the children at church. Being the music leader means that every Sunday, for 2 hours, I circulate between 4 groups of children and we sing music. Having taught dance for half my life and studied a little about what helps children’s brain develop, we use lots of movement and lots of props. Props include paper stars, felt raindrops, windwands (pictured below), paper plates, rhythm sticks, and so on. The children love the variety.
Well, most of the children do. Sometimes I offer a prop to a child and they don’t want to take it and that’s okay – the option for them to get one is always open.
This Sunday we used paper plates for one of the first songs (it’s amazing what kind of choreography you can up using two paper plates), and as the children had used them last week for a different song, they were excited to make noise with them again – well, most of them.
One boy sat on his chair with a scowl on his face and body posture that said not to bother him – he was NOT in the mood. He didn’t volunteer or participate in any of the activities leading up, and even as I taught the simple paper plates choreography (I was the only one using paper plates at the beginning), it was clear that, like the week before, he wouldn’t be participating.
It came time to ask for helpers. Normally I try to reward positive behavior and let the grumpy slide by, but my eyes fell on that little boy and I knew he needed to help me. Or, in reality, I needed to offer him the chance.
So I asked him to stand by me and be my helper.
The brightening of his face lit up the room. I asked an even younger boy, equally struggling that day for whatever reason, to be my second helper, and he responded similarly. They loved helping me, and I won’t lie, it felt so good to know I’d helped them feel special.
It doesn’t always work out like that. Sometimes, as a dance teacher, I’d give a child a special part or ask them to help me in some way, and the idea would fall flat. The same thing has played out at church, too. Sometimes people don’t want the special part or to help or to have attention drawn to them, and that’s okay.
But the reaching out is the important part for me, as I could have passed the grouchy kids by until they had a better attitude. This time I didn’t, and it seemed to me that we had a happier group of children after the fact.
So that’s my simple reminder today – if we only bestow kindnesses upon those in our group, or upon those who are already deserving, and withhold it from the ‘naughty’ ones, we may be waiting to reward the ones who need that love and kindness the most for a long, long time. Let’s offer a kindness today to someone who didn’t show up on the obvious list, because they deserve to feel loved and included too.
Many moons ago, probably starting somewhere around 2005, I collected ballet books to keep in the foyer of one of the dance studios I taught at to entertain my little dancers while they waited for their class to start. They were simple, charming books like Emily’s Dance Class, Katy Duck Goes to Ballet Class, Ballerinas are Special, Gallop! and so on. Not only were these great distractions for small children, it was yet another injection of “YOU LOVE BALLET YES YOU DO” that I could give them outside of class time.
I was pretty proud of the library I’d been able to build up, and lucky me! The parents kept my books relatively rip-free. Even the sticky fingers were at a minimum.
Fast forward to today, when I have my own toddler to rear. This evening was one of those rare moments when I didn’t have to teach, dinner was simple, and I wasn’t taking on another ambitious baking or sewing project during my daughter’s waking hours. This meant that I had the presence of mind to ask her if she wanted to read extra books before bedtime.
She asked for “Cindalella,” but as I pulled that book from the shelf, another book slid out with it: Emily’s Dance Class. Roz had forgotten this book existed, though we’d read it several times within the last year. She was already wearing her tutu and ballet slippers, and she was intrigued. “Cindalella” was quickly forgotten. Emily’s Dance Class earned 2 reads before we moved on to 4 or 5 other ballet books. Each book was well received – even the ballet history book that’s oriented more towards 7-10 year olds.
I’m not sure I can explain how much my heart swells to see my own daughter so excited about two things I love – ballet and books. I’m pretty sure I won to child lottery on this one.
Then it was time for bed, and she carried the new beloved books to her bedroom. I think this was a way to have her morning reading material ready to go as soon as she woke up.
Now I don’t know who has the ballet bug more – me, or her. There was a great deal of YOU LOVE BALLET YES YOU DO NOW SIGN YOUR DAUGHTER UP tonight. I was planning to wait until at least this summer before signing her up for an official ballet class, but it’s hard to exercise patience on sweet nights like this.