Have you ever been in a gathering of family or friends and felt yourself drawn to a stranger for reasons you cannot explain? Have you ever followed the desire to connect with that person? If you have, did you realize that it probably was God trying to give you a gift through their words, actions or demeanor? I was blessed by just such an encounter recently, and I want to share the experience with my sisters and brothers.
Last Friday, I attended a college alumni event. I spent a lot of the evening catching up with old friends. However, as I moved through the crowd, I noticed there was one particular woman who was always in close proximity to me. Within our shared space, I felt a strong pull toward her. Truly it was like I was a piece of metal and she was a magnet. I was pretty sure I didn’t know her.
After about an hour, my curiosity got the better of me, and I could no longer resist the strong attraction to this woman. Finally, I inquired, “Have we met before?”
She said, “No. I have never been to one of these functions until tonight.”
“My name is Laura Padgett,” I said, while offering my hand in greeting.
She said, “Yes, I know. My name is Mary. They tell me you are a dancer. Is that right?”
I smiled, nodded my head and admitted it was true.
Then she told me, “I love to dance too. I wanted to be a dancer once. When I was a little girl, my mother took me for ballet lessons. The dance teacher told her I would never be a dancer, and she was wasting her money. I suppose she thought I was just too clumsy to dance. In many ways, that statement has affected me throughout my entire life.”
I didn’t hesitate before saying, in a firm voice, “She was wrong. She was wrong, my friend. Dancing is in the heart, not the body. True, there are those who achieve great heights in dance. They are to be respected and applauded for their efforts. But the technical merit of any art takes a back seat to the true heart of an artist. And art, my dear, lives in the soul that feeds on the joy of art and not on accomplishments or accolades that may or may not accompany those accomplishment.”
She smiled at me with her whole person. In her sparkling green eyes, I saw recognition of a truth she already knew and probably accepted years before this meeting. I was giving this lady information that was not new to her. We sat down to enjoy a glass of white wine and more conversation about dance, art, what it means to be a teacher and, for that matter, what it means to be a student.
She told me that for many years she believed the words of the ballet teacher. She felt clumsy and physically inept. But in recent times, she has begun to arise each morning, turn on some music, close her curtains and dance in joy and freedom. She just moves to the music and dances. As she beamed at me, I understood and shared her bliss. I also identified with her victory.
“Yes, I know dear sister. I know,” I assured her.
On the way home, I reflected on similar tales I have heard during my years as a dance instructor. These stories are why I love to teach adults. In some ways I think, as a teacher of those who have been told they cannot be taught, God uses me to spread the word that all gifts are from Him and all recipients are worthy to use and share His various art forms. I want my students to dance with their hearts first. If their bodies catch up, that’s fine. But the goal is to move and be moved from deep inside. I believe God wants us to use the arts and not allow the arts to use us.
I also thought about how many times I have been told I wasn’t “good enough” to do something I wanted to do. I revisited and then released the pain authored by false prophets. I mentally crawled up on my Heavenly Father’s lap to receive the comfort of hearing Him say I am a beloved child and whatever I do, if I do it for Him, is just fine by His light.
I think the Lord often sends angels, in human temples, to relay His messages. If we are open, we can hear His truths in the words of a stranger or see His love in the eyes of someone during a first encounter. As I rejoiced in the chance (?) meeting with Mary,God took the opportunity to remind me what my course must always be when I am sharing the arts I love. He told me that as a teacher, and an artist, my first call is to honor His children by encouraging, guiding, helping and sharing with the same positivity and patience He shows me every day. Outcome is not the issue. Process is the point.
Not everyone in this world will be a champion or professional dancer. That is of no matter to our Father because, in His eyes, we are all gold medalists. I live under the truth (and I suspect Mary does as well), that no matter what anyone says I can’t do, I can confidently reply, “But, my Daddy says I can.”
My prayer that night was one of gratitude for meeting Mary, hearing her story and learning about her courageous journey to dance no matter who says she will never be a dancer. I thanked Him for the reminder that I am to first and foremost hold the hearts and souls of my students in tender care and love. I asked God to keep me open to His voice when He says, “Go and talk to this person. It’s important.”
Before I fell into sleep, I asked one more thing of the Great One. I asked if He could help Mary to some day get up, put on her music, dance with all her heart, and leave her curtains open.
Copyright September 19, 2013
Laura L. Padgett