Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Shall We Dance?

"Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance. Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion." Martha Graham

I love to dance. Always have. Both my daughters dance. We dance together at home. We dance together at parties. We dance alone. We dance.

There are no set footsteps. No predetermined place to be. Destination to get to. Ending to achieve. It is only the dance. The dance makes the journey interesting. It enlivens each step. Colours each moment.

At the shelter where I work, I witness people falling. People who have forgotten how to dance. Forgotten that they can dance. Their steps are heavy. Their breathing laboured. The journey is not in the dance. It is in the survival of getting from this moment to the next.

Yesterday, I gave a talk to a group of EMS workers. At the end of my presentation, one of the organizers came up and told me he had a story to tell me. "I didn't want to interrupt your presentation, but I thought you'd find value in this story," he said.

"There were four of us in high school. Best buds. We played together. Got into trouble together. We were tight. When high school ended, we each went our separate ways. Dave* was one of those guys you figured would 'do good'. I saw him for the first time six years after we left high school. I was at the airport picking up a patient from a flight, and Dave walked off the plane. Big guy. Big muscle. An MP in the Armed Forces."

"Life's great, he told me. I'm travelling the world. Living it up."

"Next time I saw Dave it was about five years later. I was on an emergency call in a building where people were lying all over the floor. It was pretty seedy. I stepped over a sleeping man and couldn't believe my eyes. It was Dave. Stoned. I stopped to talk for a moment. He tried to pretend he didn't see me but I wouldn't let him not talk to me. Seems that he got out of the service after a tour of duty in some place like Cyprus and what he witnessed was overwhelming. The Service didn't do much for him and he couldn't cope so there he was. I told him to keep fighting and had to leave. I had a patient, a child, to see to."

"I didn't see Dave for a couple more years until one night while doing a rotation in an Emergency Ward I walked behind the curtain of a patient who had attempted suicide and there was Dave. Lying on the bed. He started crying. Telling me he simply couldn't take it anymore. We talked and talked and then I had to move on. I hoped Dave would make it."

"Three years later, while driving my ambulance, a green pick-up truck pulled up beside me at a red light. I looked across at the driver and it was Dave. He rolled down his window. Waved and said. "I made it. I'm doing okay. I'm working as a welder. I'm doing okay." The light turned green and we both went our separate ways. But I'm sure glad to know he made it."

It happens. People fall down. Sometimes, they dance with the devil. And then, one day, something clicks, ruby shoes appear on their feet, the stars align, or simply someone took the time to listen. Whatever the reason, they get up again and slowly learn to dance.

I see it every day at the shelter where I work. People who have forgotten how to dance. We hold their hands. bandage their weary feet and keep hope alive until one day, hopefully, they will remember how to stand up straight and begin to dance again.

Once upon a time, my daughters and I forgot how to dance together. We've retraced our steps, reclaimed our right to dance joyously and freely through each moment. We are blessed.
The question is: Are you dancing?

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