It’s understandable when people cry at sad things. Tornadoes wreak devastation across the Midwest, hurricanes wipe out entire cities, children die in freak accidents, or a beloved mother struggles with breast cancer.
It’s also certain that people will cry at happy events. A daughter gets a surprise proposal from a worthy young man, an elderly couple celebrates fifty years of commitment to each other, a childless woman gets pregnant after years of trying, or a struggling couple gets a financial boost from a supportive community.
Just like you, I’ve wept over both devastation and joy. What I have never been able to understand though, is why I cry while watching dance performances. I have gotten choked up at a Riverdance performance, at teenagers swaying to Romanian folk dance, at preschoolers tapping tiny toes in tutus, at a well-executed hip hop routine, at television dance programs, and at my daughters’ and granddaughters’ dance recitals.
Today, granddaughter Hoolie had a May Day celebration at school, which involved several dance routines for each grade. Hoolie is a natural performer and I choked up with pride at her mastery of the steps and arm movements. I also got all quivery-lipped at the kids in older grades when they fell to the ground in a waterfall during the song Lean on Me, when they synchronized their movements to songs I remembered from the 70’s, and when they flitted around beautifully braiding ribbons around a pole with seemingly little effort. But nothing hit me in the heart more than this:
The little kindergartner was not like his classmates. He consistently gazed at the floor, and appeared to be disengaged from what was happening all around him. He could not perform on his own, yet a loving teacher wrapped her arms around him and performed the steps and arm movements with him so he could participate with his friends and make his mother proud. When the music stopped and the applause began, she guided him back to the arms of his mother, where he ignored the rest of the program.
My cousin has done me the favor of helping me to be aware of differently-abled children. Thanks to her steadfastness in helping raise consciousness, I am more aware to speak normally and smile when a stranger with “Up” syndrome wants to chat. My students now know they shouldn’t call each other the "r" word.” I am more compassionate and less judgmental when I see an older child throwing a tantrum in Walmart and see his mother put her arms around him and speak soothingly. And like today, tears spring to my eyes when I see a teacher who gives a mother peace of mind—a peace of mind that gives her confidence to release her son into the capable hands of a teacher. A teacher who vows to love her child, hold his little arms, and dance.
[ I inserted the photograph because it was taken from behind. My intent is to point out the tenderness of the scene and not to showcase the child's "difference."]