Some can. Thanks to my experience growing up in inner city Cleveland I can say I’ve got more moves than many of my colleagues.
I attended Cleveland School of the Arts and was in the ethnic minority. Being a shy and awkward grain of salt in a pepper shaker usually meant that I chose to be a bouncer at the school dances rather than an active participant. Until my senior year that is.
At our September Senior Slam that year, I was approached by some of my friends who simply stated that it would be a tragedy for me to go my whole school career surrounded by black kids and not learn to dance. The exact sentiment was much more colorful than that but you get the picture. (NOTE: I recognize that this story relies on a racial stereotype, but the interaction is true. It happened. It was their sentiment. Not mine. I’m glad they did it!)
So, they dragged me away from my spot at the door and taught me some basic moves. At every dance for the rest of the year, a group of friends would get me out on that dance floor and teach me how to use what God gave me. We had a blast!
That brings me to a recent clergy gathering I attended with my wife.
After dinner, a very small group of us got out on the dance floor. With the exception of yours truly, we were a perfect picture of stiffness and awkward gyrations. I mean, it was a sight. But we were having fun and that’s all that mattered.
Except that we noticed the staff at the venue gathered in a corner pointing a giggling at our struggle to make our bodies move with grace. In that moment, I was faced with two options: embarrassment or empowerment. I chose the latter.
I stepped across the dance floor toward the group of snickering service workers and told them that we would love for them to join us out on the floor. They were stunned. I think they expected me to rip them a new one or ask to speak with a supervisor. Nope.
I asked the whole group to join us…and two of them did. It was great! We all got in a circle and did different moves. As each person would introduce a new move, the rest of the group followed suit. Soon the whole group was doing the same weird move. It was quite a sight.
Another interesting thing happened. Those who hung back dispersed. Apparently, it’s a lot harder to make fun of your friends than it is a group of strangers. In that moment, that group realized that they weren’t making fun of awkward dance moves. They were picking on people having fun. They realized that they were bothered by the carefree spirit of others because it attacked their own insecurities. I guess it wasn’t fun for them anymore.
There are lots of lessons to take from this situation. Two I think are particularly useful for our time are these:
When you find yourself tearing someone else down, ask yourself if you are really upset/bothered by what they are doing. If yes, then why? Is it really them or is it something inside of you that feels inadequate?
If you find yourself being made fun of or picked on, don’t stop what your doing to please the mob. Instead, invite them to be a part of the weirdness. You might be surprised at the response.