This I Believe

Mary Beth - Cambridge, Massachusetts
Entered on January 28, 2007

It was an anxious time . For months, I’d fretted about the 2006 elections, as I had for years about our nation. Closer to home loomed my risky midlife career-move, adding its own personalized stress. As I clung to the faith that both my country and I would resolve our respective dilemmas, life reminded me daily that faith was less about lofty thoughts and more about the daily business of just gritting one’s teeth and plodding up that hill.

But plodding is not the only way forward. One September morning at Boston’s South Station with my college-bound son, I gained some unexpected lessons in alternate faith-based movement.

Something was up at the station that day. Midst the newsstands and bustling commuters, a screen and rope had appeared, laying claim to a prime bit of floor. Beside the screen, a trio of musicians was tuning instruments. Nearby, a man in a sparkly black shirt practiced a few twirls.

I had to ask. “National Ballroom Dance Week”, the trumpeter said. “Demonstration starts at 11:30”. Later, my son’s train on its way to Chicago, I started to leave. But then I changed my mind. Work beckoned – work always beckons – but so did the need to sit and think . So I stayed to see what the rhythms of dance could do for an overtaxed soul.

As I took my seat, the dancers were in full swing. Defying easy pigeonholing, the dancers came in all shapes, ages , races, and abilities. Young women danced with octogenarian men; men in sneakers partnered elegant women in high heels. Spouses danced in practiced rhythm, as a smiling instructor watched his 6-year-old beginners with pride and delight. Two dance teachers in ripe middle age demonstrated the grace of ballroom dance, followed by a twenty-something pair dancing a cha-cha best described as hot. A retiree laughed in admiration: “That’s not my cha-cha! ”

As irresistible as gravity, the dance drew others in. An African-American toddler, resplendent in apple green, ran under the rope, and whirled her way joyfully among the waltzing couples. In choreographic endorsement, a group of backpack-laden students chugged in conga line just outside the rope.

An hour later, the dance ended, the workday returned. Dancing shoes were replaced by running shoes, the dancers returned to day jobs, the musicians went home.

Since then, my anxieties have eased. My side won in November, to my astonished joy. On the personal front, the universe has shifted, ever so slightly, in my direction. No one is out of the woods yet, though, and there is hard work, and, yes, more plodding, ahead.

But I take heart from that day at South Station.

I remember a middle-aged man, with the physique and fashion sense of an engineer, asking a woman to dance. As he takes her in his arms, and they start to spin with the waltz, his face is transformed by joy.

It was a moment of connection, of transcendence, and of grace. A scattered community finding a mutual rhythm, and moving forward.

I thought then: we could use a few more moments like these. I know now: there will be more.