In St. Louis, Missouri in July of 2004 I attended a Grateful Dead concert with another friend of mine. The concert was performed by the legendary Grateful Dead. At the concert we witnessed an uncommon occurrence, a group of hundreds of people that were smiling and friendly without any signs of violence of hatred.
While growing up I developed an irrational fear of crowds; the thought of going somewhere and having to traverse a huge group comprised of people I do not know would cause an extreme anxiety response. My head would feel light, my heart rate would gallop madly, and my stomach would twist up in clenched knots of nerves. While all of these physical symptoms were taking over my otherwise calm and rational self, my tongue would seize up and I would clam up like an oyster protecting its pearly treasure.
So there I was, in a huge crowd of unknown people, swirling with color and vividly tie dyed clothing, and where was my fear? I was so caught up in the joy and wonder that I had forgotten to be afraid. I looked around me with curious hazel eyes and tried to soak up every little detail. There were girls in light, billowy patchwork skirts with their sandaled feet peeking out from their hems, there were guys walking around in cargo shorts dressed in tie dyed shirts and wearing Birkenstock sandals. I saw people with eye catching dread locks woven with colorful beads and other trinkets. I saw people selling hemp jewelry and eclectic collections of colorful beads of different materials. Everywhere I looked people were smiling and laughing and enjoying the bright sunny day.
My friend finally had to capture my attention long enough for us to find a prime spot for the concert. We settled on a patch of soft, lush, fragrant freshly mown grass on a gently sloping hill over looking the equipment laden stage. The air was filled with a contagious joyful expectancy. While we waited for the band to appear on stage, we witnessed the happy enthusiasm of the other people around us. The camaraderie was spreading and we found ourselves visiting with people as they wandered around spreading the happiness.
And then, it happened, the band came on to the stage and the crowd quickly focused its happy energy on the Grateful Dead as they began to warm up. The music vibrated up out of the ground and floated out of the sound system to envelop the crowd. Most everyone was on their feet and they started dancing. Some swayed to the music gently other seemed to be participating in some weird ritual chicken dance. Young or old, tall or short, they were swaying, twirling, and expressing their joy in the music. No matter what their occupation, race, religion, or sex, everyone there was caught up in the joy. For a few hours in a hectic life full of jobs, troubles, obligations, and worries, people joined together to experience the legendary music, joy, and happiness. In a life full of crime, selfishness, instant gratification and distrust, people were brought together for a brief moment in time filled with happiness and wonder. The music of the Grateful Dead brought people together in a peaceful and joyful celebration of life and music.
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