It’s funny, but it’s rare that I’ve been referred to as “lithe” or “graceful.” In fact, when I was traveling with a choir the summer of 1988, I would frequently trip a bit as I was exiting the bus, enough that one of our senior group members jokingly told me he’d “just call me ‘Grace.’” I think this was why so many were shocked when I did well in our area Junior Miss program in high school. (I had good grades, I could sing, and I could speak well – but dance well? …not really.) I suppose this all took a bit of the sting out of the loss of coordination brought on by MS, starting 1997.
In college, my friend Angela and I found that we often had uncommon similarities, uncanny coincidences. We not only shared a middle name, but one of our brothers shared a name. And in 1996, we both received the same book by our brothers who shared a name. (Brother = Chris, book = The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett.) So it was that the following year, we were both in graduate school, living on different sides of the state. I was on campus for much of the time each week, and she and I enjoyed exchanging emails and keeping up with one another. Then one day in November, we discovered that our uncanny coincidences had not come to an end. I shared with Angela how my “gracefulness” had played itself out when I stepped off of a curb on campus, and I twisted my ankle – not quite a sprain, but painful and annoying nonetheless. And you know what? Within twenty minutes of when I twisted my own ankle, she had done the same thing. Same ankle, same scenario. I had been diagnosed with MS a few months prior, but I didn’t blame that – my “gracefulness” was something I was used to, and I wondered if my own luck had floated from Ball State to Purdue, across the “Angela bond.”
We both now have twin girls now (really!), but our lives have brought different “invisible issues” our ways. My M.S. story is one I share of here from time to time, and her story is hers, so I shall leave it at that… but I do have to share an online exchange we had a few weeks ago. She had made a comment that morning on Facebook about her daughter’s exclamation to the sun, hidden behind the clouds. Well, once the sun became visible here – a state away from her present home – I had to wish Angela sunshine like the bit we had here in Indiana. And the connection reappeared, as Angela had sent a response as the same time, mine appearing as she hit <send.> As I asked how her ankle was feeling (the one twisted twelve years ago), Angela shared a thought that brought both tears and smiles: *laughing* It’s good. If I’ve learned anything from you, Angie, it’s that problems walking needn’t stop a person from dancing through life. : )
Dancing through life? I’m currently in physical therapy – “gait training,” to be exact. My daughter chuckled and wanted to know if I’d learn to canter… but really, I’m working on walking without falling. I don’t feel like I’m dancing through life, so how has this been a lesson I’ve taught? My friend Angela is beautiful, talented, has a wit and a way with words to which I can only aspire… and a dancer I’ve never been. This goes back to that “teacher” part of me, though. As I’ve mentioned before, I went to college to become a teacher – have a classroom, follow a curriculum, and have a place where my students could learn not just the textbook lessons, but lessons about life and love and growing up and all of that. Then came a turn in the road (or twenty turns, or a cliff, or something of that sort). But the thing is that I am still a teacher, it seems – just not following a standard textbook.
So I suppose we can do what my friend suggested back in 1988, “Just call me ‘Grace.’” It is only through the Grace of our Lord that I am here and walking (though I avoid curbs), and even more so that I am anybody’s dance instructor. This makes me ponder: what am I teaching those around me? What OUGHT I be teaching? And we can each ask ourselves the same thing, I think, as we live and laugh and love and teach and learn and ponder and pray. And dance.