I thought it was a joke at first. I burst out laughing when Linda Minks Hood, my friend and high school classmate, asked me to be on Chattanooga’s Dancing With The Stars.
Hahahahah! I felt like I was sixteen again, being pranked by another girl at school. Thirty eight years and four months ago (not that I remember exactly) an underclassman disguised her voice and acted like she was some big time magazine editor from NYC, and I fell for it hook, line and sinker. Everyone was in hysterics the next day at school, and I can still hear shrill laughter echoing down the halls. I wasn’t about to fall for it this time.
But Linda wasn’t laughing.
All I could think about was trying to look coordinated in front of hundreds of people and being too tall. It didn’t occur to me during the phone call that I would be wearing a sparkling spandex costume. A small one.
I try to remember the last time I put on a bathing suit. It’s a ‘swim dress’ now, and I haven’t worn it in mixed company in years. Decades, now that I think about it.
Linda thought she was encouraging me when she told me she had danced with the stars herself. Ha! Have you seen Linda? She looks about half her age, is gorgeous and can rock a strip of spandex. She should be dancing with the stars.
When I realized she was serious, I told her I would think about it. And I thought of every reason NOT to do it. Beginning with making a fool of myself, and ending with making a fool of myself. With a lot of thoughts of being the laughing stock thrown in.
And the money part was intimidating. As a dancer I am responsible for raising lots of money for the Partnership. Lots. And I wasn’t even sure exactly what the Partnership was.
So I googled the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults, which is the point of the whole dancing production. I knew the Partnership was behind the Times Free Press Neediest Cases Fund that runs during the holidays, but that was the extent of my familiarity. I quickly learned that this non-profit human services agency offers 20 programs, all focused on improving the lives of vulnerable individuals, from unborn children to seniors nearing the end of their lives. Professional counseling, crisis intervention and education and prevention services are all in place and through them the Partnership is able to meet the ever-changing needs of the families and individuals in need.
From the Building Stable Lives program in Alton Park, East Lake and East Chattanooga to Family Financial Counseling and from the Family Violence Center and the Crisis Hotline, the Partnership actually changes lives. The Deaf Services offer interpreting, job-training and placement, and advocacy. The services for youth include foster care placement and the In-Home Care program for seniors also addresses elder care management and offers a Victims of Crime program. There is a lot going on within this Partnership, and all if it is good and necessary and, well, life-changing to the beneficiaries.
So I tried to calm my roiling stomach as I finally agreed to Dance. With. The. Stars. I really haven’t said that entire sentence out loud yet. One word at a time, right?
I looked around the table at my first meeting and listened to the other dancers name their favorite style of dance. Ballroom. Swing. Salsa.
It is almost my turn and I panic. I have no idea! I don’t know anything about any style of dance and realize I am out of my league, that indeed I am going to make a fool of myself.
“Zumba?” I say and everyone laughs. But that was not a joke. I wonder if it’s too late to bail. If Linda can get a replacement.
Karen Murphy, Resource Development Director for the Partnership, can read minds. I believe she saw my crumbling face and my trembling hands when she spoke.
“Thank you all for dancing,” she said. “But this is not about you. This is about Kathy and her six children getting out of a home where they were all badly abused. This is about Betty, an eighty-year old being cared for after she was robbed blind by family members. This is about Rob learning financial stability after losing his job and his home.”
I let her words sink in. Those may not have been her exact words but her message was clear.
So, yes, if making a fool of myself can help these people, let the laughing begin.
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