Dance Here

I left the coffee shop where the local Occupy Chaplains were meeting to catch my bus home. At the bus stop, “Dance Here” was stenciled on the sidewalk. I smiled, reminded of Emma Goldman’s words, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be a part of your revolution.”


I have been concerned about economic injustice for a very long time. I was recently reminded of my first sermon when I found a Youth Sunday bulletin from the 1970s. At 16, I stood up before a congregation of white suburban, middle-class Christians and pointed out global economic disparity. Americans, many of us Christians, I told them, were living well on the backs of impoverished people around the world.


It hasn’t changed. It has worsened.


His thin, frail body hung in her arms. Thin herself, she stood before me seeking child care for her son. I looked into the baby’s eyes, smiled, and spoke to him. Behind the cloudy, hollow eyes I could see the Divine still sparkling in him. He smiled back at me and made sounds typical of a much younger infant.


Within this country, the disparity between the haves and have-nots has grown in the last four decades. I directed a not-for-profit which primarily served the poor and “working poor” during the 1980s as the disparity was accelerating under new governmental policies. I heard the stories firsthand. I looked into the faces of those who struggled. As a follower of Jesus, sometimes my response was to bend the rules I could bend, to level the playing field as much as possible.


The woman holding the baby asked, “Do you have any openings?” Though there was no room at the inn I  administered, the faces of the Daughters of Charity flashed through my mind. (They founded the program as an orphanage in 1849 for poor children). I walked this mother through the enrollment papers. The baby started the next morning. 


My wife doesn’t always speak positively about the years I spent directing that program. The constant struggles of an underfunded program serving society’s nearly forgotten, meant that I was often too tired to dance. It meant that my own paycheck went uncashed for days or weeks until the program could afford to pay me. It meant that I was often shorter with my own children than I would otherwise have been. 


Dance here.


The secret of surviving those years was to take breaks in the baby room, to read stories to the preschoolers, and to dance with the two-year-olds. I danced and laughed when I should’ve recommended that we close our doors. In a time of revolution, in serving families that society called lazy, incompetent, and undeserving, we found time for dancing in the midst of our tears.


The work of revolution, of heeding the Divine’s call to care for all of God’s people, can often feel oppressive when you’re enmeshed in the struggle. Don’t forget to  take dance breaks.


Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing.
  Exodus 15: 20 NRSV Read this passage in context.


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