Thanks to the veterans and Anne Peterson at the Beacon Hill VA Puget Sound. We had a charming visit.
Highlights include meeting Jack who used to be a ballroom dancer AND played drums in a husband/wife band when swing dance drove ballroom out of fashion. You could see it in him too, long limbs and a certain presence even with his age.
Another bright spot was a sleepy vet that wandered right through the middle of the dancing to get to the coffee on the other side of the rec room. It was such a nice reminder that dance doesn't always have to be this precious thing pedestaled upon a stage but is really just another simple part of life.
As soon as I got home I got a nice note from Anne thanking us for our performance!
On a more serious side the experience let me to some further contemplation on the role of arts in the world. Upon first arriving at the hospital I feel shame. Who do I think I am trying to make a DANCE of all things considering mortality, loss struggle. Here I am youthful and ridiculously able-bodied in comparison to the residents, living a fairly sheltered existence.
Who do I think I am????
Of course none of the vets or the staff were thinking this. They are pleased that we have come, they are enjoying it. And I come to terms again as I have over and over with the truth that it is ok to be who you have become. Not everyone should be a doctor or a soldier and not everyone should be a dancer, and that is ok. It is ok that life places each of us in different roles. I am what this life has presented me, just as they are. I don't take issue with them for fighting wars that I don't believe in, they don't take issue with my years of plies and tendus and futile acts of movement.
They are happy to see us. Instead of guilt, I will feel happy to be seen.
I have a right to tell this story even if I am most likely farther from it than they. We all have a right to it. We all end up in it. We all have to watch those around us enter into it. It is OUR story. I just happen to have been placed in a position where I can tell the story. They were in a position to patch wounds or to fight and sadly to kill, but they rose to meet what they were given. I am in a position to be seen. I have a forum to 'speak'.
Maybe sometimes the graceful thing to do is to put aside our private neurosis, to not shrink humbly away on account of our own insignificance, but to do whatever thing we have been given with as much dedication and integrity as we can muster.
Maybe seeing a thing through is an honorable thing, regardless of what path you have stepped onto.