Jim’s Place: Dance All the Dances

by Jim Hughes, Pastor Forest Hills United Methodist Church

Robert Fulghum is a name familiar to many of us. He was the one who wrote the very popular little book, “Everything I Need To Know, I Learned In Kindergarten.” It was a fun little book of essays about this or that.

Fulghum recently wrote an essay I stumbled over called, “Dancing All The Dances As Long As I Can.” In it, he talks about why he feels dancing is in his soul. “I believe it is in my nature to dance by virtue of the beat of my heart, the pulse of my blood, and the music in my mind. So I dance daily.”

Learning the tango is his new enthusiasm. It is a difficult and complex dance. Fulghum says he is up to three classes a week, three nights practicing, and then he is off to Buenos Aires for three months.

The first time, he says, he saw the dance he was too intimidated to get out on the floor. He then remembered a similar moment in his life when he attended a Greek wedding. “The fancy footwork confused me,” he said. “Don’t make a fool of yourself,” I thought. “Just Watch.”

He said that an older woman dropped out of the dance and came to sit next to him. She must have been reading my mind, he recalls. She said, “If you join the dancing, you will feel foolish. If you do not join the dancing, you will also feel foolish. So, why not dance?”

Then she said, “I have a secret for you. If you do not dance, we will know you are a fool. But if you dance, we will think well of you for trying.”

I thought that was a wonderful piece of wisdom. And not just limited to the dance floor. I think the life of faith is similar. Lord knows very few of us know all the right “moves” when it comes to faith. We feel unworthy or unprepared to get out onto the “faith floor” and see what we can do. We are afraid of appearing to be foolish.

The words of this old Greek woman ring true: If you join the life of faith, you will at times feel foolish. If you don’t join the world of faith, you will also at times feel foolish. So, why not “dance?”

Fulghum went on to say, “I’m learning the tango to disguise a fearfulness. I fear the shrinking of life that goes with aging. I fear boredom that comes with not living and not taking chances. I fear the dying that goes on inside you when you leave the game of life to do nothing but wait in the final checkout line. My goal now is to dance all the dances as long as I can, and then to sit down contented after the last elegant tango some sweet night and pass on because there wasn’t another dance left in me.”

So, when people say, “Tango?? At YOUR age?? Have you lost your mind?” I answer, “No, and I don’t intend to.”