Today I volunteered at my local YMCA. I was the first presenter in their kids’ camp ‘try something new’ week. The new thing I presented was Zumba, and it really was new. Not a single child had done it before. Now I was told there would probably be about 15 kids there, along with a few group leaders. When I arrived and looked into the gym, I’m pretty sure there was closer to 40 kids, and I was told it was one of their biggest groups so far. Pushing aside my sudden nervousness, I started to set up.
As the kids trickled back into the gym after their snack a number of the boys said Zumba was stupid or boring and asked about other activities they wanted to do: Two of the those boys were bursting with excitement and energy by the second song.
By the time we were about half way through the ‘workout’ probably only about 15 kids were still participating. A part of me felt disappointed about this, wondering if perhaps I wasn’t being as engaging as I could have been, if I could have picked better music, if the kids stopped because they were tired, bored, or simply because they were mostly preteen boys who didn’t think it was overly cool to be dancing it up with a bunch of girls and the few boys who didn’t look like they could have been a day over six.
Another part of me quickly turned the first part off and focused instead on the kids who were loving it – and they were loving it! They crowded so close up to the front I had to constantly make sure I didn’t trip over them and two little girls even decided to dance right along beside me, telling me after that they helped ‘lead’ the group! 🙂
A number of the girls asked me when I was coming back, one said her mom would be so excited that they could now do Zumba together since she’d learned how, another said “this is like exercise – but it’s fun,” a shy looking little boy who’d been concentrating the whole time to follow the moves (though he’d hardly gotten any) rewarded me with a smile of satisfaction when we all clapped for each other at the end, and another little boy looked up at me, gave a massively big smile and said, “That was great!”
As I walked home in the heat, dripping with sweat and feeling good, I contemplated how differently the day could have been for me if I’d let my initial focus on the kids who drifted to sit on the sidelines take over. I could have spent the time I was there feeling as if no one was enjoying it, I could have left feeling like a failure. Instead, I know I just made a positive impact on the lives of around 15 children! And maybe more . . . one shy little girl who watched from the sidelines the whole time came up to me as I was leaving and asked when I was coming back – I told her I didn’t think I’d be back – I’d like to think that next time she has an opportunity to try something new she’ll remember she missed her chance this time, step outside of her shyness and join in.
Although I’m generally not overly shy and when it comes to something like dancing I’ve been the first on the floor more than once, that little girl reminded of the times I have let shyness or insecurity hold me back from the opportunities life tosses my way. Two important reminders today: 1) When I have the opportunity to try something new – do it – who knows when or if I’ll have another chance and who knows how much I’ll end up loving it. 2) Just like I’m learning to ignore that voice that tells me what I can’t do, I also need to ignore the voices that draw my attention to the negative in a situation and focus instead on the voice that tells me to open my eyes and take joy in all the positives.
On a little side note – the flower above was something I saw sitting in the middle of the sidewalk on the way home – I picked it up as a memento of a beautiful morning.