I don’t know if it was a step up or down, but in my teenage years, I can recall Dad buying, and preparing for our supper, a bologna ‘roast’! Yes, a roast. It was a large chunk of unsliced bologna that he cooked on our barbeque, on the spit! He even scored the top to make it look extra fancy, kind of the same as I’m trying to make it look fancy by spelling it bologna, instead of baloney!
In our house, baloney was a food so versatile we could have it at any meal. If Dad fried us up some for breakfast, he told us we were being treated to Nova Scotia bacon. He, being from New Brunswick, found this to be hilarious. He was perfectly serious though, when he served us the esteemed fried baloney sandwich, on toasted bread. What a special treat!
By the time I moved out and had my own home, I didn’t think much about baloney. I didn’t buy it for lunches, or for supper or breakfast for that matter. I didn’t dislike it, nor did I look down upon it, I simply discovered how many other options were available.
This week I’ve talked and laughed about baloney more than I have in many years. One of our dancing sisters, Donna, was unable to attend a couple of practices. She let us know this in an email and said, “When I come back, I’ll have to be the bologna for awhile.” Since I’ve often used this expression when talking about dance, I didn’t give it a second thought. I knew exactly what she meant. But the others in the email chain were flummoxed. Bologna? Did she mean baloney, as in full of it? Did she want this for her new nickname? Was there a hidden meaning?
I knew exactly what Donna meant. I’ve requested being the baloney at dance many times. Donna meant that when she returned, she’d like to dance in the middle of the group until she learned the new steps. She’d be the baloney, and the others, who know the dance better, would take up the outside positions, the bread. That way, no matter what direction Donna faced, she’d have dancers in front of her from whom she could get her cue.
In dance, there is no shame in being the baloney. In fact, it’s a most wonderful feeling. It’s a feeling of knowing others have our back. When we ask, call for, or move into this position, magic happens. Most often not a word is said. Seamlessly, the dancers shift around to position the baloney. Instinctively, everyone around the baloney understands their role. They are the bread. The bread supports the baloney; it prevents it from falling or slipping. More importantly, it is the bread that assures the baloney is not alone.
Bread is a humble food. We think of it as a staple. It’s a food we need, but one that doesn’t ask for too much flair, or to be the centre of attention. Bread knows its job. It sustains us. It fills us up. It’s a food we share with others – breaking bread we call it. According to the Urban Dictionary, when we break bread, we affirm trust, confidence and comfort with an individual or group of people. What a crucial role bread has. And what an absolutely precious thing it is to be the baloney when such support surrounds us.
I used to think it was somehow better to be the bread than the baloney. Better to give than receive, or something like that. I don’t feel like that anymore. I prefer to cherish my moments of being both bread and baloney. I cherish being surrounded by support, both when I recognize I need it, and when I don’t, but others do. I cherish trusting others so much, I can tell them I need help, knowing with complete confidence I will get it without a side-serving of guilt or shame.
I also cherish being the bread. I take it seriously when my job is to provide support until it is not needed any more. I like it when I’m part of a group giving support, but I also know that even an open-face sandwich is a great one. Sometimes, we are called to be a support all by ourselves.
At dance this past week, I noticed a new twist to role of the baloney. We were learning a new dance and as always, we needed several repeats of the steps. Our instructor, Reba J, who often leads from the front, or from one of the perimeter walls, moved into the centre. She became the baloney. We could all easily see her and follow her. It turns out, sometimes the baloney provides support for the bread too.
During the same dance class, Suzie, one of our most excellent dancers who had seen my hiking pictures from earlier that day, commented, ‘You are so lucky to have such good friends who show up for you week after week’. This comment resonated with me and I thought of it all through the dance class and on my drive home. In hiking, just like in dance, just like in life, I am so lucky. I have an abundance of baloney sandwiches. And in hiking, just like in dance, sometimes the best part of the sandwich is the mustard; the spread of laughter, the nudge of encouragement, the acknowledgement of success, the enveloping of friendship.
I thought I had given up baloney sandwiches years ago. I thought they were something we had because they were something we could afford. I may have stopped having them because I could afford other foods. It turns out, they continue to nourish me. I’m going to serve them more often. I can’t afford not to.
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups and has expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to find out how to serve a delicious bologna sandwich.