I was attending a dance practice on Wednesday evening. At these practices we do not learn new dances; we simply practice our dances for upcoming performances. Often, our instructor, Reba J, puts on music that is new to us and we need to be able to use the choreography that we know and apply it to the new music. Sometimes this is hard on the brain!
On Wednesday we were practicing the Cha Cha and you can imagine my surprise when an Irish melody came over the speakers. The song that was played was the exact song that was used when I first learned to Irish Dance. The memories that flooded back were overwhelming. When I was a young girl, my sister Mary was tasked with taking me to Irish Step Dancing lessons on Wednesday evenings. Mary would have been about ten or eleven and I was seven or eight. She had to take me to the bus stop where we would get on, buy a ticket and travel downtown. She taught me to watch for certain landmarks so that I would know when to pull the rope to ring the bell to get the driver to stop. This dance class was a haven for me. At home, our mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer and it was not easy to be children watching helplessly by. In those days the treatments were cruel and not particularly successful. The 20 minute bus ride took us to a new world.
Flash forward almost 50 years. Last week, Jim was reading a book called “Rudy, My Story”, by Daniel Ruettiger. It chronicles the life of the famous Notre Dame football player, Rudy, who was the inspiration for the movie, ‘Rudy’. Rudy came from a small town, Joliet, Illinois. After high school he worked in a coal fired power plant in his town, just like his father before him. Although he had great dreams of playing football at Notre Dame, he knew he had neither the stature, nor the grades, nor the money to ever get the chance to play. To Rudy, Notre Dame was simply a dream of a place that was in another world. As Jim was reading he got to a point in the book and said, “Just listen to this part”. And he read the following out loud to me: (I’ve skipped a few sentences in between these paragraphs but the excerpt is taken from pages 33 & 34)
“I knew there was no future for me in football of course. Maybe that’s why I tried to play so often. When would I ever get a chance to play after high school? I wasn’t going to college, and no matter how good it made me feel or how good I thought I was, it was clear as day to me that I could never play professionally. I knew I would never play with the gods of Notre Dame.
“Like I said, I didn’t even realize where Notre Dame was. It felt like a far-off fairytale land. That is, it felt far-off all the way up until late my senior year, when I went along on a religious retreat with the rest of my class to the Fatima Retreat Center... In South Bend, Indiana. Right on the edge of the Notre Dame Campus.
“I was shocked that the trip was so short. If felt as if we’d barely left, what with all the carousing and joking that goes on in the back of any school bus. In reality, it was only about a ninety minute trip from Joliet. Ninety minutes and we were there. That far-off place was real. That seemingly unknowable place was close.
“I could hardly believe I was standing so close to that place that had always seemed so impossibly far away.”
These two, seemingly unrelated non-events (hearing a passage from a book and hearing a song) have had me thinking about buses this week, and I’ve been noticing bus stops and buses and the people waiting to ride them. I think about Rudy, who pictured his life in his small town, and who had not had much experience outside of that. When he became brave enough to take a short bus ride, he discovered that the thing he had been dreaming of, the thing that could change his whole world had been right outside his door all along. He simply needed to buy a ticket for the right bus that would take him to his dream.
In my case with dancing, the bus was right outside for us too. Because we were children, it was our mother who had to have the vision to expose us to a world that was beyond what we could see for ourselves and to help us to take the first bus ride.
When I am coaching I ask clients to imagine standing at a bus stop with bus after bus rolling up to the stop. Each bus has a sign on the front telling where it is headed. Each driver opens the door and we get to choose whether we board or not. I ask the client to think about what possibility they are hoping will open up in their life. I then ask them what ‘bus ride’ they need to take to start that journey. Do they need a bus with a sign that says ‘New Job, or ‘Forgive an Old Friend’, or ‘Join a New Group’, or ‘Active Living’, or ‘Patience Please’, or ‘Live Music’ or ‘New Hobbie’ or ‘Home’. So often they are able to see that they do not have to sort out the entire logistics of their dream. They simply have to be willing to take the first step; to get on the bus.
When I was a little girl I didn’t realize that riding a bus to dance lessons would help me later in my life in a most unusual way. It, of course, gave me the opportunity to appreciate music and movement. It no doubt gave my sister a chance to practice being responsible. It gave her the chance, that she grabbed with both hands, to show kindness to her younger sister. It gave both of us the chance to face a challenge together. But today I realize that it also gave me the ability to see that taking a bus ride is simply a metaphor for taking the first step in the direction we want to go. Hopping on a bus for only a very short trip can change everything. It can change what we are able to see, it can give us a new place to make a start, and it can open us up to new people and new possibilities.
As Rudy says on pg 71, “An amazing thing happens when you take a leap of faith”. I sort of wish he had said, “An amazing thing happens when you dare to get on a bus”.
My inquiry for you this week is, “What is the sign on the front of the bus that you are waiting to take?”
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