Millarville hosted their annual rodeo in the afternoon. This was to be followed by some family dancing and then a cabaret where the fabulous group, The Backroad Traveler Band, would play live.
As this was our first time being invited to this event, the agenda was fluid. Our understanding was that we would perform a bit, then invite the crowd to join in a few simpler dances that we could teach, then perhaps we would perform some more.
As so often happens in life, I was glad we had brought a good dose of flexibly in our dancing boots. It turned out that many families headed home post-rodeo which meant there weren’t very many families populating the family dance! The evening crowd didn’t show up until after eight o’clock so that left us, about twenty-five dancers, the live band, and a couple dozen cowboys and cowgirls; some who had competed in the rodeo, some who had watched and some locals who were part of the organizing crew.
Whenever my ‘dancing sistas’ and I find ourselves in our dancing outfits with music playing, it doesn’t take long before our feet get tapping, someone recognizes that one of our choreographed dances could go along with the current song, and we whoop and holler our way onto the dance floor.
That was the scene in Millarville on Saturday night. When we weren’t singing along to the familiar tunes played by The Backroad Traveler Band, we were on the dirt floor dancing.
At one moment we were dancing along to a Brooks and Dunn song and I looked outside of the open-air tent toward the arena and saw four or five children riding their horses in the beautiful evening sunshine. What an incredible sight. I thought about how lucky these kids were to be doing what they loved without a seeming care in the world, and how lucky I was to be doing the same.
The moment the song ended we headed to the edge of the dance floor to grab out water bottles and figure out the next song. We quickly recognized Take it Easy by the Eagles so we turned and headed back out on the floor.
It was at that moment it happened. A drunken cowboy asked me to dance.
To clarify, for the purposes of this blog, a drunken cowboy can be described in the following way. He had enough to drink to have courage to ask someone to dance. He clearly had enough to affect his vision so that my wrinkles miraculously smoothed out. He was not falling down drunk. He could speak clearly and walk in a straight line. And he could keep a beat and mind his manners.
When I was teaching students in grades seven, eight and nine, about five times per year our Student Council would host a dance. Prior to each dance my teaching colleague and good friend, Jack, would give dance lessons to all the students. The first, and most important part of the lessons revolved around how to ask a person to dance and what to say when you were asked. The answer we practiced was, “I would love to”. We practiced saying this with a smile so it would be comfortable. We also covered such things as what to do if the person danced in a way that made you feel uncomfortable, how to say thank you at the end of the dance and we explained that while saying yes once was appropriate, once the dance was finished, they did not need to say yes to the same person again unless they chose to do so. ‘No stalking’ was part of the protocol. In the midst of it all, we taught them a bit of two-step and a line dance and I must say we hosted incredibly fun dances.
And so, at this somewhat awkward moment of being asked to dance by a somewhat drunken cowboy I found myself uttering the words, “I would love to”, and before I knew what was happening I was whirling around the dance floor while the rest of the line dancers danced their practiced routine.
The teacher had become the student.
As we danced I recalled how Jack and I had taught so many others that when someone asked you to dance, it cost you nothing to be kind.
And so, it came to be that on a beautiful sunny evening in the Foothills of the Rocky Mountains, in an open-air tent, when a drunken cowboy asked me to dance, I chose kindness.
When the song ended, I thanked my partner and he thanked me (several times!). I made my way back to the safety of my dancing group and life righted itself.
It’s easy to choose kindness in situations we choose or that are familiar to us. It’s easy to be kind to people in our ‘circle of comfort’. It’s easy to be kind when it doesn’t really cost us discomfort. It’s also easy to think we would have been kind when we hear a news story about a person who suffered unkindness.
It is harder in the moment, when our actions may be judged by others or when we feel self-conscious or timid or embarrassed.
Last Saturday evening I had a choice to make. In some ways I was lucky. If my drunken cowboy had become a problem (he didn’t) I had a great back up crew, all wearing red shirts and cowboy hats. I still had to make a choice. I’d make it again. I’d choose kindness.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘How can I choose kindness?’
Elizabeth is a life and leadership coach in Calgary, AB. She provides leadership coaching for individuals and groups and she creates and facilitates custom workshops for corporate, public and private groups. Contact Elizabeth to help you or your organization to figure out how to create a kinder workplace or personal space.