A few weeks ago I had a voicemail from a lady saying she had got my number from Jane (of Chiltern Academy fame!) and then she asked if I would like to teach at a disability dance festival.
Now I am generally completely rubbish at saying no to things but I must admit, I was rapidly running through a list of plausible excuses as to why I wouldn't be able to attend: Private clients all day that day! So sorry, I have to attend a funeral! What a shame I will be away...in Nepal...meeting with the Dalai Lama! Anything!
Although my mind was racing with excuses there was a little voice in the back of all that chatter saying, "you should do it Fee, come on, be brave, face your fears!"
And that is the voice that got louder and louder until eventually I found myself punching 5 into my phone to return the call.
You see, I am a nice, kind, loving, generous person (I think!) but I am absolutely shit scared of being put into a scenario where I might feel out of control. I have no experience of working with people with disabilities and I honestly didn't know if I was a big enough person to get on with the task at hand and not be horribly nervous and uncomfortable. An awful thing to have to admit but I realised I was scared of the disabled.
So that is why I returned the call and committed myself to this daunting task. What is the book called, "Feel The Fear and do it Anyway"?
As the day grew nearer I was told that I would have the least able groups of children and should prepare a simple 35 minute class with emphasis on arms as the kids may be wheelchair bound. OMG! Panic again!
The lovely Jane suggested I borrow her pom poms!!! (minds out of the gutter people!) They would be fun and make a good sound and be something a bit different.
I turned up to William Ramsay School last Friday with 2 bin liners stuffed with cheer-leading equipment and a tummy full of butterflies. The two wonderful ladies who organise this yearly event met me at the gate full of smiles and enthusiasm. They showed me my room for the day and then pointed me in the direction of the sports hall, which is fantastic by the way. I walked in to find probably 150 or more kids all chattering excitedly and I walked straight back out again, scrabbling in my bag for a tissue as the tears rolled down my face.
How could there be this many disabled children in this small area alone?
I was overwhelmed with emotions. I felt so sad that these children were having to face their own daily struggles, I felt so lucky for everything I had and I wondered just how I would feel if I had a child who was disabled.
"Pull yourself together woman!" - It was that little voice again!
I did of course. I cleaned up my face, marched back in and got involved in a fab group warm up that one of the teachers was taking. I watched every child's face light up as the music came on and they followed along with the hand shaking, head rolling, leg stretching etc.
I taught 3 sessions that day and I loved every bloody minute of it! The kids were so happy to be there, so enthusiastic and keen to join in and learn. They all face terrific challenges, some mental, some physical and some both but they weren't limited at all. And when I say limited, I mean in their enjoyment, which is what dance is all about...what life is all about really!
I was completely inspired by the staff that accompanied the kids too. I am so full of admiration for these wonderful people who were so patient with their charges. I mean, I experienced them for a day, but these men and women care for these kids every day. They must have hearts so full of love and compassion and an unending supply of patience. They also all had wicked senses of humour which made my job even easier, particularly when one group of female staff decided they might enter "Britains Got Talent" with their new found cheer-leading skills! They were pretty good too!
It was the most incredible day and I loved every minute of it.
I was completely inspired, and so glad I listened to that "little voice"!
I realise now that these kids don't see their disabilities. To them, this is normal. To them life is great. It is only us able bodied people who see their daily routine as a struggle, and are perhaps made uncomfortable by what we see as their abnormalities.
I hope to be involved in this dance festival again in the future. There was an overwhelming feeling of positivity and happiness throughout the day amongst the kids, the helpers, the other teachers and the organisers the likes of which I have never experienced in any other environment.
This blog is all about freedom and do you know what this day embodied that completely. Freedom, despite your physical or mental obstacles, to be exactly who you are and love every damn minute of it!