Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Dancing at the Siló

In my last newsletter, I included a piece about a wonderful afternoon performance of Dance and Verse organized by members of the Siló community.  I received a number of responses to my newsletter, specifically about this day at the Siló, so I’d like to share a little more with you.  Here is an excerpt from my May newsletter:

As I’ve mentioned before, Piliscsaba is home to the Siló, a housing facility partnered with a non-profit organization in connection to the Lutheran Church in Hungary. Primarily residents with physical disabilities live at the Siló and receive therapy, care, and employment opportunities while living as independently as possible. On Saturdays I spend my afternoons at the Siló playing games and visiting with some of the residents who have become mentors and friends to me.

Zsotl weaves in and out of fellow dancers 
One Saturday in April we traveled just a half mile to the picnic area beside our church for an afternoon of Dance and Verse.  Several of the Siló residents organized this program with help from church and community leaders, and I found the performance to be spectacular and moving in so many ways.

 The dancers mobile ability varied from full range of motion to complete paralysis from the waist down.  For this reason, each dancer’s style was unique to their own person.  Zsolt, in the blue shirt used his wheelchair to weave in and out of other dancer’s movements while Emil, in the green shirt, used his upper body to interact with the other dancers, and later to invite me into the improvisation piece at the end.

Emil and another dancer interacting
I was suddenly startled to be in the dance, without any instruction of how to move or interact. And, though I consider myself a somewhat uncoordinated dancer, at that moment I became acutely aware of the exact control I have of my body’s motions, and I was overwhelmed in the realization of the mere gift movement is. I was amazed by the residents’ courage and grace to move in the ways that they can, and felt like I was physically witnessing the Holy Spirit dance through each individual using the various gifts and abilities they have. 

The pictures I took, and this short video, can’t quite convey the unique atmosphere under the picnic area that day.  However, I hope this video will give you just a glimpse of the art and emotion displayed.

When the performance started on this refreshing spring day in April, I began as a spectator—observing and watching an improvisational dance that starred many of the people I have come to know at the Siló.  One solo voice sang and chanted to the beat of a drum, and I watched in amazement with a sense of pride at the performance my dear friends were displaying.  However, towards the end of the performance my friend Emil caught me off guard and invited me on the performance floor, and in doing so he reminded me that this YAGM year is not about watching and observing.  This year is about being with and experiencing together the every day joys, challenges, and experiences of those in my host community.  

The YAGM program likes to recognize this as the "spirit of accompaniment: walking alongside global companions in a manner that practices mutuality, interdependence and solidarity." As many have said before, accompaniment is the "buzz word" of YAGM,  a word to live out each and every day. Though I love this definition of the spirit of accompaniment, I feel inclined to say that for me, the more important part of this phrase is not the word accompaniment, but rather the spirit.  Because, I can't help but think critically about the phrase "walking alongside" when I work in a place where folks primarily use wheelchairs.  How can you walk alongside those who can not walk?

 An answer to this question that brings peace and joy to my heart, is that it is the spirit that walks, dances, moves, run, and unites each of us to live out our unique gifts and abilities. And I have witnessed the spirit alive and well in the hearts in minds of the people in Piliscsaba, especially those at the Siló.  Some of the individuals I have met were born with their current physical capabilities, while others have lost significant movement over their lifetime for various reasons.  Though their journeys and stories differ, I have found a commonality in the character of each individual to make the best use of the tools God has provided.    

Living in the spirit of accompaniment has provided me opportunities to take notice of how God is intricately working not only in my life, but also in the lives of all those around me.  This is one of the many, many things that has transformed me positively as a YAGM, and one of the many things that will remain in my thoughts long after my YAGM year has concluded.

More later

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