Dancing Missionary


As a kid I was in love with the idea of being a ballerina.  I would cut out pictures from magazines and paste them into my scrapbook, I took session after session of dancing lessons in freezing cold church basements and I imagined myself performing on a stage someday.  In retrospect, I did not LOVE dancing, I LOVED performing, but for a few years it captivated me and I was determined to go become a dancer.

I would sleep on the pull-out couch on Friday nights and  on those nights I got to stay up late and watch the Dukes of Hazard.  Then one fateful day, I was sleeping on the pull-out couch and I ended up getting sick with a stomach bug and  instead of the Dukes of Hazard, I blearily watched hour upon hour of coverage of the 1984 Ethiopian famine.  It profoundly  touched me and opened my eyes to a world I had not conceived of before.  In the days and weeks following, the dawning of this new awareness, as I began to grapple with the enormity of this suffering, provoked in me many questions.  I distinctly remember asking my mother why we did not just put some food on a plane and send it to them.  Her response was that things were a lot more complicated than that and that that would not solve the problem.

Growing up in the United Church, I met missionaries who had lived in India, Guatemala and Africa.  It began to sink in that the famine  was one of many emergencies in the world borne out of inequality and injustice and that my way of life was extremely privileged.  I decided one day, that the best career for me would be to marry my two interests and become a dancing missionary.  I'm not certain what I had in mind or how I thought the division of labour would work but it seemed like a perfect blend.

My daughter was planning her career the other day. She was suggesting that she could be a police woman three days a week and do art two days a week. Or, alternatively, she could do policing one month and go to art school the other month.  She shared that "I can do anything I want, I might even work at a bakery too."

After hearing her talk about her plans for her career, I could not help but remember my dreams of becoming a dancing missionary and the unexpected way those ambitions were fulfilled and transformed.  I also realized that the questions of how to fit it all in and make sure we have a job that fulfils different parts of ourselves begins young.  These questions come well before the ones about "work-life" balance that seem to preoccupy  me in my older years.  It seems that once, there was a way that how to balance was not even a question, it was a wonderful, exciting answer.






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