Spark

“There is real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment.”
- Norman Vincent Peale

One of the things that I really miss about the Midwest is the enthusiastic way it rains. It doesn’t just sprinkle or shower. Instead, the rain comes down in bucketfuls, quickly filling up streets and creeks, not to mention shoes.

But the best part about the Midwest rain is the thunder and lightening. It lights up the sky like the Fourth of July. Everyone runs, bristling with excitement, for candles and battery-powered radios, just in case the electricity goes out.

Ka-boom!

My friend Larry reminds me of this electric excitement. I met him through swing dancing, where this 6’2” basketball-player-turned-swing-dancer performs in a way that lives up to his last name: Peacock.

Yes, Larry certainly brings his own style to swing dance. When you dance with Larry, instead of a dip at the end of the song, you get a “high-five!” And, when Larry’s not on the dance floor, he can be heard from the sidelines yelling, “Swing ‘er OwwwwUT! YAAAAAH!” as if he were at a baseball game.

But no one seems to mind. Everyone seems to enjoy Larry’s enthusiasm, and he definitely has added a new level of excitement to our small dance community. So when Larry organized a dance last Friday, I was more than happy to say that I’d be there.

When Friday night came, my friend and I hopped in the car, anticipating a night full of fun and dancing. We were not prepared for what happened instead.

As we pulled into the darkly lit parking lot, we were sure we were at the wrong place; there were only six cars. Our hearts sank as we looked inside, where we could see two - just two - couples dancing in the brightly lit room. We were indeed at the right location.

“Oh no” I said. “I don’t want to go in.”

After a few minutes of discussion, we decided to go in, but only to demonstrate our support of Larry. Clearly, we were not going to have the night full of fun and dancing that we had hoped.

As we walked in, it looked as if someone had let the air out of Larry. He shuffled his way to the front door, shrugged, looked at the ballroom and then back at us. “Everyone’s at the Swing Session's concert,” he said, in what could be the saddest voice I’ve ever heard.

We kept smiles on our faces as we handed Larry our money, walked in and sat down on the bench, where we’d likely spend the rest of the night. If we could make it that long.

A few more people trickled in and soon we had a dozen. Which isn’t a lot, but it’s better than a half-dozen. We were doing our best to look at the bright side of things.

About 10 o’clock, I was looking around, trying to figure out how we could escape without being noticed, when I noticed someone walking in the front door: an old, white-haired man, who looked no younger than 80, dressed in a suit and tie. I figured he was lost and had stopped inside for directions. Larry thought so too, running up to the guy to help him find his way.

But instead of asking for directions, the old guy handed Larry money to come in to the dance.

“What’s he doing here?!” I thought to myself. Everyone else must have thought so too because we all looked at each other, then back at the old man.

Oblivious to our stares, the old guy took off his suit jacket, neatly placed it on the bench and sat down to watch the only couple on the dance floor. As soon as that song finished and a new one began, the old guy stood up, straightened himself out, turned to the young woman who was seated near him, extended his hand and asked, “Would you like to dance?”

Seconds later on the dance floor, the old guy morphed into a young Lindy Hop dancer. He was hitting the breaks with flare, adding his own jazz styling and even singing… yes, SINGING with the music! While he was dancing!

Our jaws fell open and electricity filled the air.

Larry started yelling. “Swing ‘er OwwwwUT! YAAAAAH!” Everyone got up from the bench, headed out to the dance floor and started dancing. Extra women danced with other extra women. One woman even danced by herself. And Larry couldn’t stop yelling.

We danced the rest of the night that way. The old guy, who we later learned was named Arnold, had lit up our evening with his own unique style and special enthusiastic spark. And we saw how one person, no matter what age or background, has the ability to ignite a roomful of people when they tap into their own unique talents and gifts that they bring to the world.

© 2004-2010 Lisa Ann Edwards