Tonight myself and five students had the privilege of dancing the night away with a group of mentally challenged individuals in inner city Regina. Let me tell you, it will be a night I won't soon forget. My students said they had an awesome time too.
If you don't know Regina, you should know that the North Central part of it is considered one of the more crime ridden inner city areas in Canada. We were a little apprehensive pulling into the parking lot of the North Central Community Centre attached to Scott Collegiate high school. We were assured by our host Mariam (with the Salvation Army) that it would be safe. As soon as we walked in the door we were greeted constantly by many people there with warm handshakes, hugs, and smiles. People instantly took an interest in us and made us feel noticed to put it softly. We were soon shown to the kitchen where we would be making hot dogs for all of the people there. My students really enjoyed this and were so good hearted about it all, something that continues to impress me about our students at Notre Dame.
Soon it was time to serve the hot dogs, cookies, juice, and coffee. I couldn't help but notice how polite everyone was when they received their food. One cute little lady even tried to scam a few extra hot dogs so that she could put them in her purse and eat them for lunch the next day. When she was caught red handed she gigled and exclaimed, "But I love hot dogs!"
After dinner we ended up hitting the dance floor with everyone else. Unless you have ever experienced dancing with these type of people it will be hard to understand what follows. First of all people are not afraid to express themself in whatever way they feel. There is no such thing as self-consciousness. If ever there was a living definition for freedom dancers, they are it. You can't help but be swept up into this and soon find yourself dancing freely and like a child, laughing, smiling, loving every minute of it. Unfortunately our incredible evening soon came to an end and we had to leave to return home.
Thinking and pondering about this evening has left me with two thoughts: Firstly about labeling. In a culture hyper-aware of political correctness it is hard to know what exactly the proper term is to use for people with disabilities. What hit me again tonight is that though these people may have disabilities, the way that they live and interact reveals that in many ways we, the ones who are not mentally challenged, are really the disabled ones. Our social inhibitions and learned habits of being "normal" adults have handicapped us in ways unseen. We lack many of the freedoms that can be seen in people such as the ones I interacted with tonight. While we may need to offer assistance to help these people live in society they have much to teach us as well. I think the biggest lessons is how to love and accept others. Everything that happened from the moment we entered that Community Hall spoke of acceptance and freedom. From the warm greetings (how often do you get those today unless it is forced or encouraged) to the polite manners (another unfortunate rarity) to the freedom dancing (when was the last time you saw adults freedom dancing without the aid of alcohol?). Yes, we have much to learn from each other.
The other thing that hit me was a reflection on entertainment. We live in an entertainment addicted society. We are often looking for that next "fix" which will satisfy us and unfortunately the motive usually is selfish by nature. I see this so much with my students and their many forms of games and music entertainment. What I saw in my students tonight was something entirely different. You see last night there was a school dance and many of our students enjoyed it and had a good time. But the fun that my students had tonight would not even compare with the dance they had lastnight. Why? Well, I think it comes back to this word musing, the title of this blog. It is the root word in amusement, some activity which should make us think or ponder. I really wonder if any activites that make us numb or don't ask us to question ourselves or our motives, is really amusement. Rather it is false amusement, something I think our culture is full of. Activites that make people happy or pleased but do not stimulate any thought or reflection on our lives. I think Movies can be truly amusing if people take up the opportunity to discuss them and reflect on their connection to our lives. Otherwise we may be missing an opportunity to grow and develop. My point is that the event of dancing tonight with this group of people was fun and caused a lot of thinking on my part, thus it was truly an entertaining and amusing evening.