Helping Hands

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always taken pride in the idea of being able to do everything by myself. When I was a child, I used to throw tremendous fits when my mother tried to teach me how to practically anything. Later when I began learning music, I refused to play if anyone imposed practice schedules on me. These days I dream of being able to perform maintenance and repairs alone on my Chevy S-10, and I also operate a sewing machine so that I can design and repair my own clothes. I cling fiercely – perhaps irrationally – to the idea of being ‘self-made.” I can be a bit of a libertarian, and this image of a self-made, autonomous individual may never lose its appeal to me.

Here’s the thing, though: I also realize what an illusion complete autonomy is.  All the examples I just listed of my supposed self-sufficiency are all really just fractions of the whole truth. I may have had the drive to advance musically, but I never could have started had my parents not funded my lessons and instruments. Any repair I make on my Chevy is in part thanks to my boyfriend, who already knows so much about cars and engines. I didn’t even buy that sewing machine — my grandmother gifted it to me. Really, when I think of all the ways I’ve been supported and encouraged, my mind starts to spin. I mean the list goes on and on.

So, when no one showed up to my first community dance workshop — the creation of which is a center piece of my summer internship — I realized very quickly that I had to ask for help. This project is not something I can go at alone. Ultimately, I learned that the process of communicating my workshops to others is not a simple instance of me offering a product or service; when trying to spark someone’s interest in my workshop, I had to also ask for their help. I began to tell friends, coworkers, and acquaintances that I needed their help with a project that I am trying to carry out, and that their presence would make all the difference. Basically, I had to communicate on a more intimate level which demonstrated that I recognized them as a person who could make a difference in my life, rather than some passive, replaceable participant.

Five of my friends showed up to my second workshop, and though I was nervous to lead, I considered the evening a great success. Most of all, I felt immense gratitude for my friends who, after only knowing me for less than a year, decided to come out and support me. On the third workshop, nine people showed up, and some of these people I had never met before! New friendships were made, people danced, laughed, and all the while I was overflowing with thanks for everyone who has encouraged, directed, and supported me so far. In the end, this project is not of my own making and doing, it is the product of an entire community’s effort to connect and serve amongst one another.