The Chance to Dance

Sometimes when I get up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep, I get some inspiration from – King Achashverosh – you know, Esther’s husband from the Purim story. When he couldn’t sleep, he called on one of his servants to read to him (it’s good to be the king).

Alas! I have no servant to read aloud to me, and I am not waking up my wife… So what’s a commoner to do? Luckily, I have an equivalent source of good reading. I have to read to myself.

In those insomniac times, I peruse my Evernote account, which is jammed with hundreds of articles I’ve clipped, recipes, sermon ideas, links to various music and movie websites, etc. I’ll often randomly click here and there and see what interests me at a particular time.

This is how I found an article from the New York Times I’d clipped 17 years ago. It’s about Joann Ferrara, a physical therapist who runs a special ballet class in Bayside, Queens, NY. Once a week, she instructs eight girls, all of whom have cerebral palsy and other debilitating physical conditions, in the art of ballet.

Some girls can’t walk; others wear braces or need canes and walkers. The girls all know that they are not like “the others.”  They already know that they will never run, jump, or walk without assistance. But their mobility limitations have not extinguished their dreams of wearing a pink tutu and fluttering across the stage. 

Ms. Ferrara heard those wistful dreams and came to a decision. There had to be a way to help these resilient, resolute girls fulfill their deepest, most wistful desire. “I just want them to feel the sheer joy of moving and to be proud of themselves,” Ms. Ferrara said. She assigned each girl an assistant to help them move their bodies and take their positions. “The girls stood in a line onstage, supported by their assistants behind them, lifting and turning them to the music.”  Who were these teen assistants? Angels, no doubt.

Some of our children will cure diseases. Or write a great novel. Or defend an innocent person. Or help people plan exciting events. Or fix a broken bone. Or build a beautiful building. We depend on them to move our awkward civilization forward with good works, generosity, and Jewish values planted deeply in their hearts.

And some of our children will, with difficulty, get by. They will file folders. Or serve French fries. Or bag groceries. And we, their parents, grandparents, relatives, friends, or neighbors, will pray for them. A lot. For the littlest things like kindness and mercy. And we pray that a woman like Joann Ferrara might appear in their lives – and thus, in our lives, granting us blessing, shedding God’s sweet love with her holy acts of understanding and grace. Now that’s a bedtime story worth reading. Every night.

Shabbat Shalom.


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