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who receives the loudest applause?

June 26, 2010

I spent the day at the 2010 CSTD Queensland Dance Festival. Tap, ballet, song and dance. Groups of twenty-five and groups of two. Simple costumes through to groups with set that seemed Mary Poppins like to conceal far more children than it should. A wonderful day watching a generation give their best.

Some are clearly ‘more polished’ than others. Some seem ‘better funded’ than others. Some appear ‘more talented’ than others. Inevitably some receive louder applause than others.

It made me wonder why.

We don’t know their stories nor the stories of their parents and teachers. We don’t know how long they have been dancing or what particularly personal mountain they had to climb before they stepped on to the stage in front of us.

Once they have done what they came to do we judge their performance by the volume of our applause. We clap louder for our own kids because we know what it has taken to get them there. Then the adjudicator ranks them and somebody ‘wins’.

What I find inspiring about days like this is that the kids are willing to come back time and again and do their thing and then willingly submit to being judged by others who do not know their story.

It reminds me of an old man I saw walking slowly up a hill towards a suburban shopping centre that includes a pub. He was clearly having trouble and was unsteady on his feet. At 10:15 in the morning I can often to be quick to withhold my applause…

until I remind myself to consider what his story might be. Is he a recent widow on his first trip out alone? A cancer survivor, a diabetic who was told he might never walk again? A man struggling with an addiction without the support of family or friends?

Many people are willing to do their thing knowing they will be judged – and they just get on and do it. They know we will withhold our applause because we will judge them by some ‘objective’ standard, they know many will judge them to be ‘losers’ but they still step on the stage each day ready to dance. They are the ones who deserve the loudest applause.

Or perhaps we could just stop and give them a hand …

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