Lessons from My Night At Alvin Ailey: Part One

This post is part one of a series of lessons I learned last night at and on the way home from seeing, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater . Confession:  I wrote this post in my mind last night as I went to bed last night. Then when I saw today’s FMF word was: Mess, I knew I wanted to try to write my story in five minutes for y’all.  And Ok…I failed. I wrote this in 15 minutes.  But in true FMF fashion I did not edit or over think it.  I hope you enjoy part 1 of Lessons from Alvin.  Part two will come next week.

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“Oh, Jesus! I am such a hot mess!” I prayed this last night at 10:30, high heels in hand with my done-up hair released from her duty to make be beautiful for one night now flat and wilted. On wet sidewalk from the drizzling rain, I walked home from the bus top barefoot and grieved over a missed opportunity.

“I want to love fearlessly and unconditionally like you, Jesus. But I didn’t. Fear got in my way, “ I continued, stepping over the curbside offerings of broken side table and kitschy lamp from my neighbors. “Lord, send someone brave his way, send someone behind me to protect him. Let your grace cover my mess.” I begged. Then I whispered his name into the ear of the Divine, asking Him to be as close to the boy as I felt His presence in the rain. I was glad I was barefoot because yes, this moment of lament was holy ground. “Be with Chris Walker tonight, Lord. Please.”

Last night, two of my friends surprised me with a ticket to see Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. In my younger, dancer, dreamer years I wanted to dance with Alvin Ailey. I had a jazz teacher who taught me to perfect my penche arabesque who looked exactly like Alvin Ailey. When he touched my core and told me to engage her and watch how my leg extends effortlessly, I did what he said, and stood amazed at my body. He then leaned down to my head, very nearly touched my grounded foot and whispered, “you are a powerful dancer”, and I thought…’maybe…maybe…quite possibly…there’s a reason why I view the world in eight counts and movements.’ So, when my girlfriend texted me that she got tickets and wanted to take me, that younger, dancer, dreamer Osheta came alive.

Walking out of the theater into the rain, seeing the world’s ballet anew and planning the perfect pair of leggings to wear with my new Alvin Ailey t-shirt, a young man approached me.

“Ma’am can you buy me something from McDonald’s?” He desperately asked.

Instinctively I clutched my bag a little closer, stepped back a little further, and paid a little more attention to my surroundings.

“No, no. I’m sorry I can’t.”

A lie. I was just about to buy myself a burger from the trendy café up the way—surely I can afford a three-dollar value meal. Surely, for this young man whose chocolate brown eyes held mine?

“Oh, ok. Goodnight Ma’am.” He walked off. I walked off.

And Jesus leaned closer to me, “Osheta, you’re holding a t-shirt that cost $30. Surely you can spend half as much for that boy.”

I sensed the conviction clear and strong. Not shame or guilt. It was a resolution to love.

I turned around, ran towards him in my leopard printed heels and yelled, “Hey! Hey!”

The young man, once again rejected, turned towards me and ran.

And here we were, two needy people running towards each other on the sidewalk, across from Boston Common.

“Hey, I can buy you dinner. What’s your name?”

Walking towards McDonald’s , Chris told me his name and that he was starving and that he was afraid.

“Why are you afraid?” I asked.

“because I’m suppose to be in Worchester tomorrow to meet my probation officer and I don’t have enough money to get there.”

He told me he’s schizophrenic and that his uncle kicked him out and living on the street he got in some trouble —which is why he had to meet up with a probation officer every two weeks—and that he “really, really, really didn’t want to go to jail.”

‘half as much daughter, you can spend at least half as much.’

“I’ll buy your ticket to Worchester, let’s go do that before we get you some dinner.” I promised.

Something in me came out. Maybe the mama? Maybe the Jesus? I don’t know, but this boy was mine for the next seven minutes and I don’t let my babies down.

We bought his ticket and all the while he told me of his troubles and his fears and thanked me repeatedly. All the while I felt right. I was loving like Jesus and waiting for the moment to naturally share my faith.

Burger King was closer to the T stop than McDonalds, so we walked in and Chris stopped me in the doorway and said, “Actually, ma’am. I wanted some money to get drugs. Can you give me some cash.

Red alert. Mentally ill, criminal history, substance abuse. Run away, my gut told me, ‘ you’re in heels for pete’s sake. Run away. He will hurt you if you say no.

I sighed the mama sighed I’ve perfected on my eleven year old, “Chris! No, no I can’t. But I’ve got dinner if you want it.”

“Only weed. I only do weed” he bargained.

“Sorry. No.” Then I stepped back a little further, paid closer attention to my surroundings, gave fear a little more ground.

And since I’m unable to endure tension without levity, quirked a little smile, forced a chuckle and said with as much black mama sass I could muster, “You want dinner or not?”

Chastened, he nodded. I bought him dinner. And here’s where I messed up, y’all. I wished him luck and then I ran (well more resolutely clip, clapped out in those godforsaken heels) away.

I left Chris alone. And today, he’s name is constantly on my lips.

I could have sat with him. I could have prayed with him. I could have been more open to the Spirit. I could have. But the moment he mentioned the trifecta of instability, I shut down. I got worried. I ran away.

But, maybe…maybe…just maybe…there was a reason I decided to hang back from my friend for the artistic director q and a, which had me leaving the theater at just the right time to run into Chris.

Maybe…maybe…just maybe our running on the sidewalk, standing on the sidewalk, our trip below ground, and through turning doors were all part of God’s choreography of grace?

Maybe…maybe…just maybe this is what it means to be a Jesus Girl. Maybe sometimes I get the steps right and the dance swells of shalom.

Sometimes I stumble. I run away and find myself walking barefoot in the rain with blistered toes and achy insteps.

Maybe…maybe…it’s ok that I’m messy. Awkward and unsure.

I think so. I think Jesus can help me perfect this precarious position of loving wholeheartedly in a broken world.

Then maybe…just maybe… like my jazz teacher, he’ll lean down to me and whisper in my ear, “you are a powerful dancer”.

 

Come join us, will you (and please don’t follow my example…actually write for five minutes. See, I’m such a hot mess I’m breaking rules all over the place?)

Visit Lisa-Jo Baker’s place

Give us your best five minutes on the word mess

Share it with us

Then go shower some love on the writer before you.

Love and Messiness,

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Photo credit: Paul Kolnik

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4 thoughts on “Lessons from My Night At Alvin Ailey: Part One

  1. Frickin’ beautiful and amazing… I’ve learned in my life to listen to those nudgings…

    I know it’s kinda against netiquette, but your story brought to my memory a similar story… Here’s the link. http://abnormalanabaptist.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/so-you-think-you-cant-help-someone/

    Thank you, so much, Osheta, for sharing… We have that conversation going on over on Facebook about theological doctrines and such… and I think we need less of the “doctrine” stuff and more of this kind of raw, wet, frizzy, fearful, uncertain narrative.

    Thanks again.

  2. Grace to you friend…I have yet to master the true 5 minute post but I feel you on this post. When I saw the picture and read your words I realized something I think I must have known intuitively all along. You’re a dancer. “viewing the world in 8 counts and movement” I so…get it. I think you walked in obedience as far as you could…and I think there is a beautiful synchronicity to the orchestration of our daily grind. Everything. Everything is about time/timing. You danced with that young man Osheta. Surely he felt a brush with the divine in your 7 minute duet – just as you did. And the rest….we leave to God.

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