Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Our book group just finished reading “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. I made copious notes about this book, but it was not in the reading but in the discussion that discovery occurred. "The Alchemist" is the story of a poor shepard boy, Santiago, who strikes out to find the secret of turning base metals into gold. Along the way he encounters a number of people and lessons are learned, one of which was how important it is to have a dream and never give up on it.

I am not a dreamer and haven't been for a long, long time, if I ever was. When I said this, one of the wise women in my group asked me which character I might have been in the book. Someone else quickly piped up, "You're the crystal shop guy!" Lightbulb moment. I have settled into keeping shop with few dreams or expectations anymore. Not a recipe for success, probably, but comfortable and safe.

Sometimes I think I’m just taking realistic assessments of probabilities and being rational and reasonable, but I really think I lost the courage to dream long ago. According to the Alchemist, who Santiago finally finds and learns from, fear of failure is the most certain cause of failure when trying to turn base metals into gold.

Thursday night Walker and his dad and I attended a dance performance of young adult dancers, all of whom had Down Syndrome. The group is billed as Company D, and their performance was a thank you to sponsors of a recent trip to New York City to kick off the nationwide Buddy Walk for Down Syndrome.

Truthfully, I really didn’t much want to go. My back and knee were aching, and the prospect of getting out on a cold, misty night was not inviting. The very idea of sitting in a theater for a couple of hours to watch other people’s kids perform was about as appealing as watching the out-takes from America’s Got Talent. Thankfully, my affection for the group’s director, Darlene Winters, overcame my inertia, because it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in a very long time.

I had seen the company perform before, but never in a packed theater with lighting and makeup and a good sound system. From the time the lights dimmed until we were enjoying punch and cookies in the lobby, the show was a testament to dreaming.

Darlene was previously Walker’s speech therapist at Madonna Day School and a lover of dance and performing arts. Her first year at Madonna she turned their Christmas Pageant into a total extravaganza, writing appropriate scripts for the sixty or so kids with varying disabilities, ages four to sixteen, and identifying their gifts as she carefully cast the roles. One year Walker was actually the lead in the play “The Little Christmas Angel”, something I would never have dared to dream for him once I knew he had Down Syndrome.

Darlene has devoted over five years as a volunteer to develop Company D and was recognized as one of Memphis’ seven top volunteers for 2008. Her greatest gift, in my humble opinion, is that of seeing the beauty in everyone and bringing it out so that others might see it too. She has a knack of recognizing that a lump of brown rock actually might have a diamond inside it. She polishes the crystal and makes it shine, a laborious and sometimes thankless task, I'm sure.

The result was a magnificent performance that left me wanting to see more. The grace, style and joy of her company, not to mention their true talent as dancers, was a gift to all of us. One of the songs they danced that was identified as their signature piece was “The Prayer” sung by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli. The combination of the words to that song and the graceful ballet will always be etched in my brain. They closed with “Somewhere” by Barbara Streisand and Il Divos. (You can find them on YouTube.) Both songs sent an amazing message not just to the audience, but words of constant affirmation to the dancers. This was confirmed by the long standing ovation and cries for “encore” when it was over.

Darlene is a dreamer. Thank God for people like her. I hope I might someday ignore my fear of failure and follow my dreams regardless of how impractical they might be.


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