Groovy Sign Dancers

Image from LA Times

Seriously though, who are these sign dancers? They really need a new reality show called “So you think you can dance…with a sign”. I love them! Some of the dancers are so enthusiastic, in the middle of traffic, busting out to a tune with a sign flip here and there, trying to get your attention to go buy pizza. But I get so nervous whenever I am stuck next to them, because I never know if I should look at them or pretend that I can’t see them. Eye contact is confusing because I don’t want them to think I am judging them in a negative light and I also feel like maybe I should react in some way like give a thumbs up or roll my window down and say, “thanks for the show”. I get sweaty trying to decide how I should respond- what do they need…should I throw out a tip, a whistle???? I get nervous for them and think,

“Everyone is watching you! We are not supposed to do weird things like that”. And “Come on green light”.

But I really dig what they are doing, just listening to their own song, dancing up a storm and not caring about what others think. I am curious about how uncomfortable I feel around people doing these strange displays of oddity or even the ones that break the personal space bubble or ideals of our culture of what is “OK” or “normal”. Why are we so uncomfortable? I bet you are too…we are afraid they are going to ask us to join.

The other day I was walking in downtown Boise with my hubby at night, and it seemed like I was at a free circus because there were so many people making me feel wonderfully uncomfortable. On our way to dinner, the guy standing quietly next to us at the stop light all of a sudden jumped to the left. We looked out of the corner of our eyes, afraid to make full eye contact at this point. He starts dancing and it’s groovy and fresh (I don’t know what “fresh” means, but I am thinking  its different from all the other boring people walking around). I want to stay and watch him and fully experience what he is doing and find out why. He dances away and we watch him as we walk the opposite direction (my husband from the country was very uncomfortable) and he is dancing down the street, freaking everyone out. The crowd assumes he is on drugs, but maybe he is not- why do we have to be on drugs to do strange, awkward, brilliant, random movements down the street?

The next encounter was with a man that was holding a card board sign. I again peer out from the corner of my eye, because heaven forbid I actually engage with this person with my full attention- they could want something from me and society tells me we “shouldn’t give to the homeless”. I don’t mean to follow societies expectations, but I get so nervous going outside of its ideals (I hate that)!

The sign reads: “$1 for some really bad advice”. Like a kid at Chuck E Cheese I want to spend my dollars on this game. What a creative way to make money and I can only imagine what hilarious bad advice he had to offer the needy public. But everyone was too afraid to engage- and like the rest of them, we walked on by. After dinner, I looked all over for him because I found a dollar in my purse, but he was off to a better street, hopefully. What an encounter I missed out on, because I was in a hurry to stuff my face with food and also unsure, again, on how to respond to this strange presentation in front of me.

On our way back to the car we heard music up ahead. It’s a cute street band of teenagers; whether they were high or not, it doesn’t change the fact that teenagers are terrifying to adults. Teenagers make us nervous just being in the same area- their goal is to shock us and make us have to answer questions that we will always get wrong. Being around teens takes all of us adults immediately back to high school where we don’t fit in or believe that everyone around us is staring at us and judging our every move. I love teens though, they are so awkward and think they know everything and they are passionate about life in a way most adults have forgotten how to be. Their goal in life is to be weird, try to make a statement of any sort and to make sure you know that they are not like anyone else (which usually ends up looking exactly like everyone else).

The band is horrible, but passionate and full of antics and dance moves. God bless the elderly couple that stops to clap along, their “teenage-sensors” have been dismantled in some way (few). Just as we were about to walk by them, the guy playing an electric guitar, that is not plugged into an amp, jolts in front of us and skids on his knees while playing his soundless guitar like he is in a 90’s rock music video. I’m sure in his mind the entire block of people surround him and fireworks are shooting out all around him. He is like “Yeah!” And he is totally uninhibited by the reactions, or lack of reactions, going on around him. I want to say “awesome” or “rock on”, but even though I love them to death, teenagers still make me nervous and I don’t think I am cool enough to even comment.

A big part of me wants to go sit next to them and just be their audience, since no one else is. I want to reinforce the ideas that you can be creative and loud and it’s ok, even if it’s terrible, it’s you and I love it. Don’t let the world take that away from you! I smile and clap quickly and run to catch up with my husband who is out of his element and walking quickly to the car.

As a “people studier”, which isn’t even a real word or occupation, I really enjoy watching others (creepy) and seeing how people react or how they decide to move in the life they have been given. I always find myself curious about what other people are doing with their time- or when we are stuck in traffic, I want to roll down my window and ask people where they are going. Where is everyone going though, seriously? How can we walk through downtown Boise, surrounded by people and not be curious about what everyone else is doing? It’s a part of our culture of desensitization I believe, we learn quickly that caring is really hard and with opening up conversations with people it puts burden on us to decide how we will react. Will we put $20 in for the bad advice or will we not because we don’t know what he will do with the money?

We start to judge others immediately by our own experiences. We watched the CNN news excerpt where we learned that a homeless man makes $5,000 a month begging for money. From our own experiences, we decide that we will never give money to homeless people again. But this is a small example of a missed opportunity to engage with people. It could be that all that this person wanted was human interaction, a glimpse of hope by seeing people care, or even just a cheeseburger. We don’t know his story, so why do we assume he is “just like the rest of them”?

Well…..I don’t want to shy away from human interaction because of the reasons that it makes me feel strange or that I am confused by how I should react. The times where I have reacted boldly have been some of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Those that know me know that I love Jesus and think that his example of loving the unlovable is something we all should be striving for, regardless of how we “feel” or “think”. I get emotional when I see people that call themselves “Christ followers”, out there actually loving people no matter what those people they are loving will do with it- otherwise known as unconditional love. The people that skip church sometimes to go down to the underground societies to wash people’s feet and feed those that need it, despite what others think those people “deserve”, I dig those people. Or the ones that actually stop and talk to people despite their own fears of rejection….they are willing to risk rejection for loving someone else…I want to be that person.

My new goal is to fight the cultural-religious-built -in ideals in my mind, and be free from caring what others think about my possibly embarrassing reactions/actions. If my heart is telling me to go dance with the homeless lady, I should. If I feel led to get out and tell the sign dancer that they are awesome to watch, I want to follow through. If a teenager is next to me, I should fight the urge to move away and possibly be the person that reflects back hope in some way- that being weird is OK and that they will see a reflection of Jesus’ unconditional, groovy, love by my action/reaction. God made us all weird in special ways, why do we try to be the same as everyone else?

If you can’t shake your booty with a sign, I sure hope you can at least appreciate those that can. I know I always think, “I wonder how much they are getting paid to do that?” Is the wage based on one’s dancing skills? Is there a try out for the sign job? I did have the privilege to watch a manager of sorts telling a new employee how to “Do the sign dance”. It was a priceless moment in traffic jam history for me. The manager didn’t care what others thought of him either, and did some sign tricks that most sign swingers would aspire to and then traded off with the employee who nervously found his beat. All of these things are going on around us, but we tighten up our doors of openness when diversity or strangeness walks in the door. I believe we are missing out on a lot by trying to only look out of one eye. The people around us are effected by our reactions- as much as we would like to believe that we are all alone in our own little world driving down the street, the fact is that there are many other worlds driving right next to you- some on their way to do something terribly hard, some with recent broken hearts, and  some that just don’t think they add up in this life.

I challenge myself to a dance off: to do something strange this week that requires some risk, like visiting more with the people in the grocery line or going out of my way to make eye contact with the teenager sitting out front of the store with a back pack that looks like its holding all of their belongings. The ripple effects of what we do will last for generations- we need to stop being self conscious and step up  to the plate of caring or acting in the one way that we know we have been holding back from!

And if you feel stuck in a rut of “fear of what others will think”, maybe you should apply for a sign job, just to get out and get funky.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.” 1Corinthians 12:4-8

Check out this sign dancer!!! Click on the link to have your mind blown by sign dancing:

*Side Note: I am sorry if you signed up for emails from this blog and you recently received an adorable collection of pictures of my children. I am still learning how to blog and I have 2 blogs- one is for gushing about my children, which I know only family would really appreciate. #Sorry #Hope you enjoyed the rendition of our Saturday at Idaho City! Haha.

Thanks for reading!


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