(Dancing sculpture, titled 'Joy' by Bruce Garner, in Ottawa.)
A few evenings ago I attended a local Kamloops Blazers hockey game with Gem and three of our friends. To be honest, I did not really closely follow the action on the ice, preferring to enjoy myself in my own absurd way. I was more interested in observing the other attendees around me. Near me was a mentally challenged man. He was about my age, stooped, very thin, bald, with an oddly elongated head. His jacket bore the name 'Fred' in white scripted letters. Fred clutched a large cup of coffee in one hand and in the other held a noise-maker. The young man seated beside him, obviously his caregiver, frequently reached over and dabbed dribbles of coffee from his chin.
Fred plied his noise-maker enthusiastically and appropriately throughout the game. Occasionally he'd look over and smile at me, nodding and smacking his lips. During the first intermission, Fred opened a small backpack that has been lying near his feet. One by one he removed the contents, lifting each up and showing me the item; a large bar of chocolate, a pen, a pair of gloves, a knitted hat, and a small battered stuffed mouse. I smiled and made a thumbs-up sign, and then rummaged in my purse and showed him the apple I had secreted there. Fred grinned and then pretended to feed the bar of chocolate to the mouse, as his caregiver smiled indulgently.
During the second intermission, the presenter announced a giveaway called 'Dance for your dinner', during which people could stand up in the aisle, dance to the music, and the winner would be given a $50 gift certificate to a local restaurant. As several young people began to dance, Fred observing them, stood up, removed his jacket and shuffled to the aisle a few seats away. As the music blared, this small, elfin figure lifted his arms and began to dance, unabashedly and unashamedly. Then he looked over at me and gestured for me to join him. I smiled and shook my head, but this didn't deter him. He waved at me again, using a broader, more expansive movement. Twenty seconds later, there we were, Fred and I dancing in the aisle together. Beaming at me, he echoed the sign I had made at him earlier, raising his hand in a prolonged thumbs up. My small embarrassment disappeared completely and I just gave myself in to the moment.
Neither of us won the prize, but I am humbled to have been a tiny part of the heart, instinct and courage I witnessed that night. Joy, indeed.