IDiary of a Friendly FolkDancer
by Bonnie Parsons


Home for nearly one week. Have already had the chance to share some of the thoughts and some of the dance. Praise God.

I have the desire to catch the blossom that has flowered on this trip.

I got on a plane and traveled to the other sided of the globe to make fancy steps in circles for a few weeks. The irony was not lost on me that I traveled jet propelled so I could match my polka and grapevine steps across couple of islands on the other side of the globe. Day after day, for three weeks.

One of the first things I noticed during the trip, was that the folk dance tour itself had much more to do with the community we made than with the dances we performed. Or should I say that the dances we did together were much larger and more complicated than those we performed in costume.

It was the dancing drew me and fuelled me to travel New Zealand; but it was the community that gave me something to do and somewhere to grow.

We were a crazy little band of Quaker (and not so Quaker) gypsies travelling in a van stuffed with costumes, hand-drawn maps, and songbooks, traversing the length of NZ, south to north!

During the three weeks, I learned a little some of what Quakers are and some of what they are not. In the silence of their worship I watched my faith-without-voice struggle to be heard. It was not a stifling imposed from the outside, but my own need to fit in. To omit the name of Jesus, who gives me purpose and peace, from most conversation--trying to fit in.

In the experience of listening in silence, the polar opposites of the compass turned me inside out in other ways as well. As a Baptist far from home, I often experienced being outside the "music" of the group. I experienced an anonymity I have not often felt; being strange in a foreign land with only Godís heartbeat to remind me of my name. Every Sunday I lead our congregation in song. To be left behind in the music of others was a humbling and not unholy experience for me. Because it was finally Godís heartbeat that I heard and not strange melodies. I just missed not being able to sing along boldly. But I know where the music comes from and I know where it goes when the notes fade. And I just had a different seat this time around.

As I prepared for the trip, I did my best to teach my feet all the steps they would need to fit in and maybe even--to shine!

After my feet were schooled, I gave a lot of thought to packing; packing for the physical and spiritual needs of the trip. I realized that the weight of my belongings would be mine and mine alone to carry every hour of every day that I was away from home.

My keen desire to take just what I needed and yet all that I needed created some tension and a very big challenge for me. To make the most of every minute--so far from home. So far from everyone and everything that makes me, me.

Next time I pack lighter. Funny how the things which held a lot of weight on the trip were just pockets waiting to be emptied along the way.

While I was there, I fought the urge to be preoccupied with luggage and stuff. One thing I learned was that the exercise of packing has as much to do with what we leave behind as what we take along.

And despite what all I took and my conviction that I often had "the wrong stuff", I had the Jesus prayer on my lips and a heart prepared to receive his blessings in spite of myself. And receive them I did. So the emptiness that I experienced as lack was filled with his blessing and grace as the pilgrimage unfolded before me.

And now back home with all the stuff. I have great need to recognize that the pilgrimage is not over and itís best to pack less and rely more on the kindness of strangers as God works his wonders in our lives. And that includes pilgrimages that take place at home.

Self-sufficiency calls us to responsibility for what we need; but that can also lead us toward a condition of pride that precludes the possibility of dependence on one another. Closing the door on the chance for reconciliation through receiving. As a dance troupe, we arrived in every town one dancer short for one of the medleys; we had 8 dancers and needed 9. That condition furthered the process of community-building as we always needed the help of the outside community. And the community we visited always held us more dearly because our dance circle included one of their own. The need in us made us depend on them and they NEVER let us down in this regard.

It reminded me of the bread-making tradition of by-gone days, in which a bit of the dough was kept aside for "starter" for the next batch. As we left a dancer behind in each town, the heart of our purpose to spread joy and share peace was accomplished.

So here at homeÖI will care less about stuff. Maybe move some of it RIGHT OUT OF THE HOUSE, to make more room for dancing.

And the silence. I will always listen for the silence beneath the praise and music as I worship at home. As I feel and remember the hands of my Quaker family reaching for community. Seeking the community wherever there is strife, wherever there is injustice. Holding the community wherever there is need. And my feet will remember theirs as I sense the dance that lives behind the music. In the silence where hearts dance like stars that love with abandon across the sky. Jesus calls us to love each other, to care for the poor and to seek the kingdom in his name.

Thanks for NZ.

Thanks for Quakers who think it is important to put on costumes and celebrate culture and differences. Who think it is important to dance instead of fight.

Who think it is important to draw together, instead of drawing sides.

Jesus, you rule.



Bonnie Parsons was the "non-Quaker" member of our New Zealand Friendly FolkDancers troupe. She is a Baptist and lives in Toronto, Ontario. Her father, a retired minister, has had ties to Friends since WW2, and has been a regular attender at the FGC gathering for many years. Bonnie is a liturgical dancer and, now, a folk dancer. Email: bparsons@greenshield.ca