I Hope You Dance

>     Who could not be moved, and inspired, by the news report of Ben Mathenia, age 7, who noticed his friend and classmate choking and successfully performed the Heimlich maneuver thereby saving his friend’s life? Following my amazement and glee, I got to wondering what factors came together to create that “happy ending?” I’ve come up with three.
    Knowledge. Ben was able to perform the Heimlich maneuver because someone taught it to him. Which goes to prove that we are never too young, or likely too old, to learn. Knowledge prepares us for the unexpected and, by so doing, gives us increased options when faced with unanticipated events and decisions. Even the first grade teacher who was teaching the class at the time said he would have expected Ben to call out “Mr. Miller, someone’s choking.” But Ben was equipped with the knowledge he needed to deal with what Life presented to him. And so he was able to step up.
    Presence. It turns out that Ben learned the maneuver from his father, who had used it on a co-worker. So there are two important lessons in all of this about being present. Although I do not know if Ben saw his father save a co-worker or simply listened while his father reenacted the event, but either way Ben was fully present whichever way it happened, and because he was he took in information that would later serve him and others. Secondly, because Ben is obviously fully present in his life, he was quick to notice his friend’s need and moved to do something about it. Without that presence, the story could have had a much more tragic ending.
    Compassion.  There is likely not one of us who has not walked or driven past someone who was suffering and, while perhaps expressing feelings of compassion, chose not to act on those feelings. When we pause between what we feel and what we think…thinking often turns into rationalization and justification that, in the end, inhibits us from following our innate knowing.
    Ben saw suffering, felt the struggle, had the knowledge, and cared about his friend. There was no time to lose and there was nothing to think about. Coming from a heart-centered place of caring, Ben reached out and his compassion saved a life.
    Knowledge. Presence. Compassion. These are the core ingredients of what happened in that Illinois classroom. There is much to be said about Ben Mathenia and much to be learned from him as well.
    Lee Ann Womack wrote a beautiful song that never fails to inspire me when I hear it…as has Ben’s story. I think the refrain from that song says it all…about Ben…and about what I would wish for all of us.
    “When you get the chance to sit it out or dance…I hope you dance.”

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