It all happened with a letter. It was a letter from Samantha, a petite, pony-tailed, 10-year-old member of our red-bricked church in Lebanon, Conn. Samantha's letter informed Pastor Sharon, our minister, that she had an idea for a fund-raiser that would "knock your socks off!"
Evidently, Samantha had become aware of the frustration of adult members of the congregation who were struggling with ideas about how to raise enough money to build a handicapped access to the church. Her letter proposed a talent show for a fund-raiser. Furthermore, she volunteered to be the coordinator, stating that she felt she could fit this into her schedule.
Everyone in the congregation was touched by the letter. I wondered, as others did, if enough people would volunteer their talent to make this a success.
A week passed, and then in the Sunday church bulletin there it was, a notice announcing a potluck dinner and talent show to raise funds for the handicapped access project. After the time and date were the questions: "Do you have a special talent to share with your church family? Do you sing, dance, tell jokes, play guitar, piano, banjo, spoons, etc.?"
Samantha's telephone number, with a plea to "Call Samantha," followed.
I wanted this project to succeed because of this plucky little girl. I puzzled over what I could do. What talent did I have? I had taken tap, acrobatic, and ballet dancing lessons when I was about Samantha's age. My friends and I provided the specialty acts between performances the local guild put on in the small New Hampshire town in which I'd grown up. But the last time I had danced was in college, in a musical production. Now I was a decade past the usual retirement age. Could I remember the tap-dancing steps?
Looking through an old family songbook, I picked out a song that was the rallying cry of the 1930s, "Happy Days Are Here Again." At first I tried to sing the words as I danced, but I kept adjusting the song's tempo to the steps. However, now I felt I could remember enough steps to ask a friend to accompany me on the piano. We would call our act "The Young in Heart."
THEN time became a factor, as I was asked to take care of my two little granddaughters for two weeks. I admit I was relieved the following Sunday when it was announced in church that 12 people had signed up for the talent show. I was not needed.
Immediately after the service, I found Samantha to tell her how pressed for time I was. When she said reproachfully, "You are the only tap dancer," however, I realized that I could at least add variety. Thus I was committed.
Two weeks before the event, my friend and I found I needed one more step for a smooth routine. She offered to cut out some music, but I knew it was easier for her to play the entire piece. Somewhat discouraged, I went to bed. And the next morning, praise be, I clearly remembered another step.
Serious now, I practiced with a tape-recording of my friend's music we had made over the telephone. With only a week to go, I took every opportunity to practice. But as many times as I tap-danced the selection perfectly, almost as often I missed a beat, especially on a transition step.
There also was also a shoe problem. My low-heeled flats were one size too small. My toes were getting red and beginning to object. Finally, I found a shop in town that carried used tap shoes and I was able to rent a pair of shoes for the occasion.
The big night arrived!
A big blue curtain had been strung across one end of the fellowship hall, separating the audience and participants. I had remembered dancing as fun and was unprepared for the butterflies I felt. Though the potluck dinner was outstanding, I had difficulty eating. Finally, dishes were put away, tables cleared, and lights were dimmed. In front of the blue curtain stood a beaming young Samantha, master of ceremonies. The show was on!
Thank goodness we were on the program early. Soon I found myself walking onto the stage as Samantha announced our act. Practice paid off, and I danced the routine perfectly. So intense was my concentration on the music, I hardly noticed the standing ovation I received. (The latter could have been more for my spunk than for the performance.)
What really mattered was the large, supporting crowd, the sharing of many talents, and working together for a good cause. As I left the hall that evening, I couldn't help thinking of Isaiah 11:6 - "and a little child shall lead them."