To the Kids Who Stand in the Back:
I see you. In fact, I search you out. As the group walks proudly on stage, my eyes bypass those in front in order to find you. Don't think for a second you are too far back, that no one in the audience notices you are there. Because I see you.
My daughter used to stand in the back. When she was alive, she danced in the back row. She wasn't in anyone's spotlight but my own. But, oh, how she shined in that light!
She wasn't the best dancer, and more than likely, you aren't either. But that's okay. In fact, in my opinion, that's more than okay.
Because you're still doing more than the person who refuses to try. You're out there and you're doing it. You're doing it because you enjoy it. And that, right there, is everything.
My daughter, Avery, who stood in the back with you, knew you, too. Even if none of the kids in the front row knew who she was, she didn't let that stop her from getting to know you. She could tell me your name and what school you went to. How many brothers and sisters you had and if you had any pets. She knew that you were frustrated because you couldn't get a step, even though you practiced over and over and over again. She knew that it didn't come naturally to you but that wasn't a reason for you to give up.
She knew you felt picked on, that you fought back tears because for some reason the teacher in the front of the room felt the need to use you as an example. Telling the class over and over the importance of practicing. But that teacher didn't understand you suffered from a condition that made your muscles weak and that this dance class was part of your therapy. You didn't tell anybody that because you just wanted to fit in.
She knew that even though the class sees you as overweight, you used to be skinny. That the medication you take to keep you alive has a side effect of weight gain. But you don't tell anybody that because you just want to be seen as normal.
My daughter knew you were painfully shy and you suffered silently from debilitating anxiety. That for you, just participating was akin to climbing Mt. Everest.
She knew you ached and grieved over the loss of your grandma because your grandma was the only person you could go to where the yelling and screaming and fighting couldn't reach you.
She knew you came to class driven by a kind neighbor because your mom was always too drunk to drive. That you spent the majority of your childhood parenting your parent.
She knew that not everyone in the back row suffered. Some simply just weren't good dancers. But they wanted to be. And sometimes they even felt like they were. Even though no one ever gave them a compliment about their dancing.
And she knew that sometimes, oftentimes, the kids in the back row were the kindest. Because they got it.
And, so, when you walk up on that stage to your spot in the back row, know that I see you. Know that I am swelling up with pride for all that you have overcome. And know that I believe you are doing an amazing job.
And know something else: I've done the math.
See, there's only so many kids that can fit in the front row. Now, count all the kids that stand in the rows behind them. The majority of the kids in the class are not in the front row. That means the majority of the audience are here to watch those kids NOT in the front row. When that crowd erupts in applause know that the majority of them are clapping for all the kids not in the front row. They're clapping for you. Because without you there would be no performance. And, even if there was, it wouldn't have a very large audience.
Be tall and proud standing where you are. Because I see you. And know that I'll always be watching you dance.