. . . I remain a prisoner of hope and joy!

Sometimes the hits just keep coming. My vessel gets weary. Feels tossed from side to side after taking hit after hit after hit. And I'm hanging on by a toenail for dear life. Don't know how I can take any more. And then I remember I have an anchor. And that means that even though I may feel unsteady, I don't have to hold on so tight. I'm secure. And I remember it's in the eye of the storm that there is calm. Peace. So I take the time to be still. And in that stillness I realize that in spite of it all, I'm still standing. And that while the storm all around me may be fraught with peril, all storms come to an end. And that while it may not be easy to weather the storm, this too shall pass. So I lift my head and raise my hands in gratitude for my blessings--those I have and those I have faith are on the way. Why? Because I remain a prisoner of hope and joy.
 
 
I had the pleasure of attending a jazz concert in Paris headlined by a band from New Orleans.  The band's goal was to show France that the music of New Orleans was not lost with Hurricane Katrina. During the concert, most of the French audience was very reserved, displaying little outward manifestation of enjoyment.  From my experience living among the French, they can be having a joyous time but are typically more reserved than Americans about showing it.  Well, needless to say, the Americans in the audience had no such reservations.  Initially, we tried to blend in with the French by mimicking them--we gently patted our feet.  But the band was asking for more.  Accustomed to playing for American audiences, they began clapping their hands, swinging their instruments from side to side, and gesturing for the audience to follow their lead.  Seeing the disappointment on their faces when no one joined in, the Americans gave them what they were seeking.  We stood, clapped our hands, and swung from side to side.  The band started high-stepping and swinging more, thanking us for joining in.  Meanwhile, most of the French audience watched us, smiling politely.  At the time, we were a little embarrassed given the setting.  We could just hear the French saying "those Americans!"  But then the band told the audience that the participation made them feel loved and boosted their spirits because many of them lost everything after Hurricane Katrina.  All was well.

After the concert, a few of us Americans walked to the metro to catch our trains home.  As we stood on the platform, a group of French people who attended the concert walked up to us and expressed how much they enjoyed the concert and our dance with the band. When we told them we thought they were offended, they said they were actually thrilled.  They said they wanted to jump up and dance with us, but did not do so because they tend to be reserved.  But then right there on the metro platform, they asked us to teach them how to swing.  Then and there, we made our own music, and they danced and danced.  And then we noticed that the people on the opposite platform were dancing along, too. It was a sight to behold.  The music of the night created joy that, in the end, united people.  Nothing else mattered.