The highlight for the ballerinas in Saturday evening's recital came at the end of the night when each girl had her moment in the spotlight. From oldest to youngest, every dancer in the show had her own curtain call. Cheers erupted from the crowd as each girl emerged from backstage when her name was called. As show tunes played, one by one the ballerinas glided across the stage to accept a medal from their teacher. Then they stepped to the foot of the stage to face the packed house. As the audience applauded, each girl was met at the end of the stage by a family member who gave her a bouquet of flowers as she curtsied.
This year was our first experience with ballet, so this tradition was new to us. At our morning dress rehearsal the teacher urged all the parents to bring flowers, and hours before the show a family friend with an older daughter called to remind us that it was really important to bring flowers. Joe had already bought a bouquet of pretty cream-colored roses for Mary Ashley, and that afternoon I wrapped them in tissue paper and finished off the bouquet with a fluffy pink bow. I felt a lump in my throat when Mary Ashley's name was called, and my eyes filled with tears as she accepted flowers and a kiss from her daddy.
Before the finale, I had slipped to the side of the auditorium so I could take pictures. From my vantage point near the stage, I could see the sweet moments unfolding between the girls and their families. Moms and dads beamed with pride as they hugged their daughters tight, whispering words of encouragement as they reached up to give them their bouquets.
But the sweetest moment I witnessed came near the show's end. The stage was nearly full, and rows of giggling girls sat examining their flowers. For many of the littlest ones, this was the first time they had ever been given a bouquet all their own. Since the girls were called oldest to youngest, most of the names had already been announced when one of the last 4-year-olds was called. The little ballerina had danced her heart out, and she bounded across the stage to accept her medal with glee.
She smiled as she stepped to the foot of the stage, eager to accept her flowers. But no one came. The little girl just stood there, waiting for seconds that seemed to span an eternity. The applause died down, and people shifted uneasily in their seats. Heads turned and eyes scanned the crowd, looking for parents or grandparents struggling to make their way down the aisle. But still no one came. The little girl stood frozen at the edge of the stage, peering into the crowd, waiting.
Finally realizing that no one was coming, the ballet teacher slipped offstage to get a long-stemmed rose for the little girl. But just as she returned, a young man approached the stage with a pretty bouquet of pink tulips in his hand. "Good job," he mouthed with a smile as he handed the flowers to the tiny ballerina. She accepted the bouquet, then skipped to the back of the stage to find her place with the rest of her class. She looked content as she sat with her friends through the end of the show, proudly clutching her tulips.
I was so touched by the interaction between this man and child because it was clear that the two had never met. The color of their skin was different, and she was not his daughter, but in her moment of need this man was willing to step in to fill the role of Daddy. And in giving her a handful of flowers, he offered this tiny ballerina a bouquet of blessings. His actions said, You're special, I'm proud of you, and you can do great things.
"Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another," 1 John 4:11-12 urges us. "No one has beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us" (NASB). We must be willing to offer the kindnesses those around us need. Our words of praise may encourage a neglected child to grow. Acts of friendship may give hope to a lonely, struggling soul. And our steady presence and prayers may soothe a wounded heart. As we look for opportunities to show love to one another, on occasion we will be called to step in as mother, daddy, sister or brother. But with God's help, when we see someone on the edge, waiting, we can extend our hands in love. And stepping out in faith, we can help lead this soul to our Father, who offers His children bouquets of blessings that will last for all time.
"Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God. For, 'All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, But the word of the Lord abides forever.' " (1 Peter 1:22-25).