My mom happened to be visiting when my Zumba piece was first published on the site. She sat at my dining room table to read it -and a couple of others she’d missed along the way.
I re-read it too. There’s something about seeing one of my pieces for real on the site (and not just as a word document on my laptop) that always makes me a little giddy.
When mom was done reading, the first thing she said was, “Do you think that instructor will ever read this!?”
“No way,” I responded. “What are the odds?”
Out of all of the people in Detroit, the likelihood of this one particular woman reading the blog seemed so small. I thought about how, although I had been disappointed in the instructor’s behavior, I had no ill will toward her. I hoped it had been at least a teaching moment – if not for her in the gym that day, then for others through the blog now.
I hadn’t assumed a negative opinion about Zumba either. I’d gone into Zumba with no idea what it was and came out with even less of an idea!
Honestly, it never dawned on me that any Zumba instructors would read the piece. I had only met one and hadn’t thought that she might be part of a larger Zumba community. Frankly, I didn’t know there was a community (boy, was I wrong!)
The next day, I got a text from a friend in Flint, “I sent your blog to my Zumba instructor and she’s all fired up and wants you to come to one of her classes- let me know when you’re in town.”
It was later that evening that the comments started coming in- and didn’t stop for two days! (You can read them at the bottom of my earlier post.)
Not only is there a Zumba Community, it is big! And connected! And well-spoken! And very loving.
I have been truly blown away by the response. Not only was everyone encouraging and generous in their comments, but clearly committed to inclusion in Zumba.
A heartfelt note from David Topel, the Community Manager of Zumba Instructor Network was music to my ears. He wrote, “I will take your story to our global network of instructors so that they may become more aware of what this felt like from your perspective. We will have a global discussion about how to address and approach those who wish to participate when we might not yet have the training or skills to include them safely or confidently … And we will discuss basic human dignity when communicating with one another. These are topics that are part of our training but they can never be emphasized enough and you have reignited the importance of the inclusive nature of Zumba Fitness and how essential compassionate, respectful and effective communication is between instructor and participant.”
Hearing from David – and from Corina Guitierez, who instructs Zumba from her wheelchair, along with all of the other welcoming instructors from around the world, turned an awkward and disappointing experience into a really powerful one for me – and I’m sure for others.
I am eager to give Zumba another chance, now that I know I am welcome.
And I am grateful for the opportunity to use my words and stories to evoke conversation and action that leads to greater inclusion. This is how progress is made. This is how we learn and grow. In this case, it’s a workout of the mind and body.