One of the things I love most about facilitating drum circles is the opportunity I am given, on a daily basis, to connect with people. This connection takes many forms. Sometimes there is a profound moment where someone “gets it” for the first time and opens up to the possibilities of community drumming. However, most often, these moments of connection are more subtle, and if we aren’t observant, they could easily slip by unnoticed. One of the most important things I have discovered is that we rarely experience these connections unless we are open and willing. I would like to share a story to illustrate what I mean.
Recently, I was facilitating a group drumming activity at a memory care facility. The participants at this particular event were at various stages of dementia and/or Alzheimer’s. Some were very engaged while others didn’t seem to even know we were there. At one point of the activity I was making my way around the circle, giving each participant an opportunity to play a solo or a short duet with me. When working with participants individually, I always start by asking them their name. As I approached a particular woman, we’ll call her Diane, I could tell that she didn’t seem to be very involved in our activity. In fact, one of the staff members told me that she probably wouldn’t engage with me. I continued toward the woman and asked her name. She responded loudly and clearly that her name was Diane. I continued with Diane and she played her maraca as I played my Native American flute. We had a beautiful musical moment and the look in her eyes as we were playing together was one of obvious joy.
On the surface, this seems like one of those profound and obvious moments of connection, and it was, but there was something more subtle that took place. I noticed that when Diane told me her name and began to play her maraca with me, many of the facility staff that were present completely stopped what they were doing and paid very close attention to what was happening. After the activity, I asked one of the staff members about this. She told me that Diane had been declining pretty rapidly over the past couple of years. Then, with tears in her eyes, she said this was the first time Diane had said her own name in over a year.
It’s easy to get used to the norm…another day at the office. This can happen to all of us. We need to be on guard against this attitude. If we are going to experience the wonderful connections that are possible with others, we have to be willing to take some action. Then, we have to be open to the idea that what we thought would happen might not happen at all. Perhaps, what happens turns out to be better than anything we could have imagined. So, be bold…take some action…even if it is as simple as asking, “What’s your name?”