I met her in Boston on a divine encounter at Harvard.
Her dad called her “funny nose” and it was a term of endearment for getting the family nose. Her mom died when she was young, but she remembered the time they went to the ballet together. It was awe-inspiring for a six-year old to see the grace, beauty, elegance, and artistry of the dancers on stage. The lines and rhythm, along with the poise and discipline, were mesmerizing to Alana. She saw in her minds eye a picture of herself as a ballerina someday. A year later her mother died unexpectedly and her world shrank into darkness.
She and her dad struggled in Eastern Europe to make life work. Her dad was a tradesman, but it was tough finding steady work as a shoemaker on the road. He played the violin and Alana would dance to amuse their nomadic companions. They traveled with a band of Gypsies for awhile, but the constant moving from town to town was exhausting. In one location they encountered a group of Catholic nuns who offered them room and board in exchange for chores. They quickly agreed. It was the first semblance of home life in years, along with a chance for her dad to start a shoe making business. The nuns offered Alana the chance to go to school. She and her dad would go to street corners and into cafes and bars on weekends where her dad played the violin and Alana danced to the amazement of the crowds. Money was collected in her dad’s violin case on the ground. She and her dad were close and their vagabond lifestyle was working.
She excelled in science, math, and literature and earned a scholarship to Harvard. I happened to run into her one early morning when I was prayerwalking around Harvard Yard, the place where all first year students are housed. I noticed someone walking with shoulders slumped, and when I got close I saw it was a female student. I said, “Good morning, what brings you out so early?” She replied, “I have a great burden on my mind and I need some time and space to think about it.” “I would be glad to listen to your concern, if you wish,” I said.
She shrugged her shoulders, indicating that was okay. She told me her story of coming from Europe to Boston to earn a degree from America’s most famous college, yet something was missing. She loved her first year at Harvard yet wondered if simply graduating from college would fill the void in her heart. “What do you think you are wired to do?” I asked.
She told me the story of going to the ballet with her mom and how that affected her. She also said her dad spoke of her graduating, coming home to eventually take over the family shoe-making business and get back to dancing on weekends, accompanied by her dad on the violin. Then she started to cry. “I don’t want to disappoint my dad,” she said through tear-stained eyes.
“Can I share something that helps me in tough times?” I asked. She shook her head, indicating to go ahead. “It’s a verse from the Bible…from a book of wisdom,” and I recited Proverbs 3:5-6. Her tears increased as she pulled the sleeve of her sweatshirt back to reveal a bracelet, and she said, “Those are the words on the bracelet the nuns gave me as I left home to come to America.”
I said, “It may be that God wired you to be a ballerina,” when she suddenly stood up and ran away. She contacted me years later saying she dropped out of school (with her dad’s ok) and was traveling with a ballet company in Europe. She thanked me for inspiring her to follow her dream. Walk wisely. You never know how God will use you to help someone succeed.
Love is a verb,