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Dancing and Singing with the Girls of Emerge

By Ciara Post, Emerge Intern

For much of my time here, I have no words. I so often feel great joy and great sadness at the same time; joy for where the girls are going and sadness for where they have been; entering a shelter and receiving warm hugs and bright eyed grins, but leaving teary eyed “remember me’s” and “please take me with you’s” as I freely walk out the doors.

I wear a ring on the middle finger of my left hand. Centered on the silver band is a cross, worn soft by the girl who gave it to me. “To remember me,” she had said. She possessed so little, yet she gave so much. “No, no, no,” was my response.

“You don’t think it’s beautiful?” she asked. “No it is so beautiful.” “Then take it.” “Okay,” she undid the chain around her neck and took the ring off of it. She slid the ring onto my finger. “Thank you.” “You promise you won’t forget me?” “I promise.”

My last day in this specific shelter was our Christmas party. We arrived at 12:30 and left at 5:00. Emerge brought speakers and music and presents and food. For close to three consecutive hours, we danced. At first, I was a bit unsure, but soon, the girls made me feel like I was a little kid again. We spun each other in circles; taught each other dance moves (me struggling much more than them); we jumped up and down; we danced and danced and danced. Exhausted, I would sit down, but no more than thirty seconds later; a completely energized girl would be in front of me with her hand out. She would lead me to a grinning circle of girls and it would start all over again. The dancing was filled with so much playfulness and happiness and for several of them, a whole lot of talent.

The music stopped, and the girls, a bit disappointed, gathered around the staff. We gave out presents and hugs and “Merry Christmas’s.” Afterwards, the girls sat on the ground, their long vibrant skirts coloring the concrete floor. Individually, they sang. With stunning voices, they each sang haunting songs laced with grief and loss.

“We need to teach them other songs,” Mumtaz said, “They’re singing sad songs because these are the only ones they know.”

“Oh,” I said. That explained the feeling I felt in my stomach and chest and in the back of my throat, “Oh.”

So that is Emerge. Up and down, up and down. One minute you’re dancing and throwing your head back with laughter and the next you’re hit with overwhelming reality of these girls’ stories.

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