I’ve been here in Buenos Aires for a couple of days now. My first gathering was a group of 16 and 17 year olds. I gage how the rest of the tour will go in a country by the very first performance. It was early, really early and, as most people know, morning is the “worst” time to try and engage teens (there is actually science to back this idea up).
The school I was at is 120 years old. There was so much character in the architecture that I kept getting distracted by small details in the aesthetics of the library we were in. A large viewing window, like you find in New York department stores, faced a constant stream of pedestrians and vehicles competing for cramped space.
As the youth entered I tried to make sure I made eye contact with each one of them. I do this with every performance. Well… I try at least. I could see the tiredness in their weary eyes and I read their body language as “not yet ready anything close to mental intensity.
I was right there with them as far as physical fatigue. I had just gotten off of the plane from Uruguay the night before and hadn’t made it to bed until almost 1:00 am.
Once they were all in the room. I introduced myself. I rarely have the schools introduce me. I like to be the one who sets the tone and establishes a rapport, a relationship to my audiences. I took a silent pause after letting them know that I was not in control of what we would do this day, they were. I then let me then know that I needed them to make a decision. Their eyes lit up a bit. I had touched something in them. The question I ask groups this age is, “Do you want to be entertained this day, or would you like to engage in truth?”
You could have heard a pin drop. I elaborated on what entertainment would be like. I then gave a brief description of what might happen if we were dealing with truth. At this point I gave them 1 minute to discuss amongst themselves what decision they would make.
Following that 1 minute, I asked them if they had made a decision. Mind you, there were about 70 teens seated in a semi-circle around me in this room. They said yes and, for the first time that I’ve been doing this 100% of those present said that they wanted to deal in “truth” during our time together. I knew something special was about to happen.
For the next hour we talked, I punctuated our collective conversation with a few proverbs, a couple of stories, and a little music and then we closed out our time together with a song.
The time together was pure, unfiltered and true to each heart present. When we finished I thanked them for introducing me to Argentina and released them back to their teachers.
No one moved. I mean literally… no one moved. I thought I had miscommunicated and so I said again, “Thank you for our time together you may leave now.”
The students didn’t move, the teachers didn’t move. I wasn’t sure what to do.
The entire group stood up together and walked toward me. The engulfed me in a huge semi circle and began asking more questions. I looked at the teachers unsure what to do. One of the teachers explained that this was their break. I asked them if they understood they were missing their break. They all laughed and began telling me that they were making a choice to stay.
We stood there for another ½ hour communicating, sharing and hugging. It was an extraordinary experience, one that will never leave me.