It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all!
—Disney’s “Frozen” theme song
One Sunday afternoon this past June, my housemate blasted the “Frozen” theme song from our porch and a crew of young kids—diverse in gender and about 2 to 10 years old—swarmed the sidewalk in front of our house for a spontaneous dance party. As soon as that song came on, it was like someone flipped a switch and we became the life of the block party! There was one toddler who I think had just learned to walk, with a colorful whale-patterned shirt, and she did a great boogy. Watching them dance and sing together, I remembered moments from college when I would blast The Idan Raichel Project before Shabbat, shaking off all of the baggage I would have been carrying into Shabbat from my rigorous academic week.
So how can we use dance, art and books to help young children—and ourselves—simply rest, be ourselves and fully welcome Shabbat?
Theater and dance are powerful mediums for empowering children to feel comfortable in their own skin, and to shine for the world. There are nearly limitless inspiring examples of youth performance projects focused on creating performers, and an audience, who do this work—just one example in Boston is True Colors: Out Youth Theater. Letting ourselves go through movement and performance is a remarkable way to greet Shabbat with peace and joy.
Once Shabbat comes, there are many books that are great resources for families to reflect together on what it means to be our true selves. For young children who are in the cardboard books phase, “The Paper Bag Princess” is a great way to engage in a family conversation about being yourself. For late elementary and middle school readers, “Same Sun Here” is a powerful story about two young people who discover their true selves in a surprising friendship.
Family reflection and aspiring to be our true selves are powerful ways to celebrate Shabbat. The message of Shabbat is to refrain from changing the world for a whole day, sunset to sunset. Tradition suggests that we even refrain from picking ripe fruit, lest we change the tree. In that message, we can also find a reminder to hold back from criticizing ourselves. Surely we can always improve ourselves and repair the world, but let us hold peace and comfort in knowing that we and our world are beautiful as we are.
Let’s let it go.