A Lesson in Making Assumptions

Being a performer and facilitator, I’ve learned so much in life from those around me. The spirit of ubuntu is one that I embrace fully each time I step on stage and give 200% of myself to those around me. There isn’t a single time I pick up my drum without dedicating myself fully to the moment and the team that has invited me into their space. My job is to unite, uplift and inspire teams across the world—it’s my expertise. But still, every single day, I’m learning from those around me. In all the years that I’ve been bringing Drum Cafe West programs to clients, I’ve encountered every sort of event participant. There are those who are so endlessly inspired that they approach me in tears afterward pouring their hearts out and sharing how the event has impacted their lives. There are others who take a bit to warm up at first but leave the event smiling and dancing through the door. But then there are those who I just never know about—the ones who challenge me to experience life from a different point of view.

It’s this experience that never fails to remind me that I can still make an impact. Not everyone experiences joy and excitement in the same way. When I’m on stage, I’m beating my drum with everything in my being. The majority of those in the audience respond with smiles, laughter, and participation. But every now and again, I’ll encounter someone who is just staring right up at me, appearing unmoved. Not a smile, not a laugh, not even a single beat on their drum. I have to take a step back when this happens and remind myself and I have not walked in their shoes.

At a recent event for a San Diego-based healthcare company, , I encountered this experience. We were in a small room, so it was clear to see the attendees who were not participating. I had pretty much the entire audience engaged minus one individual. In a room full of energized people, this stood out for me. I wondered what was this person thinking about and experiencing as the rest of her colleagues joyously engaged. Was she having fun? Was she feeling involved?

At the end of the session, I was surprised when this person approached me and said, “I’m so sorry that I wasn’t playing my drum. I don’t have great rhythm, but my son is a musician. He plays the guitar, and I just had to take some video of you and your group because they are all amazing musicians, and you are such an inspiration to me, so I wanted to share this with him.”

I was moved and humbled. This served as a powerful reminder to me to never make assumptions about others experiences until you have walked in their shoes. Because when we do, we impose judgment, we lose compassion, we miss the wonderful moments in each experience and it’s truly about knowing that we all experience things in our own way

Natalie Spiro