The Words of Ariana Shin-Sun Moon (Park – daughter of In Jin Moon)
Good morning. How are we doing this Sunday? Good? Wasn't our Generation Peace Academy (GPA) choir just sensational? They always make me a little emotional. I was talking with one of the sisters recently, Lara. She was the one who performed last Sunday on stage for you, and I asked her, "How did you get so good? Did you take lessons before coming to the Generation Peace Academy?" She said, "No, I just sing in the shower." I said, "Well, I sing in the shower too, but I don't sound like that! So you're doing something right." I was backstage listening to the GPA choir, and music always has a way of moving me. Let's wish them well. They're going to go to Korea soon for God's Day.
I was thinking about what to share with you knowing that a lot of you in the audience are much wiser and older than I am. I decided to talk a bit about the ballroom dancing ministry here at Lovin' Life. The ballroom dance ministry started during the summer after my sophomore year at Harvard. I had come home from school and was sitting with my mother. I was going on and on about how amazing ballroom is, how much I love it, and how much it's done for me. She just sat there, nodded, and smiled in the way that our mothers do. You really know how much they love you when they listen to you for hours like that.
She asked me out of the blue, "Ariana, why don't you teach ballroom dancing to the Lovin' Life community in New York?" I was like, "What?!" I was shocked, but in a really good way. I was actually thrilled. I was surprised that she would entrust me with this responsibility, so I was nervous. Ballroom dancing has done so much in my life – it has done so much for me as a person and has brought so much joy to my life, and I knew that it could do the same for many others.
Ballroom dancing is a great medium through which we can learn how to serve others. In ballroom dancing it's not just about you, yourself; it's about the person you're dancing with. If both the gentleman and the lady approach it from that perspective, both the gentleman and the lady will be taken care of.
So after my mom said that to me, the next time I was in New York City I went with my dad to 43rd Street to the Lovin' Life Learning Center to teach STF, now called GPA, some ballroom dancing. I remember I was very nervous at that time, so I didn't say very much. I entrusted most of the instruction to our dear brother Sakamoto-san, who used to be a ballroom dancing champion in Japan in his youth. I believe today is his birthday, so make sure you guys have a chance to congratulate him on his birthday when you see him later today.
I remember teaching a lesson with Sakamoto-san, and I was very intimidated. I was about 18 years old, the same age as the STF kids, and I was mostly intimidated by the big brothers, like Markus Thiesen, or Danny Heller or Leon Granstrom. Later I learned they're big softies, but initially I was a little intimidated. But the lesson went very well and I was very grateful to STF that they welcomed me so warmly.
Ballroom dancing is unlike other forms of dancing in that you need a partner, but not just any partner. You need a gentleman or a lady who has been prepared to be a gentleman or a lady. The gentleman's role in ballroom dancing is to be what is called the leader, in that the gentleman is the one to initiate the moves, such as an underarm turn or a cross-body lead or a dip. He's the one who makes the decision to do that move. The lady's role is the follower, so it's the lady's responsibility to respond in a beautiful and elegant way.
Now this does not mean that the lady's role is any less important or subordinate to the gentleman's role, because if the gentleman didn't have a lady, or the lady didn't have a gentleman, there would be no ballroom dancing. So they have equal roles. I always like to tell my students that in ballroom dancing there are two rules. One, the gentleman is the leader. And Two, the ladies are always right because they always start on their right foot. It's just a nice way of saying that ladies and gentlemen are equal and are the same in the eyes of God.
You can learn a lot from ballroom that can be applicable to real life. One time I was dancing with my partner, and we were working together with my coach, who turned to me and said, "Ariana, you know, in ballroom dancing you have two partners." I looked in front of me at my partner, and I only saw one. She said, "No, you have two partners. You have your physical partner, the one that you dance with, and then you have the floor." What she meant by that is that I have to be balanced on my own two feet, and I have to carry my own weight so that I don't impose my weight onto my partner and therefore affect his dancing in a negative way.
I believe that that idea can be carried on over to real life. We can't be too dependent on the people around us. Of course, we're dependent as children, but as we get older and more mature, we can't be too dependent on the people around us; otherwise, they'll be suffocated. You have to carry your own weight in a dignified fashion. You have to be the one who stands firmly on your own two feet. That was an interesting lesson for me to learn that I was able to carry over to real life.
At the same time, we can't be too independent. In ballroom dancing, if you're too independent, if you do whatever you want to do and make the dancing about yourself, not your partner, you're not going to be dancing with someone; you're going to be using someone to make yourself look good. That you cannot do.
This is why I really love ballroom dancing. It's about serving your partner. It's not about you. If each partner does the same for each other then everyone will be served, taken care of, loved, and respected. I think that's a really interesting aspect of ballroom dancing.
Another interesting thing is that through dancing you can learn a lot about people's character. The way they hold the frame [the body shape maintained by dancers during partner dancing], the way they offer or ask you for a dance, the way they commit or don't commit to a step, and the way they lead or follow says a lot about their character.
The other day I was dancing with one young lady and I was doing the gentleman's part so that I could show her the lady's part. But I found it very difficult to dance with her because she wanted to lead herself. I would raise my hand for an underarm turn, and then she would just go on and turn herself. That's great – she was excited, she was happy, but she was assuming she knew what I would like her to do, what turn and move I would like her to do, and in that way she was making herself more important than I was as the leader.
We started fighting with each other a little bit because with her arms she was doing something called back-leading. That's kind of like back-seat driving. You know how annoying that can get sometimes. But it was interesting to me because I've known this young lady for a while and she's a very strong character and that was translated into her dancing.
Sometimes I feel that we ladies in life are a little bit too strong, too independent, too focused on ourselves, and what happens is that we can push people away. That can happen in the context of family, in the context of marital relationships. And the same goes for gentlemen. If you're too rough on your partner, if you hold that hand too tightly, if you move that lady as if she's just a ping-pong ball, not a human being – something that's going to make you look like you're doing something really cool – it's not going to be enjoyable as a dance. You really have to make it about the other person, which, as I said before, is why I like ballroom dancing.
On the other hand, sometimes gentlemen will be too cautious when it comes to leading. They don't give clear signals, and so the lady receives mixed signals and does not know how to respond properly. So I think that ballroom dancing is a great medium through which we can learn how to communicate with each other without using words.
What we're trying to promote here at Lovin' Life Ministries is a culture through which we serve people and are sensitive to people around us. We want to create a culture of love, compassion, service, and respect. We want brothers to interact with sisters and sisters to interact with brothers in a healthy and respectful way. I believe that instead of telling our young people what not to do, we should empower, appreciate, and educate them, and let them know that we have the faith in them that they have the heart and the maturity to be responsible for their own actions.
And ballroom dancing is a good medium through which this can be accomplished. It's not the only medium in Lovin' Life. There are many programs in Lovin' Life. This is just a medium I happen to be very passionate about so you're hearing a lot about it from me today.
Every Thursday at the Lovin' Life Learning Center we have a ballroom dance social. To me that is like the Kingdom of Heaven right there because the young people dress up really nicely, they prepare the room really beautifully, the lights are beautiful, and sometimes they have colored lights. They always have a wonderful table of refreshments that Jatoma Gavin works really heard to make. Let's give Jatoma a hand. (Applause.)
The GPA kids who live there always do such a wonderful job of welcoming guests and making sure they are taken care of. When people walk into the Lovin' Life Learning Center, they'll immediately be flocked with a lot of attention because there will be a whole group of young people waiting to teach them how to dance so they can be included. And ballroom dancing is great because you don't have to know how to dance in order to do it. You can come as a beginner, learn a couple of basic steps, and still have a really good time. You don't have to be able to do a split or a handstand or balance on one toe. You don't have to be able to do any of that. All you have to be able to do is have two feet. Even if you have two left feet, we'll give you two right feet, all right?
So it's a wonderful environment through which we can naturally witness, and a lot of the guests that I've spoken to say, "Oh my goodness, if only more people knew about this event right in the middle of Manhattan!" How many more people would like to enjoy the company of young, awesome, beautiful, respectful people, and learn how to ballroom dance for free – which is a big deal in Manhattan – and at the same time to be able to interact with such a lovely group of people in a loving environment? That's something that I'm also very proud of.
A couple of weeks ago, the leadership module of GPA, which you just saw sing so beautifully onstage, participated in their first ballroom dance competition. That ballroom competition was called the New York Thanksgiving Ball and it took place in the Sheraton Hotel in New York City. And at this ballroom competition you had New York's best ballroom dancers come and perform. And so we had the opportunity to see this high level of ballroom dancing and what is possible if you dedicate hours to a craft.
So the morning of the competition I got up early and went on over to 43rd Street where the GPA members were practicing, and I could tell some of them were nervous, which is completely normal because any time you compete, you have those butterflies in your stomach. I helped them with their hair. I gelled it back and with the ladies put flowers in their hair and helped them a little bit with their make-up, and gave them some tips about dancing. I said, "Just have fun. Don't worry about how your foot is positioned or don't worry about this finger here at this time. No one can see that. Just have fun and smile and that's going to make a world of difference."
One of my friends, who is the president of the Harvard Ballroom Dance Team, came all the way from Harvard to New York to help the gentlemen with their hair. We wanted to make them feel as if we were there for them and that we would comfort them because it's not easy going out on a dance floor and dancing a swing or a cha-cha, especially when you know you're being watched by professionals and being judged.
So the GPA did a fantastic job. I was so proud of them. Let's give them a hand. (Applause.) I told my mother I felt like a mom because I went there with them, I did their hair and make-up, I cheered for them, I was nervous for them, I was proud of them at the awards ceremony – and I'm so going to be a soccer mom one day! It was a wonderful experience for me not to be the competitor this time. I've competed in a lot of ballroom competitions, but I've never watched the competition of someone to whom I've taught ballroom dancing. I did it a couple of months back, but I was still in school at that time so I couldn't invest myself as fully.
Our second-year captains, August, Lindsey and Emma Tate, won First Prize. I think they're going to show you a trophy that they won at the competition. Come on out, you guys. Let's give them a round of applause for that. (Applause, cheers.) I was so proud of them. I never even won a trophy; I just won ribbons.
But what was more important to me was not the awards they won, not the medals, and not the trophy. It wasn't even about the dancing. It was about the heart that they brought to the ballroom world. The MC was so impressed that he said into the mike, so that everyone in the ballroom could hear, "The Generation Peace Academy is really a remarkable group of young people. I've never seen a group of young people like this." He said this because they were willing to serve: They moved tables without being asked to; they gave up their seats without being asked to, to people who didn't have seats, and those seats were front-row seats. And even though they were competing against each other, they cheered each other on and supported each other in a way that he's not used to seeing in the ballroom dancing world.
And so it was this heart that impressed him the most. How is that for natural witnessing to you guys? What a way to represent! I was so proud of GPA for the way they represented God and True Parents, and the way they showed the importance of compassion, support, and heart – not the importance of winning.
The ballroom dancing world isn't always the prettiest world. There are a lot of big egos out there because dancing is about how you look and how your body moves. Sometimes when it becomes so much about how you look, that can be the most important thing to you. Then when you become the most important thing, you're not thinking about the people around you.
So I was very proud for GPA, and I know that they're going to go fund-raising and going to go overseas in a couple of weeks. They're just finishing up the leadership module, during which they're able to train with Mrs. Kubo and sing on a daily basis.
I just want to say to you guys, I wish you strength; I wish you happiness. I wish that you stay awake during Hoon Dok Hae, and I know that there will be ups and downs. Everyone goes through ups and downs, but I truly believe that you will change lives for the better. There is a wonderful quote I want to share with you: "Be who you are meant to be because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." So be who you are meant to be. Don't be afraid to talk about where you come from, to talk about your faith. Don't be afraid to talk about what you believe in. You will most surely encounter opposition or negative criticism, but don't let that get you down. I want to let you know that Lovin' Life is here for you, and we are wishing you well wherever you go. And even after your year of service, Lovin' Life will be here for you, even after you go to college.
Speaking of college, I would like to share a little bit about my experience at Harvard University. I remember as a freshman when I walked onto campus for the first time I was so ready to take on the world. I thought that as long as I did my homework, as long as I was nice to people, as long as I had three meals a day, and as long as I went to the gym, then I'd be happy, healthy, and accepted by every social group and I'd be a fulfilled human being.
It turns out, in my freshman year I was known as the loopy one. I didn't even know what loopy meant at that time. I was known as the naïve one, the innocent one, and I didn't find out that they called me that until my junior year, when I was a little bit more normal. I just entered the campus wanting to see the best in people, wanting to see only the good in people. Sometimes I learned the hard way that that wasn't the case.
I grew up with four brothers, all very dear to me, and even though we had our sibling squabbles, we always got over that. We always knew that we would be there for each other, we would comfort each other, and we would support each other. So I went to school thinking that the friends I would make would do the same for me if I did that for them.
Harvard is an institution that is the home of the fastest, the cleverest, the most creative, and the smartest minds. And that's really intimidating. People are either phenomenal at something or phenomenal at everything. That's so scary. They can't do anything wrong intellectually. I think it's really awesome when you're good at something, but in order to get good at something, you need to be very focused on yourself. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but if you become too focused on yourself, then, again, you're not paying attention to people around you. You're not thinking about the greater good. You're thinking about the good for me.
That's why I believe that we need God in our lives because without God we become god; we become the most important thing there is. We start thinking that our talents were given to us to make us look good, not understanding that these talents are given to us by God and that they are a gift for the greater humanity so that we can lift everyone else up, even as we lift ourselves up.
I remember one Halloween there was a young man I knew at Harvard, whose name is Andrew. He didn't want to invest in a Halloween costume, but he still wanted to go Halloween partying. So what he did was he got a ribbon, tied it around his waist, made a little bow, put a tag on the ribbon, and wrote, "To women, from God." And he was walking around as God's gift to womankind. At that time I thought it was really funny, but when I thought about it a little later, I was just like, "I wonder how many people walk around this campus thinking that they're God's gift to womankind or to mankind." I realized that there's a little bit of a problem in that picture because we have to make it about if you want to live for the sake of others. Of course you have to be a good individual, but you want to lift up your brothers and sisters as well, don't you? So that's a little bit about my experience at Harvard.
Now I'm working at HSA as a journalist and as a communications deputy manager. I think that's what they call it. It's been a wonderful six months. I've been working for about six months at the New Yorker Hotel at HSA. I've had the opportunity to work with a wonderful group of people, an eccentric group of people. Some of them include Doug Burton. He's my boss. He is my passionate, intellectual, lovable, karaoke-loving boss. I've learned so much from him. I'm kind of like his minion now. He has so much to offer, so much to give.
I realize that the First Generation have so much to teach us. We just have to be ready to receive that. We have to be willing to receive that. So I'm very grateful to Doug. I call him Dougie-Wuggie. I'm really grateful to Doug for what he's taught me.
I also work with a young lady named Shin-young. She is a one-woman powerhouse of Unification News. I know a lot of people are not aware, but she puts it all together by herself and she's been working very diligently on that. I also work with Tossa Cromwell. He is a dear brother. You might not know him personally, but I think most of us have heard his voice because he's the one who translates True Father's speeches live, and he does a wonderful job of doing that. I also work with Sean Kim. He is our graphic designer, a really fun, quirky guy, and he's like automatically one of my best friends because he loves ballroom dancing almost as much as I do. We would go to classroom together; we go to the ballroom socials at 43rd Street together. So these are a few of the people I work with on the sixth floor at HSA.
The reason I enjoy working with them so much is not just because they're my coworkers, and it's not just because it's a new environment in which I feel welcomed. It's because these are some of the most hard-working, dedicated, good-hearted, humble people I've ever met. We're all working toward a greater purpose, I feel, and we're working together like a family. That's why it means so much to me to be able to work with these people. So let's give everyone at HSA a hand, brothers and sisters. (Applause.)
I think we as Second or Third Generation Unificationists need to remember that it's wonderful to be ambitious, to be driven, to be career-oriented, but we can't forget our roots. We can't forget that we are here on this earth because of True Parents, because of our physical parents, and because of our Heavenly Parent. No matter what success we may achieve in our lives, we do it because we're alive and because we exist, and we exist because of God, True Parents, and our parents.
I'm sure there are a lot of people who question faith and question God, question True Parents. I've been through that, too. But I firmly believe that no matter where you might find yourself in life, you're going to find yourself wanting to come back home – and home for us is this. It's us, our brothers and sisters, our families, God and True Parents. So wherever you may find yourself, it's okay to question. My mother always said that it's a good thing that you question, it's good that you ask things.
But it's always good to remember where you come from, to remember your parents, to be grateful for what they've done. I know that every child goes through that stage where we think we're better than our parents, or we think, "Why do Mom or Dad do it that way? I could have done it so much better." And I've heard a lot of my friends at Harvard speak about their parents in that way.
But we have the same genetic coding as our parents, and they're the ones who gave that to us, so we are our parents. So if we're bad-talking or if we're trashing our parents, we're basically trashing ourselves. On the flip side, if we think we're awesome and we appreciate the sacrifices that our parents made for us, we're also uplifting our parents, and we're basically saying, "Yes, you guys are awesome, too. Thank you very much for what you've done."
I know college is not an easy time, but now we have wonderful resources that I think all of you college students should take advantage of. We have CARP, a wonderful organization that's there for you, that will make you feel like you matter. And excitingly, we have a new first female CARP president, Victoria Roomet. Let's give her a hand. She is someone who will send you an uplifting Facebook message or send you cookies or go run a marathon with you, all these things, and give you that boost when you need it. So I would really encourage you guys to reach out to the CARP office when you go to college, especially you GPA members, when you are off on that journey after your year of service work.
I would also encourage you to take advantage of things like Snapshot. It's a beautiful brochure that was put together by our Lovin' Life Ministry team. It includes brief, to-the-point, and wholesome explanations of what our church is all about. How many of you have been caught in a situation where someone asks you, "What's your church about?" And you're kind of like, "Yeah, what is it about?" There are so many things you want to say. How are you going to say that within the time frame of an elevator ride?
I got caught doing this, too. I was like, "Well, we believe that Jesus wasn't supposed to die on the cross, and was supposed to raise a family, and we're not supposed to X, Y, Z." Why not talk in the positive, like, "We believe in inheriting the true love of God." Because who does not want to inherit the true love of God?
So I would really recommend that you take advantage of wonderful resources like these, resources that I wish my brother and I had when we were at Harvard. Lovin' Life is here for you guys.
Also, you have a nationwide ministry. At Harvard I was able to launch Lovin' Life service, even though I was in Boston. My brother Preston and his wife Krista – they're studying in London right now – were able to watch Lovin' Life from London, thanks to the Internet broadcasts. I think that is a phenomenal thing – to be able to share in the same message, the same news, and the fact that you are spiritually connected even though you're physically apart. That is a priceless thing and we have to realize its value, especially when we have family members who are out of state or even out of the country. So, please take advantage of that, too.
I'm going to share a little bit of my personal experience sermonizing. I gave a sermon twice before. Both times my mom told me Saturday night, and I kind of got on her case for that. So this time she told me a week in advance. I think that's worse because you worry and worry, "What am I going to talk about, what do I have to share? Everyone's older than me, they know so much more than I do," and I was stressed out.
So I was at work on the sixth floor with Dougie-Wuggie and he was telling me, "Ariana, you should do this, do that. We have a press release coming up, an important event." And I realized the importance of all that stuff, but I wanted to say, "I have a sermon to give. Please give me space!" But I didn't want to say that because then people would ask me what I'm going to talk about; I have no idea what I'm going to talk about. I don't even know what I'm talking about right now. Oh, yes, sermon. (Applause.) Thank you!
Through that experience, I came to appreciate the production, our senior pastor, the bands, the people who make the food, the greeters at the door, people who drive people to Sunday Service. I started respecting all of them so much more because there is so much work that goes into a production like this. It's a fantastic production. There is so much work that you don't see.
I was with my mom last night, Saturday night, in her living room. Her living room is painted blue, so I call it the Saturday night blues, and that's what she calls it, too – before the Sunday Service sermon. I told her, "You know, this is really difficult, to know that you have this big task to do on Sunday." She's like, "Yes, I'm really glad that you're appreciating how tough it is sometimes now." I'm like, "Man, until you are in that person's shoes, you cannot judge them."
So I want to wish you a wonderful Sunday. Thank you for bearing with me, for listening to me. I know I have you hostage in your seats, but thank you for not getting up or falling asleep or meditating. Thank you very much, and have a wonderful Sunday.