On a late summer afternoon, Kelly the Hippo and her classmates were on their way home from school. While Kelly’s friends were looking forward to playing tag with their siblings and reading their favorite books late into the evening, Kelly only wanted to do one thing.
“I want to dance!” she shouted with joy. She spun around with a bit of a wobble. The others looked at her in surprise. The boys, who were about to go to water polo and swim practice, smirked.
“Uh, Kelly, don’t you think you’re a little big for dancing?” asked Sam, the oldest in the class.
The others giggled and Kelly looked sheepishly at the dusty ground of the hot savannah. Everyone said goodbye and went off to their activities. Kelly went home and threw her school bag under a shady tree in frustration.
“Well, what louse has gotten you?” asked Kelly’s mom.
“Never mind,” grumbled Kelly and she walked to the watering hole.
From a distance, she saw the others who seemed to be having a lot of fun playing water polo or swimming. “Why is anyone too big to dance but not too big to play water polo?” she wondered.
After cooling off a bit in the water, she sat under the shady tree and watched as graceful and beautiful flamingos pranced on the far shore.
“It’s like they’re floating,” Kelly thought admiringly. She gathered all her courage and made her way to the other side of the pond.
The flamingos always had to be on guard because all kinds of animals went to the watering hole, including predators. So they were a bit skittish. Kelly swam towards them as calmly and carefully as possible so as not to frighten them.
But as she emerged from the water and was about to take her first step towards the shore, she slipped in the mud and made a loud splash. In an instant, all the birds in the area flew away, including the flamingos.
Kelly was annoyed with herself. “Why do I always have to be so clumsy? Now the flamingos might look for another watering hole and I won’t even be able to watch them dance,” she thought. Crestfallen, she turned to swim back to the other side when she heard a voice.
“They must have mistaken you for a crocodile.”
Kelly turned and saw a single flamingo standing on the shore.
“Why didn’t you fly away like the others?” Kelly asked cautiously.
“Because I’m not afraid of a friendly hippo like you,” the flamingo said confidently. “My name is Lori. What’s yours?”
Kelly introduced herself and told Lori all about her dream of dancing. She also told her about how everyone at school thinks a hippo shouldn’t dance.
“That’s a lot of hogwash,” Lori countered. “Anyone can dance if they want to. Don’t let them spoil your fun.”
Kelly couldn’t believe it. She had only known Lori for a few minutes, and yet she was the first one not to laugh at her dream.
“Let’s dance together,” Lori suggested. She showed Kelly a few gallant turns. “Look! It’s easy!”
“You make it look easy,” said Kelly, who was very excited. “I’ll meet you here tomorrow after school.” The two said their goodbyes and Lori took it upon herself not to tell anyone.
The next day, Kelly had a hard time focusing in class. In her mind, she was practicing her dance moves with Lori. Her daydream was interrupted when the bell rang and everyone hurriedly grabbed their bags and books to run out into the afternoon sun.
When Kelly arrived at home, she saw many flamingos standing on the shore of the watering hole and right in front of them was Lori. She quickly put down her bag and swam right up to them. She was more careful this time so as not to scare them. Sure enough, all the flamingos stayed on the ground, watching her curiously.
“Hey Kelly, there you are!” said Lori. They started their routine with Kelly trying to imitate Lori’s moves.
They practiced every day and slowly word got around that Kelly the Hippo was dancing—and not badly after all.
She enjoyed it so much that she practiced whenever she could. Gradually, her initial stomping and rumbling turned into careful and rhythmic movements.
One day, Kelly and Lori arranged to meet at dusk to rehearse a new routine. Steps and moves that Kelly once would have had trouble remembering now came to her easily and naturally.
As Lori turned on the music and Kelly brought out her colorful scarf to swing rhythmically to the beat, many animals gathered around the pond. No one wanted to miss the performance. They had watched Kelly and Lori practice many times.
The two dancers were having such a good time that they didn’t even notice the numerous spectators. Only when they heard the thunderous applause from all directions did Kelly the Hippo realize that it pays to believe in your dreams.