It was unbearably hot on the Hollywood Backlot Stage located in California’s Disneyland. I was part of a small group of youth from Cincinnati, Ohio, who were preparing to perform a set of German dances. Some of the group didn’t have any German roots, while others had grandparents from Europe, but we had the same goal: to share the German culture with others and to have fun doing it.
I have been dancing with the Cincinnati Donauschwaben, a German cultural group, since I was four, and gradually advanced into the more difficult dances. Learning about the German culture is important to me because both my Oma and Opa are originally from an area along the Danube River, known in German as the “Donau.” Most of the original settlers in the area came from the Schwabian region of Germany, and the combination of the two words gives us the title of “Donauschwaben.”
The Cincinnati Donauschwaben is more of a large family than a dance group. Connected through our common heritage and interests, Donauschwaben groups from across the United States and Canada come together every summer to meet people and create new friendships. Even though we see each other only twice a year, whenever we meet, it feels like no time has passed. The Donauschwaben people are more than people from the same region near the Danube River. We are even more than the foods we eat, the dances we perform, and the culture we share.
A perfect example of our caring happened when the Cincinnati Donauschwaben found out that one of our members, a man who was like a grandfather to all of us, had passed away suddenly. A small group of us had been in Canada camping with other groups from across North America, separated by twelve hours worth of driving from the rest of the Cincinnati Donauschwaben Society. We thought we only had the people in our own group, but while we sat together grieving, people from every other city pulled tables together, sat around us, and cried with us. I was astounded. Here were these people, these strangers, talking to us and supporting us, some simply just being there, all because of the connections we shared. Before that day, I had never truly realized the blessing it was to be surrounded by these people, but now I will never forget it.
Being a Schwob means being a part of a family---a large, dysfunctional family, but a family all the same. We laugh together and we cry together. We care about each other and are accepting of differences because the Donauschwaben people, my family, are more than Oktoberfests, brats, metts, and strudels. We empathize with each other, and we will go out of our way to show it.