Come with me as we follow the story of a hypothetical couple, Jack and Joy.
Jack and Joy are long time members of "JJ Squares". They have been dancing there for many years and have even held various positions on the committee. They live for square dancing - brought their children up as square dancers - and even celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary at a square dance.
But just lately they have had to miss a few dances. Initially it was because of illness that kept Jack out of action for several weeks. Then, when all was OK - they had a little granddaughter to look after for a couple of weeks. Through all this they have missed about 3 months of dances.
They are now ready to come back. But feeling a little bit anxious - even a little bit guilty about missing a few dance nights.
Jack and Joy walk into the hall and are immediately greeted by the door person with the comment "So you decided to come back hey ?" - in a slightly sarcastic tone. The club president see them, but just ignores them - after a few minutes the president does come up to them to say "Well - where's your note - where have you been ?" The caller notices them about halfway through the night and says (over the microphone) - "well it's good to see that Jack and Joy have finally decided to come back". Jack and Joy just keep quiet - finish the night of - go home and start to wonder what happened to the club whilst they were away.
Jack and Joy walk into the hall and are immediately greeted by the door person with "Hello - how are you - it's so nice to see you again - please come in ! ?". The club president see them and walks straight up to them to say "Jack ! Joy ! How we've missed you ! Everyone is going to be so pleased to see you both". The caller see them walk in - and as soon as he gets a chance announces - "Ladies and gentlemen - we have honoured guests here tonight - Jack and Joy are back - please make them feel welcome - this is their night. " Jack and Joy hardly had a moment to themselves for the rest of the night. And when they went home - they were too excited to sleep.
Now I think you'd agree that we really should avoid "scenario 1", and (although I may have exaggerated it a bit), we should act more like "scenario 2".
The trouble is - this is not what happens in real life. I have seen "scenario 1" happen so many times. I have seen many good and dedicated dancers lost to the movement because of it. And the insidious thing about it is that those who make the "prodigal dancers" feel unwelcome - don't even realise what they are doing it ! They think that just because they know "Jack and Joy" so well - and have done so for so many years - that "Jack and Joy" can take a joke - so what's all the fuss?
Well the fuss is that "Jack and Joy" are people with feelings - who were already feeling a bit guilty about missing so many dance nights - now they feel even worse. But after a while they wake up and come to realise that it is not them who are the problem - they love their square dancing and have already done so much for the club - what's wrong with having a break anyway. This then leads to thoughts of doubt about the club - and maybe even the square dance movement itself.
The important thing to remember is that "Square Dancing is a people business" - and if we want to survive - we have to care about our dancers, and their feelings.
And what makes it worse is that the "Jack and Joy" of your club are usually friends with another couple that haven't been for a while. And naturally they will get together and talk - what impression of your club do you want them to pass on ?
By the way, at least one club where I have seen this type of thing happen a lot, has folded. Now of course this is not the main factor that led the club's demise - but it helped.