In my husband's family there is a monumental and yet simple concept of showing up. One man in particular is the main representative and model of said, showing up. Whether your gown is laced in beads of pearl, your eyes wet and tired from a loss so deep it takes energy to breathe or you’re celebrating some kind of a simcha (gladness, joy) of any kind - He shows up.
He shows up for you, for me, for all of us.
Let us call him Cousin B.
Imagine a small town in rural Wisconsin on America’s birthday; one main street with an ice cream shop that feeds hundreds of sweaty adorable children and a corner bar that serves the best bloody Marys around - best served by a sweet bartender with red, white and blue glitter eye lids. The average American watches a 4th of July parade on a dirty, hot cement curb. Sunscreen drips painfully in the eyes while hand made floats, drill teams and high school bands slowly trudge their way along the thoroughfare of town. Overheated, excited onlookers desperately wait for Jolly Ranchers to be thrown out of antique cars and possibly invite a squirt or shower of water from the local fire trucks onto their tongues.
Not us. Never us. We get to sit on those fire trucks. We get to throw the candy, drink the water, sit underneath a tarp on top of the biggest, loudest exhaust billowing fire trucks in town. Why? Because Cousin B shows up and makes sure it is worth our while. Not a day is acceptable unless his guests leave with a smile; generations of children remember forever that life can be fun, exciting and magical. Our kids all go to summer camp now during the 4th of July, and yet there I am on that fire truck - 44 years old throwing candy and spraying water and realizing with utter humility at how this experience would never be my reality without cousin B.
Recently I took on a job that will change my life forever. I work with pregnant and parenting teens who are peering out at their life as if on tiptoes. Some of them come to me from a shaky past, unsteady present, unknown future. These students need and deserve a place where they can go and be reminded that they are worth it; they will make it; they will be fantastic Mothers.
Last month during a day of professional development the staff was shown a segment of a Ted Talk where a teacher was trying to tell us why we need to open our classroom doors everyday with a smile - why that is necessary.. She told a story about her most difficult, challenging student as a young teacher. This student made everyday exhausting and biting and made her question why she chose her career as an educator. She explained that this student never missed a day of school even if he slept in different beds or apartments most nights of the week. Why did he show up? Because he wanted the connection, he knew his teacher would be at school everyday and make it work his while.
She showed up. So did he.
She gave him a reason.
Who would have ever thought a fire truck in small town Wisconsin would feel like a pumpkin turned carriage in a fairy tale?
Showing up for others can give hope, save lives or maybe just create a bubble of laughter where there was once no room for oxygen at all.