I have a grandson who attends college in North Carolina. His mother (my daughter) lives 250 miles away in suburban Washington DC.
My grandson plays on one of the school’s sports teams. He does very well. It’s a good team, regularly challenging for league titles, post-season play, etc.
It’s a four-hour drive, each way, from my daughter’s house to his school. Despite her full time job she has made the drive to watch him play for nearly every home game. This is his senior year, and by the time his collegiate career ends she will probably have driven 15,000 miles just to watch him play.
It isn’t always easy, and it certainly isn’t cheap. If you ask her why she does it you’ll get an utterly blank stare. It’s what families do. Duh.
I’m happy to report that this is a successful family. They’ve had their own versions of the challenges we all face, but they’ve survived, and the bond between them is palpable. Their family rule #1 is simple: they show up for each other.
As our children were growing, my wife and I tried to set the example on this. My own success rate varied through the years, due to the demands of a career in journalism, when newsworthy events happen on their own schedule, not mine. But if I wasn’t there, my wife was, often with many younger children in tow. Keeping them all contained on bleacher seats or soccer sidelines or hushed in quiet school auditoriums was sometimes a challenge, but we did our best.
And time has proved it was one of the best things we did.
I don’t have to tell you that a child’s confidence can be fragile. You were a child once, so you know the drill. If you lose your sense of self-worth as a child it can take decades to confidently find it again. But if you can emerge from childhood buoyed with the awareness that you are loved, and that you are worthy of love, then you are laps ahead in the race to a happy life.
All because people showed up for you, and were happy to do it.
Now forgive me while I change the focus—though, as you’ll see, I won’t be changing the subject.
Recently my wife and I were in a small city in Mexico. We were crossing a street, but, as sometimes happens in border towns, the road was bumpy, with a hole or two in the asphalt.
There was an old woman with a walker who was attempting to cross the street. The walker wasn’t in great shape, and on this hot day the slightly confused woman wasn’t making much progress. The motorists on the street weren’t happy.
I asked her if she needed help with the walker. She didn’t understand me. So my wife took up the conversation in Spanish. Yes, she could use a bit of help. My wife supported her arms, while I helped the walker over the bumps in the road. It was slow-ish work but we got her to the other side. We smiled at each other before separating.
It occurred to me as we walked away that the woman needed help for a moment, and instead of staying locked up in our leave-us-alone world, we actually saw what was going on around us. A bit of kindness was necessary, so we provided it. For that temporarily disoriented woman, we showed up.
I suppose it’s easy—or at least easier—to show up for the people we love, or at least like. But I’m convinced that sometimes God places people in our path who need help just to see what will happen. Will we recognize their need? Will they even register in our deliberately self-insulated worlds? And how many times will we ignore those standing right in front of us before God sadly decides that for now we’re not someone He can count on.
Sure, my wife and I showed up for our children as they were growing. And this wasn’t the first time we showed up for a stranger in need. But how many others have we missed through the years? Dozens? Hundreds?
This worries me.
Chris Huston is an author and award-winning columnist living in the Magic Valley. Connect with Chris on Facebook at Chris Huston-Finding My Way and at chrishustonauthor.com.
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