I received a phone call from my principal a few days before I was supposed to head back to the classroom from my first maternity leave. On my schedule were 6 sections of Integrated Chemistry-Physics, my favorite class to teach and not to mention, ONE class to prepare for. . .the ideal schedule for a first-time mom who also happened to be about to become a second-time mom. I had my first two weeks of lesson plans done, copies run, when my principal said, "Jen, we have a section of Biology we need you to take." Now, in addition to the fact that this was going to be adding a prep to my schedule, this biology class was what we like to call "repeater biology". . .or, all of the kiddos who failed biology at the freshman center and needed to take it again in order to graduate (with a few transfers and kids going for a higher grade thrown in the mix).
I was not super excited for this opportunity, but determined to make the best of it. I walked into my block 4 classroom, a ragtag bunch of sophomores, juniors and seniors, smiled and told them that they were absolutely, under no circumstances allowed to fail Biology I. "I am NOT going to let you fail." I said. "I know exactly why you failed last time. You didn't show up, and you didn't complete assignments. In order to pass this class, you need to show up. I am going to make sure you complete all of your assignments. I am not going to let you fail."
BAM. That's right. Don't mess with Mrs. Zink. And I stuck to my word. I mean, if 80% of success is showing up, that's like a B minus! Not too shabby! ;) I didn't stand for a single zero in my gradebook that semester, which meant hours after school with kiddos in "detention" (which was really just sitting in my room and doing the work they should have done the first time so they could get a grade, and didn't feel too much like punishment at all I am pretty sure, since no one ever complained and sometimes they even brought friends.)
And I didn't let them fail. I lost a few through the year, but every kid who showed up received every single bit of my attention I could give them so that they could pass.
We showed up. At first, I didn't feel like teaching them and they most certainly didn't want to be there. But, with the right attitude it turned out to be one of my favorite classes I have ever taught and I could tell as the semester went on that they sure didn't mind being in my room, either. We built a little community, my assorted bunch of friends and I. Just by showing up for each other each day, and not giving up.
Really, that seems to me to be more and more the key to life- it is often undervalued and it shouldn't be. Just. show. up. Some (grumpy) people scoff at awards like "Perfect Attendance." "Why give an award for just showing up?" say the grumpy people. But think about how hard it really is to show up every day. I mean every. day. The days you feel crappy. The days you don't want to. The days you would much rather be anywhere. else. than. here.
But you do it anyways. Certainly there are days when you would much rather not. But the reward of showing up is great. Michael Phelps showing up at the pool. Yo Yo Ma showing up in the practice room. Often the reward of showing up is excellence. But far and above all other rewards, and attainable by all regardless of skill, the greatest reward of showing up is relationship.
My mother-in-law has 10 kids. Ten great kids who are all married and 25 grandkids and counting. Last year we made her a book for her 75th birthday, and you couldn't read a few pages of the letters written to her by her family without wanting to cry. You don't get letters like that from casual acquaintances. You get letters like that from people you have shown up for, time and time again. She didn't just wake up one day to find that she had ten great adult fully grown kids with college degrees who loved and respected each other and loved her and were all contributing members of society. Wouldn't that be nice? But that's not how life works. She showed up, every day, day in and day out, for decades. Through puberty and blizzards and mountains of laundry and garage bands and diapers upon diapers and potty training and driver's ed times ten. Showing up with the meatloaf on the table or the full size van in the pickup line. At the football stadium or basketball court or art show or graduation. In the middle of the night when someone was sick, or when a daughter has her first baby or when someone just needs mom to come pick them up from the slumber party early. That's a whole lotta showing up.
Moms are amazing and pretty much the best about showing up. My mom always seems to show up at just the right time with exactly what I need. How does she do that? I DON'T KNOW!! She's magic. All I know is, I want to do the same for my kids. And for everyone else for that matter.
Looking back on the last 35 years I admit I can think of a lot of things I regret that I missed.
But I can't think of many times that I ever regretted showing up.
So, as I enter year 36 I am going to keep my life goal simple.
Just keep showing up.
For my kids,
for my friends,
for my family,
for my church.
I am going to show up before I'm ready.
Even if I don't 100% feel like it.
Arms full or maybe even empty handed.
On foot or in my Chevy Venture.
I might even show up (EEEK!) without mascara on.
But I'll wear my sunglasses to cover that up.
Cuz if you need me, I'm showing up.
So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.