“80% of life is just showing up.”–Woody Allen
Much of whatever is remembered fondly and appreciated has to do with personal sacrifices, the care shown for others, and, often, the simple fact of being present and positive for others.
Someone wants or needs you in a time of crisis. A simple thing, but the proof of your essential unselfishness and caring for others. The extremes of this type of response is well-known ranging from the newspaper stories of heroism and complete strangers jumping off bridges to help others to the simple fact of dropping whatever one is doing (including work or one’s job) to be there for the need. Simple presence itself.
I can remember my old next-door neighbor coming to look in on me when I was 6 or 7 and sick at home alone. Or the fact that my mother basically raised me for much of my childhood and teen years. She was always there regardless of my errors to protect me and see that I got a decent education, three meals a day, and money if I ever needed it for some opportunity, despite our relative poverty.
Looking back, there is a long list of good, kind people who ‘did’ for me, who were ‘for me’ who saw the better sides of me along the way. In retrospect, I suppose that’s one thing I wanted to do in my 30 year career as a teacher– ‘to do’ for teenagers. And daily, that was a bottomless giving and caring which required later on an early stepping away from teaching. I had always been there when I was really needed or someone was lost and needed help or advice.
There was much of that same love and caring in my textbook work,–imagining and creating a body of work which would help teachers and students to do their respective work. Too, presenting at conferences–much the same–being there for others, sharing information, knowledge, and whatever experiences and, possibly, wisdom.
As a parent I had occasion to do the same–teaching my own kids to read, write, organize, and appreciate music, drama, and the arts. And, of course, the myriad other parental responsibilities of being there for them on parent-teacher evenings, concerts, or other times of need–learning to ride a bike, moving days, a wedding, the birth of a grandchild, etc.
Yesterday was one of those unexpected needs and accompanying proofs, There was parental sickness necessitating a quick trip across town and then feeding and looking after my grandson. I was, as (old, but intact) person suddenly needed, jumping into action as I have long been wont to do. Simple live in-person presence all over again. Someone who could be counted on and who did a pretty good job considering my charge did not want to have lunch and also needed entertaining and some guidance for a few hours. My abilities and talents of old coming into play literally.
I was reminded yet again of The Inner Child (Wordsworth`s “Ode: Intimations on Immortality” before the shades of the prison-house close in on my grandson`s life. And my own recovered child in order to successfully relate and play with him, communicating with voice, touch, and gesture to share and uncover new possibilities in his play and learning. At his level. In his world.
Fascinating. He has mastered all but one of the activity centre activities. He now gives things back to the person who has given them–the beginnings of sharing. He now pushes his truck back to me and puts the little Fisher-Price man back in the toy car. He enjoys playing Peekaboo both ways more than ever. He enjoyed the new toy– a raccoon which he quickly learned to pull by cord across the floor.
His life and time is going by with all the daily, weekly, and monthly changes. And he has been lucky to have me and I am lucky to have him. We are there for both, for each other.
Not only the matters of meaning and purpose and being needed, there is also the Toynbee matter of challenge-response. Life lasts as long as long as the former are there and one can respond to the challenges in one’s life.