By Alexandra Rodriguez
The sun had already set as I opened the school door to head to my car. After a full day of teaching, I had spent the last two and a half hours tutoring, sending emails, making copies, and grading papers. My fingers were stained with red ink and there was a drying ball of play-doh in my pocket. I was beat.
“At least the week is over,” I thought. “I can go home, make dinner, and relax with a couple episodes of my favorite K-drama.” I smiled to myself as I pulled out of the parking lot.
Then it hit me like a flyswatter to the face.
I remembered that I had volunteered to play percussion for a thing that evening. I looked at my watch and realized I had just enough time to get home, inhale a granola bar, change out of my work clothes, and head back out to the gig.
I would have to drag my drum along, too.
Another thought hit me. Most of the band wasn’t going to be there. The only ones who had confirmed for tonight’s gig was the vocalist and me. Now I’m not the greatest musician, but unless we were playing at a drum circle (we weren’t), I was pretty sure that a drummer and a singer wasn’t really going to cut it. The rational musician in me figured, “It may be less weird if I just don’t show up.”
Also, (confession) I hadn’t practiced.
The anxiety about our sound began to eat at me. What good was my going tonight if we were going to sound bad anyway? I cringed as I imagined what we might sound like. Plus, all I wanted was to be home.
I looked at my phone. It would be easy to get out of it. A single text would let me off the hook. I had never flaked out before. This would be a one time thing. The temptation to call out grew stronger when I realized the traffic I hit getting home meant that I was going to have to rush.
I picked up my phone and typed out the message: “I’m sorry. I can’t make it tonight.”
Finger poised on the little blue “send” button, a sudden thought stopped me.
I am not the leader of this band. I am the percussionist. It wasn’t really my job to figure out how our two-person band would somehow be enough. It wasn’t even my job to worry about our set list or our sound.
At that moment, my only job was to show up ready to play. I could do that.
So I did.
And you know what? It was great. (we ended up having an amazing guitarist show up and save the day)
But even if it ended up being not so great, I still would have shown up. Because as someone who volunteered for this event, that was my job.
My only job.
Sadly, it has become the norm in our culture to flake on commitments.
Many people won’t even RSVP to events until the last minute, just in case they may want to opt out day-of (yes, I am totally guilty of this). The glorification of “self-care” has made it acceptable for people to walk away from commitments without a second-thought if said commitment would be a bother.
Don’t get me wrong: you have to be sure you are healthy and well before serving. Taking care of you is important! However, letting emotions dictate your commitment level is a sure way to establish yourself as an inconsistent and unreliable person. And let’s be real: who wants that guy (or girl) on their team?
I definitely don’t want to be that girl, either.
Mahatma Gandhi and Michael Jackson had it right: Culture shift starts with me and it starts with you.
As someone who serves, it isn’t really your job to know all the details. It isn’t your job to anticipate the event or worry about how everything will fall into place.
Sometimes all you have to do is show up. Your doing so ensures that your piece of the puzzle is there and in place.
I want to challenge you: The next time you don’t feel like volunteering, or showing up to serve, or going to that one thing you were invited to, or when all you want to do is cancel and go home, show up anyway.
Just show up.
Sometimes showing up is all you have the energy to do.
And guess what.
Most of the time, it is enough.
Alexandra Rodriguez is a contributor for the Volunteer U Blog. In 2017, Alexandra founded Bedside Educators Network an organization that provides educational support for hospitalized and homebound students. You can follow Alexandra on Twitter @XandraRodriguez and enjoy more of her writing on herBLOG.