Showing up.  Just show up. Be there or be square.  Ninety percent of life is showing up.

I am a show-up person — even when I am there with some reluctance. I believe it is important to honor an idea or a person, and,  at least, give them a hearing out.   Or if I am already committed to one or more of my dozen-plus organizations, agencies, boards or special interest groups, you can bet I will be there, if it is on the schedule and there isn’t another legitimate  scheduling conflict.  I typically stick to the event or meeting that I first put on my day planner and say they got to me first.

I am often offended when special meetings are set up by people who fail to check with all of us first to see about our availability.   I find it disrespectful and presumptuous to just pick dates that work for the organizer and then to expect others to fall in line.   Yet, I am more often than not one of those people who comprise the body of attendees to count heads to see whether there is, in fact,  a quorum.

And these days, it seems, I am often the only male in the meeting.  I am convinced that women can be counted on more to show up and engage.  Men, in general, are sliding into sideline observers or absentee participants.

In my organizations, I stress again and again that people need to attend the meetings, gatherings and events of the group because their personalities, ideas, character and ideas are part of the fabric of the group and they add to the chemistry when they are on hand.  I think far too many people do not regard themselves as components or players in the dynamics of groups but  they think of themselves simply as observers if they show up.

Take one of my groups, the Kiwanis Club of Tempe.  We have nearly 75 members but on a typical Thursday, we may have 30 members on hand. Rarely are there 45.  I know how busy I am, and I know I have numerous forces and jobs tugging at me, but I only miss Kiwanis two or three times a year (traveling on vacation or unexpected demands). The same is true for Sunday church.    I realize that in those settings, and others, that I invariably bring responsibilities and duties to them. I don’t come to them as a sit-down bystander who goes home immediately afterwards.

I am troubled by a generational trend.  Those in generations that are following mine don’t seem to display a comparable loyalty to a group. High attendance carries no weight.  Their obligations to groups are no stronger than their obligations to their personal lives and wants.  If a friend on Thursday wants to meet for lunch to talk about the vacation trip that person had, the Kiwanian doesn’t hesitate to take that option and forgo Kiwanis.

After church on Sunday, members bypass the adult education classes that teachers spent six hours on Saturday preparing for.  Instead, they choose to go to Applebee’s for an early lunch “before the rush” with another church friend.  And that is always one of my major points:  Volunteers or leaders of groups are tasked with compiling reports, information or instruction targeted to these “committed” folks. Yet the people — the planned audience — cavalierly do their own thing without guilt or a sense of obligation.

Membership itself seems to carry less significance than in years past.  Some pay dues and even advanced meal costs for group but forfeit their benefits.  Staying on the rolls — or staying on a community board — may carry some status for them or looks nice on a resume.   I sit on board where you can expect some to be constantly absent and we are reluctant to remove them from membership because 1) they pay; 2) we treasure their participation and insights when they DO show up and we want to keep their connections to the community. In some cases, their reputations and status make our group look better.

Certainly, as we look down the lists of members in our groups and ponder the absent and almost-always-absent, we ruefully think we are being cheated by their choice to short us on themselves and what they could contribute in lighting up the room with their personalities or by their time and talents in our mission.

Want to get something done, then ask a busy a person — so the saying goes. And it is true. Those less inclined to share themselves and their time with groups are probably giving little time to other organizations, as well.  The majority of society, I see, are non-joiners. That’s  mostly because they don’t have a developed discipline for group lifestyles.  “I don’t join groups” or “I don’t have time” or “I’m too involved with my family” are common statements.

In the end, people haven’t learned the blessing of being a contributing part of society, nor the personal growth that comes with showing up, rolling up their sleeves and saying, “Here I am. How can I help?”

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