“I have a funny story for you.”
There are few sentences that pique my interest as much as that one. (It’s second only to “Do you want to hear something strange?” to which the answer is always yes.)
I was catching up with my friend Leslie, whose daughter is in the same class as my twins.
“I went to that little shop that Jake’s mom owns.”
“Oh really? The one that sells oils and soaps?” I asked. “I’ve been meaning to stop in. It’s great to have local people opening businesses in town, especially a class parent.”
“I thought so too,” Leslie said. “But the funny thing was, she had no idea who I was. I even said, ‘We met at Jake’s party… at your house,’ but nothing registered.”
To provide some context, there are fewer than a dozen kids in the class — we live in a small beach town where a sizeable portion of the population goes south (or north, in some cases) for the winter. Granted, Jake’s family had only moved to town about a year earlier, but when you live in a close-knit community, it’s hard not to know people.
“The thing is, she wasn’t the least bit embarrassed. In fact, she wasn’t fazed at all,” my friend continued. “When she did finally acknowledge me, she said something like ‘Oh, right.’ It was the reaction you’d expect from a teenager.”
Leslie ended up purchasing a gift at the store for her sister, someone who, as she put it, ‘has the disposable income to drop 50 bucks on lavender,’ but she’s not in any rush to return. It wasn’t that Jake’s mom didn’t know who she was; it’s that she didn’t seem to care — at least, in Leslie’s eyes.
And when it comes to any type of class or school event, she’s a non-factor.
“I don’t get it,” she told me. “It’s such a small class, and she doesn’t ever participate or lend a hand. She doesn’t even reply to emails. She just doesn’t show up.”
“I know,” I said. “I guess it’s not her thing.”
“Yeah, but that’s kind of a cop out, you know?” Leslie replied, prompting me to rethink my stance. The more I pondered it, the more I realized that going to PTA meetings isn’t anyone’s thing. Neither is collecting money to buy the teacher a gift, or spending what little free time you have coming up with activities for a Halloween party.
We’re all busy parents. All (or at least most of us) have full-time jobs — this isn’t the Real Housewives of New Jersey. But when you’re part of a community where people rely on each other, you show up, even if it’s not your thing. You contribute in any way you can, whether it’s signing up to bring in napkins for a party, offering to pick up a kid whose parent is stuck at work, or taking the time to get to know the other families. You do your part.
It’s that same spirit we see at local HIMSS meetings, CHIME events, and even with webinars and podcast interviews. The individuals who serve as presenters, chair committees, mentor others, and share knowledge aren’t doing it because they have loads of free time, or because it’s their thing; they’re doing it for the greater good of the community.
As a result — though not necessarily an intentional one — others are more likely to step in and help those individuals, who have been so selfless with their time. People will show up for those who have consistently shown up. It’s an investment that will pay dividends long after the $50 lavender dries up.