In the Wes Anderson movie Rushmore, the main character Max Fischer loves his high school. He’s involved in every club, sport and organization. If an activity is not offered, he starts a petition to get it added.
He mentions possibly staying for a post graduate year when an irritated headmaster replies, “We don’t offer a post-graduate year.”
At a critical point in the film, he tries to smooth things over with his nemesis by way of a peace offering—one of the lapel pin awards he earned. The pins read, “punctuality,” and “attendance.”
Both reveal what the audience has already gleaned about Max.
He shows up.
He’s the guy that gets things done.
He’s the one living life to its fullest.
His grades may be terrible, but his enthusiasm never wanes and he is all in.
Though I am not proud to admit it, I have rolled my eyes during awards ceremonies at my kids’ schools when the perfect attendance awards were handed out, secretly thinking that’s not an accomplishment.
Now with three graduated from high school and two still in the throes of their academic careers, I humbly realize, there is something to be said for showing up.
There is a poignant truth here.
The one who shows up is the one you can usually count on to get things done.
The employee who doesn’t miss a day for anything short of birth or death—and hopefully any communicable illness—is one you know you can call in a pinch.
There is the friend who will follow through, even on moving day, to succumb to achy backs and the sad payment of free pizza.
It is the member of the hospitality committee who recognizes more people showed for the potluck than planned and ducks out of service early to pick up another bucket of chicken before the final hymn.
They are the ones you want to know ultimately are on your side.
We all know these people and may have even rolled our eyes, but they remind us of what we should really strive for.
When I ponder Max’s character, I realize this is what is so appealing.
He showed up, yes, and he got things done, but even more than that he was present.
It is the person who is participating fully who is usually walking away fulfilled.
Being present in the moments of life are what living comes down to.
Sitting on the couch with my youngest who is talking about his day has often been disrupted by a message on the phone. More times than I care to admit, I am suddenly half-heartedly listening and can’t tell you the last thing he relayed. I have taken my eyes off him, my mind followed, and I am no longer present.
That is an empty feeling.
If I am honest, it happens a lot—and not just because of a phone. When thoughts wander, you are no longer in that moment.
It sparks the fear that author Francis Chan talked about: “Our greatest fear should not be of failure...but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”
I attended another award ceremony this week to see my fifth grader get his honor roll award. I watched him on stage, scanning the crowd for me. The moment he saw me was pure joy.
There was not a single second of eye rolling.
And I was present.