Thanks For Showing Up Today

Palmer Lake, Colorado

Thanks for Showing Up Today…

In the fall of 1994, I began attending the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS). I was what you call a non-traditional student. I took a few courses at Pikes Peak Community College the summer after I graduated high school in 1984, but never returned to a college classroom until ten years later. Some students take a gap year, I took a gap decade.

Lucky for me, UCCS was a non-traditional campus. Built in 1965, it was for students who intended mostly to attend night classes. As the campus grew, it attracted more traditional students. By the time I attended, the average age of the students was 28, the exact age I was in the fall of 1994.

As part of my financial aid package, I qualified for work-study. For me, I could work up to twenty hours per week, part-time, to help pay for college courses. I visited several places on campus to apply for work but was offered and accepted a cashier position at the Bursar’s Office. At the Bursar’s Office, we students worked in the “cage” and were responsible for the collecting student fees and tuition payments. Our boss was William, probably in his mid to late twenties at the time, barely out of college himself. He reported to the head accountant on campus, Lori and she had a second in command, Julie. Together, they did the payroll for the campus, and performed accounts payable and receivables.

Lori’s desk sat directly outside the cage, and there were usually two students on shift during the day, three when it was time for tuition payment due date. Always at the end of any one of our student’s shifts, Lori would say, “Thanks for showing up today.” And we students would either attend class or go home.

About the winter of 1995, my co-worker, Lila needed a roommate. She had worked at the Bursar’s office a year longer than I had. One day, as we sat around the living room of our apartment, we talked about classes and the topic of work came up. I finally asked Lila, “Why does Lori always say thanks for showing up today when one of us students leaves the cage. Is she messing with us?’ Lila shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t know. Next time you work, why don’t you ask her?”

So, the next shift I worked, I did exactly that. I had a class to attend after my shift in the cage was over. As I left the cage, Lori, who wore reading glasses below her nose, did not even look up from her computer. She said her customary, “Thanks for showing up today” as I was leaving to head to class. I did what Lila told me and confronted her. I put my backpack down, and said, “Lori, why do you say that. Why do you say thanks for showing up today to all of us work study students whenever we leave?”

Lori took off her glasses and looked straight at me. “Kim, as a work study student you had your pick of jobs on campus. You could have worked anywhere. But you chose to work here, and I appreciate that. By you students working in the cage taking student payments, it allows me and Julie to work on the accounting functions of the campus. So that is why I say that, does it make sense?”

I was embarrassed, and humbled. “Yes, that makes sense.” Lori put back on her glasses and proceeded to go back to looking at her computer. Me, I went on to class. But I learned a valuable lesson that day. We choose to “show up”. We get jobs, we go grocery shopping, we volunteer at school or at church. But do we really “show up”? Or do we just go through the motions, do the bare minimum of what is expected?

This summer, my daughter Alena started running in a local running club. As she does her early morning runs, I go hiking around Monument and Palmer Lake. I have been hiking the trails in this community for years, but I have really made an effort this summer to take in the scenery, the lakes, the animals and the flowers growing. I am not just “showing up” but am trying to take in as much of the beauty that Colorado has to offer.

The great comedian Tom Papa said once on his “Come to Papa” podcast, “Good or Bad – Nothing happens unless you show up!” Try it, I encourage you, show up today, and I bet someone will be thankful that you did.