Just Show Up

Acap, a gown and a graduation date. It is unbelievable how fast the last seven years have flown by. That’s how long it has been since I met the shy little 10-year-old who would become my world.

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    Michele Mcrae

I knew I wanted to do something to give back, but I was never sure what that something was until I came across Walk With Sally. Walk With Sally is a mentoring program that provides mentors to children whose parent or sibling is battling or passed away from cancer. 

“One child at a time, one heart at a time.” When I heard that for the first time, I wanted in. 

At first it was just volunteering my time. How could I ever presume that I would have something a child might need? I didn’t even have my own children. What would I do? What would I say? How would I make it work?

Something in me told me I had to try; there was something more I could do. That if I could just make a small difference in one life, why not? So I stepped through the fear and anxiety and met Dezi, a beautiful 10-year-old with a pensive stare and huge smile who lost her mom to cancer when she was 1. 

It didn’t happen overnight. It took months of awkward conversations to get to trust each other. Through it all, I told myself to just keep showing up. Just show up. So I did. 

I showed up for her first crush. I showed up for her first heartbreak, learning how to drive, her first dance, and the stress of choosing a college. I showed up, and I learned that a privilege is given to those who show up—the privilege to witness someone’s life unfold. 

She became outgoing, thoughtful and fearless, and I was given a glimpse of what having a child might actually be like—a love that is overwhelming and can choke you up at the mere thought. This past Christmas she gave me the best present she could ever have given. She told me she never expected to have the experience of having a mom, until me.

So when Dezi tells me how to collect my ticket for graduation, I realize that if I do nothing else, I’ve done something to change one life. This 17-year-old wisely asks me, “So, what’s next?” 

And I respond, “That is a very good question. I’m not sure, but something.” Whatever it is, together we will just show up.  

Michele McRae currently works for Real to Reel Locations, a location service for filming. She is a musical theatre actress and performance coach for young people.