Let me tell you a story.
Sara Broers is the cofounder of Midwest Travel Network and she’ll often post videos in the private Facebook group with words of encouragement. Recently she told us to “Show up.” It’s a sentiment I live by, despite my frequent desire to curl up and give into my introverted ways. Every time I do, though, every time I show up, something wonderful happens.
Explore Elgin graciously invited me to offer my books at the city’s annual holiday event, Winter Wonderland. I said yes, of course, because I’d be a darn fool to turn down an opportunity like that, and I am not a darn fool. (Contrary to some woeful past decisions, but for the most part I currently am not a darn fool.) Plus, my husband’s caroling group would be performing; we joked it would be an embarrassment of Goodriches.
Dream Hall provided a prime location with oodles of counter space. I knew there’d be tons of traffic because not only would Santa Claus be there, but so would Elsa and Olaf.
It was a madhouse. Kids in their finest, wearing sequins and felt and red and green to the gills. Parents herding them, carrying them, holding their hands and straightening their clothes. Dancers with flowers in their hair or sombreros hanging down their backs. Glitter. So much glitter.
It was a madhouse, but a happy, happy madhouse.
The kids were smiling. Some of the parents were a bit frazzled, but mostly because they weren’t sure where to go. Where do the dancers meet? Where will Santa be? Is that the line for Elsa?
At first I didn’t know, but I tried to point them to someone who might. I never did find out about the dancers, but I soon knew that Santa would be by that window and Elsa by the other. While I was there to (hopefully) sell books and photos, I resigned myself to an afternoon of providing directions, a twist on dear old Lucy’s psychiatry booth. Resigned, yet determined to spread joy. I wore socks with candy canes, red pants, a green sweater, a nutcracker broach, snowflake earrings made by my sister-in-law, and a Santa hat that was a touch too big. I smiled. “Upstairs!” when they asked for Elsa. “Line starts over there for Santa!” “The elevator’s around the corner.” “Sure, you can leave your wagon back here. I’ve got tons of room!”
I was delightful.
It was easy to be, because I was delighted.
Did I want to sell books and photos? YES. This was my first time offering photos and my books are compact packages of me. Of course I wanted people to buy them. But, if they didn’t, I could at least remove a bit of stress from these families’ days and I could be the spirit of the holidays.
I smiled. I gave directions. I told wide-eyed children that that bison in the photo had been right outside my tent. I played with mimes.
And then, with less than an hour to go, an older couple stopped and asked me about my books. They leafed through both and admired the photos on the counter. When he wasn’t looking, she mouthed “I’ll be back.” They left, and a few minutes later, there she was, buying both volumes and the photo he’d pointed out. He’d been a photographer, she explained, and now he has Parkinson’s. Volume 2 was for him; Volume 1 was for her. “I read a little bit of your writing,” she said. “I think I’m going to like your style.”
A couple waiting in line at Cafe Revive saw my setup and came over after they’d gotten their drinks. She’s an author, he said, so they appreciated what I was doing. She gets the constant need to put yourself out there. To show up. I asked if he was a creative as well. “He’s a pastor,” she explained. “I create every Sunday,” he smiled, and bought a book.
Then a woman stopped.
“You’re Theresa Goodrich?”
“Yes, I am!”
She told me she’s been following me, that I bring places to life, that she’s been studying photography, that’s she’s read Volume 1. She tried to decide between two photos to give to her son, and when she picked one and paid for it, I gave her both. Then I came around the counter to hug her.
Her reaction filled my soul to bursting. Here was concrete proof that what I do matters. When I sit in solitude and put form to memories, I hope that someone will read these stories and that they’ll have an impact. I hope that someone will want to meet me and hug me because they’ve heard my voice in their head and it’s meant something special.
I never would have met her; I wouldn’t have met any of them, if I hadn’t shown up.
And so, I echo Sara’s advice. My life changed and my dreams became and are becoming reality because I practice one simple principle: Show up. You don’t know what will happen until you do, and it could just be something wonderful.