Last week, I had the honor to attend the assumption of command ceremony for my classmate, Brigadier General Steve Gilland, as the 77th Commandant of Cadets at West Point. In this role, Steve is responsible for the training and discipline for nearly 4,500 cadets, who are the future leaders of our Army and this great nation. I always love going back to West Point for any occasion. Ironically enough, I couldn’t wait to leave the Academy when I was a cadet. I struggled academically for several semesters even though I was one of the top students in my high school graduating class. So, I didn’t always have the fondest of memories “in the moment”…but now, things are a different story.
Truth be told, Steve Gilland and I were more or less acquaintances at school. Most cadets know other classmates by name, but you’re more close to the 120 or so other students within your immediate cadet company. But Steve and I, as well as his wife, Betsy, another classmate, became closer acquaintances through social media years after graduation.
About 5 years ago, I was doing some volunteer work for the US Olympic Committee to put on a paratriathlon training camp for wounded veterans in San Antonio, Texas. This three day event would teach veterans with a host of battlefield injuries, the pillars of triathlon: swimming, cycling and running. I knew Steve and Betsy were stationed just north of San Antonio at Fort Hood, so I reached out to them a few weeks in advance to see if they could help me organize some volunteers from Fort Hood who might be willing to travel a couple hours south to the camp and help out. Not only did the Gillands help rally some interest, but they also personally came to San Antonio to assist. It was meaningful to both of them, which is typically the case for volunteers at these kinds of event.
It meant the world to me.
Fast forward to earlier this year, when it was announced that Steve would be the next Commandant of Cadets at West Point. I knew I would be there for the assumption of command event. That ceremony took place last Friday atop the cadet library in the glorious Alexander Haig Room, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the famous parade field of the Academy. Nearly 30 classmates had made the trip to West Point for the ceremony. When it came Steve’s time to take the podium and give some brief remarks, he began by thanking his new boss, the Superintendent of West Point, a 3-star general. Next he thanked his immediate and extended family. Both of those comments of gratitude came across very stoically from the battle-tested general.
Then Steve turned to say thanks to his “brothers and sisters” …. his classmates who had traveled many miles, collectively, from across the nation to attend the ceremony. And for a brief moment, Steve’s voice cracked and we could tell he was getting choked up. And just as quickly, Steve recaptured his composure saying “I appreciate my brothers and sisters for showing up today”.
Woody Allen was quoted once as saying “80 percent of success in life is showing up.”
That quote has been butchered over the years. Some have translated the quote anywhere from 90 percent to 50 percent. Others have removed the “success” portion and shortened the quote simply as: 80 percent of life is just showing up.
There are probably just as many definitions of the quote as there are variations of the quote itself. To me, the quote simply means a majority of the impact of doing something comes from being there to make sure it happens. Certainly for Steve’s ceremony, the “being there” was a big part of the appreciation many of us wanted to share.
Steve pulled me aside later that day during the reception at their home and said, “Mike, I’m just so honored you made the trip. How can I ever repay you?”
“Steve”, I said. “You don’t need to repay me anything. You showed up for me years ago in San Antonio. And today I showed up for you.”
“Showing up” can be seemingly so insignificant. But in reality, it’s very powerful.
You know who else shows up….100% of the time? God. He is always present. Always there. Always available and always forgiving. We don’t ever have to wait for Him to “show up”. In fact, it’s the other way around. He’s usually waiting for us to arrive.
In the Old Testament, God shows up in the form of a burning bush, in a whisper to Elijah, and even shows up later out of a whirlwind. Still later, in the New Testament, God shows up in the form of a servant, in the eye of a terrible storm, and most importantly, in the Resurrection story.
Time and time again, God shows up for mankind.
What’s holding you back from “showing up” from your Heavenly Father? My prayer this week is that we find the courage and commitment to show up for God. Make the relationship you have with Him a routine “thing” that you do “routinely”. In other words, make it a point to show up not 50 percent, 80 percent, or event 90 percent. Make it a 100 percent thing you do.