By Grace Topping
As a child, I enjoyed the stories my mother told my sisters and me at bedtime about her childhood. Sometimes her stories were happy and sometimes sad, but we were fascinated by them. Little did I realize that one of her experiences would profoundly affect me and cause me to do things throughout my life that I didn’t always want to do.
During the Depression, my mother lived at a girls’ boarding school. One of her teachers, Miss Jones, had been a missionary in China and regaled the class with stories of her experiences there. Later, she invited the students to her home to view the items she had collected during her travels. When the day arrived, the warm and sunny weather tempted my mother to skip the event to enjoy the day outdoors. But thinking better of it, she went to Miss Jones’s house.
When she arrived, she discovered Miss Jones had lovingly displayed the items that meant so much to her. She had also set the table with a beautifully decorated cake and other refreshments. My mother was so glad she went—because no one else showed up. My sisters and I gasped. What if our mother hadn’t gone? No one would have been there. How disappointing that would have been for Miss Jones, who had gone to so much trouble.
After that, whenever I was invited somewhere and tempted not to go, the thought always haunted me: what if no one shows up? So I went out on bright sunny days and trudged out on cold winter nights to a variety of events when many times I wanted to be elsewhere. And, yes, there were times when lots of people were at the event, but also times when my presence helped.
As the years went by, I found this commitment spilling into other areas of my life, especially when I decided to write a mystery. What if I hadn’t joined professional writing groups and showed up at their meetings? What if I hadn’t attended the book signing of debut authors when they sat there looking lonely?
Recently, I saw an announcement that an author I know was to speak at a local book festival. I knew she was coming from out of town for the event. What if nobody showed up? Other than the author’s family members who were there, I was one of five other people in the audience. Sometimes it’s good to show up.
How about you? Have there been times you were glad you showed up?
Grace Topping is a USA Today bestselling author and Agatha Award Finalist. A recovering technical writer and IT project manager, she was accustomed to writing lean, boring documents. Let loose to write fiction, she is now creating murder mysteries and killing off characters who remind her of some of the people she dealt with during her career. Fictional revenge is sweet. She is the author of the Laura Bishop Mystery series. Grace is the former vice president of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime (SINC), a steering committee member of the SINC Guppies, and a member of Mystery Writers of America. She lives with her husband in Northern Virginia.