The Importance of Being Present: How Showing Up Can Make a World of Difference

My grandparents fled to Vietnam when Japan invaded Guang Zhou, China during World War II.

My grandpa went first to get things settled. He hopped on a boat from Hong Kong to Saigon to start their new life, and told my grandma to come meet him in a month.

My grandparents with their kids in the 1950’s (my dad is the back left).

One month later my grandma got on a boat to leave China with their first child (my dad’s oldest brother). When she arrived at Saigon Harbor, baby in arms, she looked around. Her husband was nowhere in sight.

1939. Scared. Alone. In a new country. With baby. And he didn’t show up.

My dad told me she held onto that until the day she died. It turns out my grandpa was busy working, so he sent a stranger to pick her up from the dock.

My gramps wasn’t a bad guy. He had a crazy work ethic, and I can’t imagine what it was like having to flee from your country in 1939 to simply SURVIVE. But still, I get sad when I tell that story.

When we were young my dad would come back from business trips. My sister and I would be waiting in the airport terminal with my mom. Sometimes we’d make silly signs that had his name on it, like the ones the drivers held up. He’d come out of the gate and always be happy to see us.

When I started driving (and after all the 9/11 airport security came into place), we’d start doing curbside pick ups instead. Sometimes I’d be late and my dad would get upset. As a teenager I didn’t understand why it was such a big deal (“I’m just a little late, dad!”), but I get it now.

There’s nothing like arriving somewhere (anywhere!), and having someone standing there happy to see you.


The greatest gift you can give someone, especially this day in age, is your time and presence.

I’m at LAX International Arrivals, not curbside, but inside the terminal, getting ready to pick up a friend. I know this was a particularly hard trip for him. As I watch people come out through immigration after a long flight, pushing carts stacked with suitcases, I can’t WAIT to see him walk through the doors and welcome him back.

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