This afternoon Sweets asked if my birthday had been a good one. “Good? It’s been wonderful!” I said. I smiled. “Really? Did you do something fun?” “Uh. No. I had a normal day.” “But you said it was wonderful? If you didn’t do anything, what made it wonderful?” “All the people.” At that moment my phone vibrated, informing me that a text had come in. Somewhat reflexively she notified me as well, “Dad, you have a text.” “I know,” I said. “Aren’t you going to answer it?” “I’ll look in a second.” “Dad you have to answer it. It might be important.” She picks up the phone to see who’s messaged me and says, “How do you have so many new texts?” “Now you know why it’s been a wonderful day.” “But you haven’t read them?” “I’m reading them in bunches. They’re really wonderful.”
In a way, my favorite birthday quote came to life today:
“Birthdays are so important. On our birthdays we celebrate being alive. On our birthdays people can say to us, “Thank you for being!” Birthday presents are signs of our families’ and friends’ joy that we are part of their lives. Little children often look forward to their birthdays for months. Their birthdays are their big days, when they are the center of attention and all their friends come to celebrate.
We should never forget our birthdays or the birthdays of those who are close to us. Birthdays keep us childlike. They remind us that what is important is not what we do or accomplish, not what we have or who we know, but that we are, here and now. On birthdays let us be grateful for the gift of life.” ~ Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey.
Nouwen’s words that “what is most important is … that we are, here and now” are words about things that don’t typically feel important. I wake up every day. Is that special? Yes. Does it feel special? Not really. Often I’m on autopilot until I’ve had my first cup of coffee, sometimes it takes two. Until then, I don’t notice anything. Mostly I move through the day being me. I’ve been me my entire life. It doesn’t feel special either. The things I do, and the connections I make feel more important because they’re things that are more likely to generate a compliment, and increase my sense that I have some control of my life.
In contrast, Nouwen’s saying that most days I have it all wrong. My life isn’t ordinary. It’s precious. This me that I am will happen once. That once is now.
Maybe that’s why it’s hard to pass up a birthday wish. Isn’t that funny? Happy Birthday! They’re two words that almost have to be said. Perhaps that’s because deep down we know those two words give us a chance to remember what’s most important. In saying them we’re reminding ourselves, and each other of the truth they hold. Today my friends helped me reset. They helped me remember that it’s good to be. I hope you remember what’s most important also. I’m glad you’re here. And when your day comes, Happy Birthday!