Birthdays

Today is my father’s 86th birthday; he is a World War II veteran, a man of faith and of firm convictions who’s not afraid to express his mind even if others disagree with him. He’s gutsy and I admire him for that. He doesn’t speak his mind according to “political correctness” but in terms of truthfulness. Happy Birthday, Daddy, and may you have many more! Go for at least 100!

Today, on Daddy’s birthday, I received a letter from a young man in India. He comes from a very big family, and he’s known nothing but poverty all his life. For about ten years now, my husband and I have been sponsoring this young man through an organization dedicated to feeding and educating the marginalized of the world. Tony writes to us regularly, and we look forward to hearing about how his life is unfolding. In the letter I received from him today, he shared something with me I didn’t know. He said in his culture, birthdays are not celebrated. He wrote that until we started corresponding with him, he didn’t even know the date of his birth. The agency through which we support his education encourages acknowledgement of birthdays, however, so we always greet him in a special way during the month of August when he was born. This is what Tony wrote about his newfound awareness: “We live in a society where no one celebrates one’s birthday. I too never used to remember and celebrate my birthday. You have made me realize the importance of birthday celebration. Now I know my birthday and attend church on that day without failure. I am very grateful to you for your prayers on my birthday.”

Those words really touched me and they reminded me of a card I designed with powerful words by one of my favorite authors, Father Henri Nouwen: "Birthdays need to be celebrated. I think it is more important to celebrate a birthday than a successful exam, a promotion, or a victory. Because to celebrate a birthday means to say to someone, ‘Thank you for being you.’ Celebrating a birthday is exalting life and being glad for it. On a birthday, we do not say, ‘Thank you for what you did, or said, or accomplished.’ No, we say, ‘Thank you for being born and being among us.’ "

I just felt the need to share these thoughts today. Happy Birthday to YOU whenever your birthday is; in the words of Father Nouwen, “Thank you for being born and being among us!”

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