When I walked down the stairs that morning, three large helium balloons, several cards, and a huge cake awaited me. I cringed; I had no idea how to receive all of it on my birthday. Since college, I cannot remember a time that I really celebrated my birthday well, and I admit that I have great difficulty receiving affirmation and gifts. But my new roommates didn’t know any of that about me. They were simply trying to make me feel loved and appreciated. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive it well. As each of them wished me a happy birthday and showered me with words of kindness, I just sat there dumbfounded and a little embarrassed.
As young children, my siblings and I always had birthday parties and intimate celebrations with family, but as we all got older, the joy of glorifying birthdays with gifts and elaborate dinners seemed to fade. Although I just assumed my family’s simplicity and lack of the practice of such a celebratory art was a sign of maturation and humility, perhaps something was being lost. I do believe that there is value in celebrating other’s lives and taking the time to slow down from the rush of everyday life and enjoy good conversation over dinner or a long walk is essential leisure; it’s important for our growth as human persons.
After our conversations ended and before I went to bed that night, I read the letters that my roommates had written to me. Their thoughtful words seemed so genuine and sincere. I realized that they wanted to celebrate with me not out of obligation, but rather, they wanted to let me know that I was appreciated and loved. And even more simply, they were showing me that sometimes it’s important to very explicitly express our joy for another person’s life. Although I may not outwardly express my need for kind words of affirmation, it does mean something to me when I receive it.
Perhaps their celebration was teaching me that I needed to learn how to accept affirmation and gifts and then give those same things to the people in my life. It may not be important to me to receive praise or affirmation in that particular way, but my inability to accept the love of others is in fact the opposite of my intention; as a result I actually don’t love them well.
Since that birthday, I have tried harder to find ways to show my gratitude for my friend’s lives. In particular, I try to celebrate their birthdays because my friends have helped shape who I am and who I am becoming. When we celebrate well we are joyfully acclaiming that that particular person is important and deserves to be doted on. I truly believe that everyone’s life should be praised from time to time. We should honor the people who have been placed in our lives, and take time to consider ways in which we can proclaim their lives well lived. In fact, it doesn’t need to be a birthday or anniversary that we celebrate, but sometimes, in just our ordinary day to day life, it’s good to show our friends and family members that we appreciate them and we love them just because they are.