Sunday, September 30, 2007

Birthday Blessings

My birthday was this past week, and my sister’s was the month before. Every year, we go through the same routine of asking each other for a wish list and struggling to come up with anything we want. We’re so blessed, aren’t we, that we have such a hard time coming up with things we really need? We get tired of buying each other the same items every year. I buy her favorite lotion, which she can just as easily buy for herself and save the postage of having it shipped. (We live in different states.) Or we’ll send each other gift certificates, when all we’re really doing is just swapping money. So, this year we decided to forgo the gifts and donate money to each other’s favorite charity. I asked my sister to donate to the memorial fund for my friend’s son, an airman who was killed in an accident in Afghanistan. My friend was so grateful for the donation that it made me feel great! In fact, I felt so good that I went a step further and donated some money of my own to a charity I had read about recently that really touched my heart. Being able to give really made me count my blessings on my birthday.

Another favorite gift I received was one that my 14-year-old son made. When he asked me what I wanted, I had the usual difficulty in coming up with some suggestions, so I jokingly told him I wanted “a new house.” (That wasn’t really a joke. I do want a new house, but it’s highly unlikely he’d be able to arrange it!) Anyway, he spent hours putting together a little house with Popsicle sticks and glue, cutting out doors and windows, and painting it. He then searched through his Lego people to find the perfect representations of our family and gathered them around a little Lego table inside the house. It was adorable, and the thought and labor that went into it thrilled me more than any gift he could have bought. (To top it off, however, he did tape a Barnes and Noble gift certificate inside the roof of the house!)

I didn’t suffer my usual depression this year at getting another year closer to death (as I so dramatically phrase it), and I’m certain the reason was because I felt as if my birthday was more meaningful this year. Don’t get me wrong . . . my family still spoiled me with some really nice gifts, which I loved and accepted gratefully. But I was surprised at how much joy I felt in also giving something away, as well as in knowing that my son took the time to make something that made me laugh. I think this way of thinking is going to become a birthday tradition in our family. Wouldn’t it be great if we could teach our children that our birthdays are days of gratitude in which we should be thankful for all that we have and joyously make someone else’s life a little better? Start up a new “giving tradition” when the next birthday comes around in your family. I guarantee it will make everyone feel wonderful!

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