What did I really want for my birthday? Not to stay up late with some drinks and friends. That’s something I enjoy, but it tends to have lasting effects into the next day, with a groggy and slow-moving morning. The sun’s up earlier now, and the days are short; sleeping during precious daylight hours drives me nuts. No, for my birthday I wanted to get up early and go out for a run. I met up with a couple close friends and took a loop around the arboretum, followed by a huge and delicious breakfast at Mickie’s dairy bar. Without the run, I still would have had a huge breakfast, but wouldn’t have felt that great gratification of having really earned it. At the end of all this, I had a lot of energy for the day ahead, which was still young thanks to the early start. (I went out to breakfast the next day, too!)
My birthday was a fun day to have an iPhone because throughout the day, various messages popped up with birthday wishes, which kept me feeling good about the day. Some came from people I seldom talk to, and it’s cool that they were thinking of me. Sure, Facebook reminds everyone that it’s my birthday, and there’s very little remembering required – and some might argue little sincerity as well – but at its heart, I enjoy the birthday greetings. They’re all positive. People are connecting with me. Some are saying clever things, or drawing on old inside jokes, and they make me smile. Having drifted away is no reason not to tell someone something nice – go for it. I have to say, I feel the best about the few cards that arrived in the mail.
Which brings me to the thought for the day: go for it. To be nice to someone, you don’t have to do something perfect, but don’t do nothing! The calls I got from my family and friends on my birthday – I cherish them. A rousing rendition of the birthday song makes my day. No elaborate presents are necessary – the thing that makes me happy is knowing that people are thinking of me. I look forward to seeing my parents this weekend more than any stuff they might have in tow.
I consider the same type of thing as I interact with people in the Team In Training community who deal with cancer. Sometimes, it’s hard to know what to say or what to do. But really, I think there’s very little criticism possible for simply showing up: for sending a note, or making a call, or bringing a little gift or meal or thing that tries to ease someone’s burden. Just sitting with them. Being shy or worrying that you might make a mistake or not do something perfectly can leave you motionless as the clock ticks by until you feel that it’s too late to do anything at all. Even the little things mean something in so many cases: showing up. If no one did so much as call me on my birthday, I’d end the day in tears.
Can you think of a day when perhaps no one called you at all, or a period of time when you withdrew because of something you were dealing with? A day when you didn’t touch another human? Do you have a grandparent who spends many days in solitude? I bet they’d appreciate a card or a call. Do you have a friend who’s dealing with a hard situation? Someone coping with loss? Doing the “right” thing can be so hard to determine. Fortunately, almost anything done in the spirit of kindness shines light where there was the darkness of doing nothing. Be a catalyst. Treat people like it’s their birthday.