When I was a little girl, birthdays were all about surprises. I loved a good surprise more than anything, and lucky for me, I had parents who were masters at creating them. In one standout moment, the year I turned 10, my parents flew my recently-moved-best-friend home from Florida so she could celebrate with me. THAT was a surprise. And a delight! I believe there was also a neon splatter painted cropped sweatshirt in the mix that year. And a new stereo system with a turntable, radio, and dual cassette player (for that all important capability to tape a favorite song from the radio by setting up the cassette to record, hitting pause, and then running full speed from the next room to capture the song when it came on – well, usually all but the first eight seconds during which you were mid-sprint!).
This weekend, I celebrated a milestone birthday. But this time, I insisted on not having any surprises. In fact, I lost my love for surprises a long time ago. I just prefer to know what’s going to happen. I enjoy the anticipation and the planning. If you ask me, there are enough unpredictable events in life as it is!
So this past Saturday, I spent the day with my favorite people, starting with breakfast at a bustling little cafe with my parents and my children, and ending with dinner with my husband at a swanky restaurant downtown. In between, we made time for a few of my favorite things. And it was lovely.
But throughout the day, you’ll never guess what crept in.
They didn’t show up in the form of balloon bouquets or piles of wrapped packages or friends jumping out from behind the sofa. Instead, they came as emails, and cards, and handmade signs, and texts, and calls, and online posts from friends and family, near and far, old and new. As examples:
• People sang songs…on video.
• Or they had their DOG sing a song on video.
• They made signs and cards with hand-drawn pictures.
• Some sent pictures of themselves doing adorable things to commemorate my day.
• Friends shared memories of times we’ve spent together…and in at least one case of a time together before I was even born. (It appears that a full roast beef dinner was served at my baby shower, which explains a lot.)
• Dear ones wrote long, sweet letters telling me how I’ve touched their life or sharing glimpses of how they see me.
• They sent lists of 40 things they admire about me.
• And made predictions about what the next 40 years might bring.
• Someone even put me in the Twitter Spotlight.
Every single message made me smile. Some made me laugh out loud. Others brought me to tears. Most I’m still reflecting upon. Some I’ll literally save forever.
Each one of these people, some privately and some publicly, gave me the greatest gift they had – they gave their time. They suspended their whirling list of things to do and places to go, paused to think, and to create, and to give me something memorable. And in so doing, they surprised me.
These surprises were little moments of joy that dotted the landscape of my special day. Their words mattered.
And so will yours.
To whom can you write today? Whom can you bless with the gift of your words?
Go do it. They’ll be both surprised and delighted. Just like me.