As I sit with a few different open browsers, 9 Signs That Your Church is Ready to Receive Unchurched People, 5 Signs Your Kids are Entitled, My Top 5 Books on Poverty, I am noticing a trend and it certainly isn’t the reading material. So with that in mind I will share the 3 things I learned on my birthday.
1. I am another year older.
This should be a surprise for no one, yet I don’t know how many times this year I have wished for time to slow down. I have wanted more time to finish one job or another. I have needed a deadline extended or a meeting pushed back. I have celebrated when someone has had to cancel on me because I was trying to figure out how to fit it all in. I also wished for more time with family and friends, a few more hours in the day to make that visit I never got around to or to teach my son how to tie his shoes or skype more with my sister. I am another year older and I need to be okay with that. Time slows down for no one and rich or poor we all get 24 hours in a day. Hopefully being another year older will help me spend my time better.
2. Big Things Don’t Bring Joy, Small Things (especially 6 and 1 year olds) Do
When I got back to the house from my second or third meeting of the day I was greeted Derrick bursting out of the house singing Happy Birthday, one of the few English songs he knows. He had been asleep when I left the house around 6 am and was greeting me for the first time by singing me happy birthday. I walked in to my wife making a birthday cake. I sat down on the floor and Kaleb came up all on his own and gave me a kiss. It was the most amazing five minutes of my day. I have learned that small things bring more joy than larger things because they are accomplished within the moment and are recognizable as good things. Big things, long term goals, strategic plans, and the big picture while all things that I tend to focus on and am good at working towards do not bring that much joy. They take to long to accomplish and are made up of many different moments, of which most cannot really be claimed as our own. I want to start celebrating the small things.
3. I have given up on changing the world
Possibly the most important of all, I have given up on changing the world. It is just too much work. I am still committed however, to changing one person at a time. As my birthday was coming to a close and we were getting the kids ready for bed one of my friends, as Liz calls them, showed up at the house. He was crying, which is not normal for these street tough kids. He had been beat by his guardians and denied food all because he had tried to get medical treatment earlier in the day, something we help him with because he has sickle cell and all of the related illnesses that go with it. It was the end of the day, I was exhausted, and Liz needed help with the kids, but he needed someone to talk to. We sat outside for half an hour and it ended with him coming inside, getting dinner, and spending the night until his guardians could calm down some. Things tend to happen on my birthday. In 2007 my mom passed away on my birthday and it has been hard to celebrate it ever since. This year though, was a little easier. You see, my mom had this thing about focusing on the individual, the one person, student, parent and encourage them, make their day better, provide a small joy at the right time. This became evident by the many heartfelt cards, letters, and well wishes that came as she was sick and the months following her death. The effectiveness of her strategy was made clear. This year was slightly easier though, because I am pretty sure at this point in my life, six years later, that she would be pretty proud of me as I am finally starting to understand the many lessons she had for me and the life that she raised me to live.
I will succeed in using my time well, in small celebrations, and in small steps, one person at a time. Even on my birthday.