When I turned thirty-three, I hated my birthday. I found myself in an emotional waiting room, dressed in my party clothes, wondering who would give me a party? Who would bring presents, bake a cake, blow-up balloons? Who would say I’m of value even though I’m getting older?
“Well, what do you want to do?” my husband
asked in an exasperated voice.
“I … I want … I don’t know,” I
stuttered, “something special.”
“You want to go to the new restaurant?”
“Go out with friends?”
“Something special, so I don’t just feel
“Hmmmm.” He disappeared into the garage.
(I’ve always thought garages were built just so men had a place to
With no party in sight, I decided to give my own. How to celebrate? I
couldn’t really think of any event that would turn my depression
into joy. I had no idea what I truly wanted or needed.
Down through the years, Christmas time had remained my favorite
celebration. I loved to give gifts, especially to those who meant a
great deal to me. This is where the idea to select a Birthday Person
Now each year I select someone who has blessed my life. I chose my
mom first. I was her eighth child. She gave me life and added a great
deal of fun and love to my life along the way. Next was my sister,
Ouida. We shared everything. Best of all, she shared her faith in
Christ with me and many others. She died a few years after I made her
my Birthday Person. We never know how long we have to say “thank
In the months before my birthday, I think of all the people who have
blessed me. I search for a small token—a gift. Then I plan what I
want to say. After writing my first rough draft, I get a clean sheet
of paper that doesn’t have tear stains on it. And then I create the
finished product and mail it with a simple present. There have been
many tears involved in writing notes to my Birthday Person, tears of
joy, tears of healing—tears shared on the giving and the receiving
I’ve chosen a Birthday Person each year, all my sisters, brothers,
daughters, youth directors, pastors, grandchildren, family, and
friends—all have changed my life in amazing ways. Some years it has
been more difficult to choose a birthday person and several times
I’ve included a group—my Sunday School class, Facebook friends
and more. It has blessed me beyond any gift I could have received. By
focusing on others, I have eliminated the fear of more wrinkles and
gray hair looming in my future. I’m amazed when glancing back over
the copies of these letters to see many people on my list have now
passed away—my mom, sisters, brothers, and friends. People who
changed my life and who gave me so much, people I could never thank
enough, now gone. I’m glad I thanked them when I did.
Thankfulness feeds a healthy soul within us. My “Birthday Person”
celebration has spread to many of my friends. The healing power of
saying “thank you” and praising others can keep you young—that
and a box of hair color and really good facial serum.
I now look forward to my birthday. I hope you look forward to yours.
Try celebrating with a thank you gift.
Life Lessons: In Psalms100:4 it says: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.” In the culture of that time, the gate was like the courtyard or the entryway of a home, but the court was the living area—the place to be at home with special friends. Taking the time to say thank you. Offer a little praise, not only makes you happy, it can change someone’s life, especially your children. Teaching your kids to say thank you and to praise is a huge gift to them. But the greatest gift is to teach them to be thankful to God and to praise him. Enjoy your birthday.