Another Year Older and Wiser: A different and perfect birthday
By Will Randolph
On Monday I celebrated a birthday. I guess I am getting old because this birthday was somehow different and really memorable. I cannot put my finger on it but I do know it was different. I can hear my older brother Richard objecting to this last statement, "but every Birthday is different because we are changing as we age." This was my 57th Birthday and I spent it like most of my days, like most of you by working. I cannot think of a better way to have spent it.
My supervisor MaryJane, who has been a blessing for me, sent me a note saying "sorry you had to work today" and "I hope you have an opportunity to celebrate your day." It was a great sentiment but as I reflected upon it, I realized I was not sorry I had to work and even had chosen to. It dawned on me I could have taken vacation time but had chosen myself to work this day. I realized I was celebrating my birthday by being at work. My work having been given by God was a great birthday present.
One of my coworkers at Discipleship Ministries wished me a "perfect day." I thought about this wish also. What would a perfect birthday look like? I decided that a perfect day is a day in which we have a chance to celebrate just being alive. It is when we can overcome all the distractions, the pain and suffering, the bad news, setbacks, and struggles and are just at peace. This is a perfect day. My birthday was a perfect day. No it was a heavenly day, as Patti Griffith sings about.
Let me share with you why it was a perfect day. I awoke to folks who love me. I do not know why because I struggle like most of us do to love myself sometimes. I had a rainbow to remind me of my creator's presence in my life. This rainbow which somehow appeared over downtown Nashville, greeted me as I entered my work building. I had a long phone call, unexpected complaining about the United Methodist Church's lack of focus on Older Adult Ministry and how the caller had decided to do something about it himself in his area. He shared with me this--"you are the expert, help me figure out how to get my church started in Older Adult Ministry." If you know anything about me, you know this; it was music to my ears because he was committing me to be in partnership with him to help the church grow in its ministry to Older Adults because he felt like I had something to offer him. I then was treated to a surprise lunch out at a Greek restaurant, with one of the most simple but elegant meals I have been blessed with this whole year. Having lunch with these coworkers Nancy and Lisa, who took me out for my birthday was truly an amazing experience which I will cherish for a long time.
Why was this birthday so different and perfect? I have finally matured to the point I realize I am old and not only does it not bother me, but I love what the years have taught me (though some of the lessons I am glad are over and done). I also realize how much joy there is for me in having purpose and meaning, an ability to do something, especially something for someone else. My work has become a joy for this reason. I enjoy working on the behalf of God, the Kingdom, my church, and especially Older Adults. I feel so fortunate to be where I am. Especially as I remember what it is like to not have a job, or to have a job I cannot stand. I believe this birthday was in short different because it is not about doing anything on "my day;" it was instead about just enjoying being alive. This leads then to an ultimate appreciation of having been alive for a long time, i.e. that I am getting older with each birthday.
This birthday was different because it has helped me to understand that getting older even as a person gets weaker physically is also about growing more content, coming to a sense of wellbeing and being blessed. Reaching 57 makes me want to strive to be 57 and a day old, and a day more content.
Note the Birthday cake pic--my mom Hazel Randolph used to make my family's birthday cakes shaped like what we wanted and for me it was usually a cat. My middle name is Beverley so I thought this was a nice pic to add to the post.