I had a teacher in high school named Martha Rutherford who always brought donuts in on her birthday and gave them away to her students. I loved Mrs. Rutherford (for obvious reasons), and as I chowed down a few glazed rounds I would think, “Man I’m glad she was born!”
Yesterday was my 30th birthday. We went to my favorite restaurant and did things that I wanted to do since it was my special day. Lots of people on facebook told me “Happy Birthday” because they wanted me to feel happy that I was born. One person told me, “I hope God is blessing you in all the ways you’ve dreamed.”
It occurred to me that God has not blessed me in the ways I’ve always dreamed – for which I am profoundly grateful.
I’ve had dreams, plans, and desires that have gone unmet, but they were selfish desires and plans. God hasn’t always given me what I wanted, but he’s always given me what i needed and what’s best for me – things of far greater value that I was too ignorant or immature to ask for. He is such a good Dad.
I think most of us live our lives like its our birthday every day. We want to be happy we were born, so we do what we want to do and pray God blesses us with what we want. But we find that we only grow more and more unhappy. Maybe even unhappy we were born.
It’s ironic how the more we stuff we try or buy to fill the void of happiness in our soul, the more empty we feel.
My sister has a decorative picture frame in her bathroom with a quote from Thoreau on it that reads…
Happiness is like a butterfly. The more you chase it, the more it eludes you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it comes and sits softly on your shoulder.
Turn your attention to other things. Like other people.
Mrs. Rutherford always seemed so daggone happy to be giving away donuts on her birthday. She would laugh and smile and find so much pleasure in it. I think she was happier to be giving the donuts than we were to be eating them.
Jesus said, “It’s better to give than to receive.” I used to think that meant giving was the more responsible thing to do even though it’s a sacrifice and doesn’t feel good. But the literal translation is, “it’s more blessed [happy] to give than to receive.” In other words, it’s actually more enjoyable to give than to get. No wonder Mrs. Rutherford seemed so happy to be giving us donuts on her birthday. She was.
God is teaching me that the secret to being happy I was born is to make others happy I was born.
One small way God has taught me this is through my relationship with a boy named Bryan Jose Alarcon Landa. He loves soccer and lives in Ecuador. But Bryan’s family is so poor he couldn’t go to school or even rest assured he would have a hot meal every day. Through an organization called Compassion International, I was able to give $38 a month to make sure Bryan has food, clothes, and education. I’m even able to give an extra $20 twice a year so that Bryan gets a gift on his birthday (October 13) and Christmas. I’m always giddy with excitement when I’m giving those gifts. It’s one thing to give obligatory birthday and Christmas gifts to people that will get a bunch of other stuff, but it’s a whole different level of joy to give to someone who won’t get anything otherwise and who desperately needs it.
Bryan and I write letters back and forth and he draws me pictures. He always tells me again and again how happy he is to receive my help. But he has no idea that I’m much happier giving it.
If you’ve been struggling feel happy you were born, don’t fill the void by focusing on yourself and what you want. Try turning your attention to someone else. You could go to Compassion’s website and find a child with your birthday and sponsor them. Or maybe you could just buy someone a box of donuts.
Either way, they’ll be happy you were born and so will you.