During my last year of college I was partnered in ministry with a girl I didn’t know. We both looked at eachother and wondered how this was going to work… she admittedly had many more hesitancies than I did….
I was tan skinned, dark hair, she was light skinned, blond hair. I dressed in sweatpants and sweatshirt most days, she had pearls and rings and several outfits to match each. I wore flip flops year round, she wore uggs. I slept every couple of hours due to being chronically sick and was up by 5:30 each morning, she needed 8 hours of sleep and enjoyed sleeping in. I had never used a blow dryer before and she blow dried her hair and used a curling iron in ways I wish I knew how. She came from an intact 2 parent ministry home, and I, well, I didn’t have anything remotely like that. She had traditions and warm feelings around holidays. I didn’t. She’d call her parents to debrief about her day. I called my pastor a couple times a month. She enjoyed going to starbucks and the gym. I wanted to roller blade and shoot nerf guns. In fact, that’s how she met me. She walked into our dorm room to move in and I was in roller blades speeding down the hall shooting nerf guns. To say she was nervous about rooming with me was an understatement. I judged her, too.
This roomy and I have kept in touch over the years. I was a bridesmaid in her wedding. We see each other every few years. Recently she shared her testimony in a church service and each time she does that, she calls to remind me how much of an impact I’ve had on her. You see, our one year rooming together was hard, not because it was hard to live with each other, but because we learned a lot that required us to grow and see things in ways neither of us had before.
One of the biggest things I started to learn from my roomy was how to celebrate. I celebrated nothing formerly. It felt awkward and strange. It wasn’t a big part of my life growing up and it wasn’t known to me. I was often sad that there weren’t many celebrations but it was a normal piece of my life I had accepted. Then I met Stephanie, my roommate.
This girl celebrated everything… a finished paper, a good grade, making it to class on time… birthdays, birthdays are a big deal to her. It was so special to celebrate my birthday with her that year. I still have her card. I acted like my birthday wasn’t a big deal, but man did I learn a lot about celebrating birthdays and celebrating people through her. I felt what it was like to be special. She has a way of doing physical acts that resonate with a lot of love.
The next year I was living with my pastor and his family because I was too sick to stay at school. Stephanie flew up from our school to surprise me for my birthday. It was a very special birthday. I felt loved. I felt special. We spent a lot of time laying in bed (because that’s mostly all I could do), but it was so nice that she celebrated me where I was at.
Birthdays are hard for me still. One of the hardest things for me to celebrate. This year brings many other complications that add to the grief season I am in. But I am reminded of how special it can be. Some of the few birthday memories I have are low key and personal and special, like my birthdays with Stephanie. I am a sentimental person. Birthdays, to me, are more about intentional relationships and being surrounded by people who care and love me. I am all about purpose. I don’t do much if it doesn’t seem purposeful. Add some sentimentality into that and I feel very fulfilled and loved.
This year my birthday will have some special moments and some sad moments. And as I think of how I want to remember it, I decided it would be appropriate to celebrate in a way I enjoy the most, by giving. So this year, my 28th birthday, I’m going to do 28 everyday, extraordinarily normal intentional prompts of love in my community, my friendships, and for those I love, to celebrate the purposeful and sentimental pieces that make up a lot of who I am and to be reminded that a lot of people have loved me, cared for me, and helped me to grow.
28 Things for 28 Years
- Write a snail mail encouragement to each of my former roommates (I’ve had over 30, not including my little sister…)
- Bake for my neighbors
- Mail baked treats to a friend who’s hurting
- Pay for the person behind me’s fast food anonymously
- Surprise a friend with flowers during a hard season
- Write a thank you note to the EBT/Food Stamp dept (because they could really use some cheerying up)
- Thank someone I know who works in a social service field
- Drop off flowers to a wife who recently lost her husband
- Give each of my softball girlies a note encouraging them to befriend someone different than themselves
- Spend an hour collecting strayed grocery carts in the parking lot
- Send a note of thanks to my doctors, because they are awesome
- Make some frozen meals for my mom friends to eat on days when they are too sick to cook
- Do each of my roommates chores for a week
- Remind my little sister she’s a good mom
- Write a note on the anniversary of a death and remind that person that they are seen and remembered
- Take some city kids to the ocean
- Write a poem to someone who’s impacted my life
- Pack a lunch and give it to someone else
- Leave a sticky note that will make people smile in a few bathrooms
- Remind 5 people I am the closest with how much they mean to me
- Write to the former people I coach with and let them know how much I’ve appreciated what they’ve taught me
- Compliment someone I don’t know
- Leave a tip that’s bigger than the bill
- Thank my post-lady
- Offer some garden veggies to neighbors
- Write a thank-you to a new foster mom
- Give away books I’ve read
- Tell my disability facilitator how helpful he’s been (seriously, he has been).