Issue November 21, 2011

Happy Birthday

We were sitting at a table. One of us began speaking.

“Thank you. Thank you for taking the time to visit with me. Poor as I am, I am woefully unworthy of your time and attention, especially today. This is your special day. Today should be the day upon which you are unburdened by any and all unpleasant endeavors, and yet, here you sit, face to face with me at this small table. You honor me, and I am moved.

“The emotion I feel would be hard to describe. Can you see the tears welling up in my eyes? Can you see the tremor in my hand as the adrenalin surges through my veins? The passion that I feel for your presence can only be expressed with an absolute stillness, a calm that few know on this side of the grave. My shallow breathing has become an earth-shaking catastrophe, so intense is my feeling for this simple meeting.

“I marvel at the infinite, unknowable truths that have led to this instant, the countless microscopic choices that have led you to spend this brief interval with me. How many times has a stranger looked the other way and missed the opportunity to delay your progress or divert your path? How many mornings have you awoke with the sense that today is no more than just another day? But today is your special day, full of fractions of moments, breaths, swallows, glances and billions of fractions between them. This is your day.

“And while I know that I am a marvel, that I am at least a small part of the glory of the infinite, I recognize that I am a failure, that I have squandered my gifts and become little more than a burden upon the abundance around me. I am weighed down by the unfortunate truths that I choose not to share, hoping that you will not detect the horrors that I have experienced, the scars that strangle my heart, my flaws. I hope against hope that you will not judge me, reject me, that you might be the one who would allow me to be, even as I know that I am unworthy to even ask for such grace.

“But know, that by embracing this impossible hope, I intend to extend to you the same grace, as flawed as my approximation of that grace may be, that you can show me the darkest corners of your remembered experience, and I will understand that you are doing your best, that you are facing impossible challenges with limited resources, and that failure and fear are oppressive companions.”

Thereafter, these words were repeated, curiously, approximately, imperfectly. There was a pause. A moment later, the first one made a recitation. The words created moving images in the mind of the other. And then the other one made a recitation, which likewise manipulated the imagination of the first. There was another pause, and the first one spoke again.

“Thank you. Thank you for taking the time to visit with me. As poor as I am, you honor me by sharing this moment. By sharing otherwise unknowable truths, you enrich my being, and as I move forward on my path, those truths that you have shared will enhance my strength and lift me toward my next station.

“There is no way to know if our paths will bring us together again, whether we will have the rare opportunity to share this conversation again. There will be millions of intervening moments and millions of potential diverges that may prevent our ever again meeting, but we have had this moment, this glorious conversation. I rejoice at the possibility that you might carry me with you as I carry you with me into the great unknowable future. Peace to you, friend.”

The other one of us repeated these words, approximately, curiously, somewhat imperfectly, and we shared an embrace and parted. Ten hundred thousand million moments ensued.

For further consideration: The expressing of gratitude is, I believe, the only appropriate response to the abundant charms of this physical plane. There is no way that I can adequately express my gratitude and appreciation for the generosity and fellowship that I have felt and shared with you over this last year. I would need a few extra hours every day. As broken as I am, you honor me with your time and attention. I can only hope that you feel as honored and loved by those others in your lives. Peace.