“What do you want for your birthday?”
Believe it or not, I always have trouble answering the question.
It’s not that material things don’t turn my head. But, with all my physical needs met and so many of my wants provided, nothing’s pressing for a place on my wish list. Just bake me a chocolate cake and shower me with funny cards—that’s enough to make my birthday happy.
I guess I’m at that stage of life where smaller gifts—the kind usually given at birthdays—aren’t really necessary. I have more socks and shirts than I can wear in a month. My wife and I eat out when we want to—with or without gift cards. If I need a new tool, I go buy it. (This seldom happens, because, unhandy as I am, I don’t have a clue how to use most of the implements on the shelves at Home Depot.)
If pressed to list some things I don’t have but I’d really like, I could surely name some. And I guarantee you that I’ll receive none of them this birthday:
A third vehicle, a truck to use the two times each year I want to haul something and must either cram it into my Toyota or ask a friend for a favor.
A new house, with no neighbor’s swimming pool visible from my patio and no neighbor’s sound system audible behind my closed windows.
A month-long cruise to the major ports of Europe.
A gift certificate for the latest iPhone, iPad, and Mac laptop, with a lifetime promise to replace the devices each time Steve Jobs and his cohorts introduce a new model.
But I know none of those pipe dreams would make my life much happier or any more meaningful.
And I have thought quite a bit about my abundance in a world of profound need. I’ve peered inside a lean-to shanty among a sea of them in a Kenyan slum. I’ve satisfied a beggar with a few scraps of bread on an urban street in India. And, like so many Americans, I’ve felt overwhelmed by reports of disaster in Haiti and New Zealand and Japan.
Those victims of earthquake and flood and poverty and pestilence would probably have no trouble coming up with a birthday list. But no one’s asking most of them to write one.
By the time you read this, my birthday will have come and gone. And I’ll be grateful for each gift—or with no gifts—because I’ve already received so much. And, of course, all this hasn’t mentioned the most important gift of all, a relationship with the Savior who gives us the perspective to realize his greatest gift is more than this world can ever offer.