I looked forward to my birthday every summer with great anticipation.
We’d choose our favorite foods or menu or meal.
And we’d choose chocolate or white or yellow cake. Because as Julia Child says, “A party without a cake is just a meeting.
My mother would bake up the cake in a 9×13 Pyrex and we’d whip frosting and layer across the top.
The absolute best part to me.
Every year we picked out Wilton edible hard candy icing decorations to place on top of our cake.
I loved gazing at those pressed plastic packages inside the grocery store aisle. Yellow rose flowers or red? Did I want one that said Happy Birthday? Which one was my top-of-the-list-favorite this year? Decision made, we’d trek to the checkout.
With the cake baked and frosted, we’d open the candy icing decoration package and carefully work through the process of dampening the back of the paper so we could peel off the molded shapes.
Oh, then the fun!
Deciding where I wanted to place each particular candy on the canvas expanse of vanilla frosting.
Fast forward across a few years and I find myself celebrating forty this month, and a friend celebrated with me by baking and decorating, a gorgeous and delicious, white birthday cake, complete with frosting flowers and a carefully numbered 40 on top.
It was a fun surprise and late evening as I snuggled in my chair with my feet tucked under me, I contemplated that it had been a very long time since anyone had baked me a birthday cake.
It doesn’t matter that I don’t always have a birthday cake anymore, made by someone else.
Yet, it was super fun! And definitely delicious! Somewhere through the years of birthday cakes and choosing chocolate or yellow or white, my absolute favorite choice became white cake. I love me a moist, white birthday cake or wedding cake slice!
Perhaps we grow up and we grow out of traditions.
Sometimes 900 miles separates you from your mama. Perhaps the years roll around so quickly, we can hardly believe it’s time for cake again.
But there’s one thing I don’t think any of us outgrow no matter what we tell ourselves.
How meaningful it is when someone we love blesses us with an act of kindness.
The cake WAS delicious and beautiful. But the sacrifice of time and effort on the part of my friend was even more beautiful. She’s busy. She has littles and a lovely home and a husband and several of her own siblings and many things filling her to-do list.
The blessedness of kindness wears so many faces.
It’s in baked birthday cakes.
Years ago, by my mother. This year, by my friend. It’s in the taking time to let your daughter choose that treasured candy cake topper package, clutching it eagerly through the grocery checkout line.
I see it in my little nieces, only a few years old. Learning to love to give, by coloring pictures and sealing them in envelopes for the chosen person. It’s in Perler Bead creations, crafted and carefully given by an excitedly-eager three-year-old along with shining eyes and the happy announcement proclaiming “I made that!!!”
The blessing of kindness takes form in birthday packages filled with forty gift items. It’s called red roses as well as wildflower bouquets. It’s as simple as picking up my phone and sending a happy day text. It’s in asking your friend how they would like to celebrate and what would bless them. It’s slipping your hand inside another’s and squeezing out I love you. It’s giving of time and taking time. It’s the email, the happy mail.
Basically, the blessing of kindness is in looking deeper and realizing the sacrifice and care and time given on my behalf by another who was willing to take the time, make the time, bake the cake, choose the flowers, arrange the flowers, write the note, tap out the text, speak the words, do the thing, little or big, to make my life happier.
Not a bit of it is insignificant.
Children delight in birthdays and celebration, and also, innocently take for granted the work and kindness and love put into them. They haven’t grown into the wisdom and age of seeing it.
I certainly haven’t perfected it or cleared away the smokiness of the glass I look through, yet the older I get the better I see it. The easier it is to pause and look deeper, longer, harder.
To see underneath the swirl of the frosting and TAKE NOTE of the kindness flowing through every second of every stroke.
To notice it in every dotted “i” and every ink smudge on the envelope.
To glimpse it in each painstakingly placed Perler bead. Bead after bead laid upon the form, then pressed and heated by a little person’s mama to melt and meld into a fish shape and become a gift!
To detect it in every tap it took to send the text through.
To note it every time I pull a paper straw out of the package included in my gift of forty items.
To spy it in the pointy edges of the succulent my daughter placed on my kitchen island for me.
To feel it flow from the edge of the sheet lifted up by my man for me to more easily climb into bed.
To appreciate the effort and care in the brownies dropped off at my door.
To whisper grateful over the time put in by a friend to organize an outing and celebrate with me.
To hear it in every note of the birthday melody recording left on my voicemail. Aged voice and lisping words joined together in beautiful harmony.
To catch it AND feel it in shared laughter spilling out in happy notes.
To touch it as I slit open the envelopes I found in my mailbox.
And here’s the thing I think about kindnesses and blessings. They multiply. We take them in and we’re compelled to pass them on. As I become more aware, I can’t help but spill it out onto others.
Sharing and caring and passing it forward brings another whole wave of smiles and blessing.
These things we never, never outgrow.
May you be blessed today!