My mom woke me one Pennsylvania morning on my birthday and told me God had wrapped my present in white, if I would just look outside. (SNOW!) Although, I had always wished for one of those cool pool-party-birthdays my friends had in the summer, my parents had a way of making my birthday special just five days before Christmas.
Mom never wrapped my birthday present in Christmas paper, but went through the
inconvenience of getting the “out of season” birthday paper to make my day different. I was the envy of my brothers (I was sure) when I got presents two days in the same week.
Then some adult came and rained on my parade.
“You must hate having a Christmas birthday!” the adult had said.
“What’s there to hate?” was my thought, but what I said at that young age was, “yeah,” in agreement with the adult, and my heart searched for reasons to hate it.
I am reminded of this every June 10th, because I remember a time someone rained on my son’s parade. That date was already special to me because it is my friend’s birthday, but then we became parents on June 10th of 1997, an answer to many prayers! June 10th’s value multiplied when our second son was ALSO born on that same date three years later. I had painted their shared birthday with a positive brush, the same way my mother had painted my Christmas birthday with positive. My boys always get double cakes. (Although sometimes they help me and one requests cupcakes, cookies, or cookie dough instead!) Their uncles often call one, hang up and then call the other so they get double calls. They can “party hardy” together – and will have it in common all through adulthood. AND they can sing the song, “You say it’s your birthday? It’s my birthday too, yeah!” and really mean it!
Casey was four or five, when some adult came into his life and said, “You must hate sharing a birthday with your brother. That stinks.” I watched my son’s sky turn a little gray as he probably contemplated why it was a bad thing; he had never known any different.
It must be easier to rain on a parade than shine on it.
When my milk-allergic son was two, eating a frozen banana covered with sprinkles, enjoying every minute of it, someone at the store decided to shower some rain, “You can never have ice cream? Never? I couldn’t LIVE if I were you!”
Someone recently drizzled on my daughter, “You might be able to put dew from the grass on your face and wipe off those freckles.”
I know I know: some of those negative comments are from people just trying to be fun. Some are trying to “relate,” but too often un-contemplated words are just a form of precipitation on a parade! (My husband has spent hours counting the freckles on my daughter’s face – so I am thinking the “wiping the freckles off” comment didn’t stick, but I could practically see her thoughts: “Am I supposed to want to wipe them off?”)
Small talking at graduation parties recently, I saw my own tendency toward rain as thoughts crossed my mind during conversations. It IS easier to bring up negative subjects, spread negative news, or in other words: rain on the parade. But we are not called to the easier path. We CAN paint some positive into peoples’ lives. What if we encouraged the mother of the handicapped child, instead of pointing out how difficult her life is? (She already knew that part.) What if we told the person getting married that he is going to LOVE married life, instead of pointing out the ball and chain? What if we stop negatively saying, “You sure have your hands full!” to the mom with five young kids in the store and instead we say, “Wow, I bet you have some joyful times coming in your house!” What if we told someone in a storm of life that without the rain, a sun can never make a rainbow?
Do you remember someone who brought out the sun in your parade called life?
I remember what I considered, “messing up” a reading at church during the Christmas program when I was ten. Afterward, the minister’s wife came to me (as if she hadn’t even heard my error) and said, “You are a beautiful reader!”
Her husband immediately interjected, “And you read well too!”
Ha! That one pierced through some clouds.
I have told it before (when Shouting Out to my Dad) that when I had burned the cookies, and my brothers were making fun as brothers do, my father came in, took a bite and exclaimed, “Finally! Cookies made just the way I like them!!” That one still makes me smile – shining sun onto my parade thirty years later!
A most memorable sun shined into my life in February of 2010. A man sent an email to my husband with the subject title, “Should there be a second author in the Brady house?” This was a strange, “out of the blue” comment from someone I was yet to meet. Attached to the letter was a fifteen-page pdf presentation encouraging me to write. Apparently Russ Mack, who had helped get Chris’s best seller published, had seen me speak on stage somewhere with Chris. The first page of his document had a copy of the “NY Times Best Selling Author” award from my husband’s book, Launching a Leadership Revolution, but Russ had Photoshopped an “s” on the end, so the ribbon now said, “NY Times Best Selling Authors.”
For fifteen pages, Russ quoted Benjamin Franklin, (“We should all write something worth reading or live something worth writing.”) and others and told me “Somewhere, somebody is looking for exactly what you have to offer.” Since he was involved in marketing books, there was weight to his opinion that was both flattering and humbling to me. His sun was high in the sky, shining on my parade.
Despite little response from me and nothing in it for him, his encouragement didn’t stop. A few weeks later, he emailed me again to see if I had thought through his proposal. I must admit, I couldn’t figure out why he would continue encouraging me, especially since I had told him, “thanks, but no thanks.”
In 2011, another letter came, “It looks like the world still needs your wisdom.” Later that year, within one week of the first letter of this blog, this Russ Mack sent me another email telling me he knew it would be a success. I was shocked he had already found my blog, since I had not told him. Another letter came the next year. His sun shined brightly and consistently.
Although I only actually met him once or twice, I consider Russ’s encouragement such a blessing. He was such a sun on my parade.
Last week, Russ’s sun set, when he lost his battle to cancer and went to be with the Lord.
Though I did not know him well, I can tell you that the effects of his sun will warm and give light to my life and many others’.
May we each follow his example of shining onto the parades of others’ lives.
Encourage when there’s nothing in it for you.
Encourage again, even if there’s no acknowledgment.
Be positive toward others, even when you feel like your own life is a little cloudy, and you will be surprised how the sun reflects back on your own parade.
And one day, like Russ, when your sun is set, the effects will shine on the parades of others for years to come.
1Thes 5:11: Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.