He pulled open the calendar on his phone, swiping to the days when he would be gone. It would only be four weeks, but… Well, I can’t be gone that day, he dropped his phone on his bed. It was time to cancel the trip. His mother would want him home on the 30th, and it was smack-dab in the middle of his trip overseas.
We all have those important dates. A special family tradition, holiday, or birthday, when our plans conflict with them, we are often tempted to cancel our travels.
As I applied to go overseas, one of the biggest worries for me was making it to my little sister’s 18th birthday. Both of our birthdays are in the summer so I was probably bound to miss one of them. If the schedule came out and I was going to miss one, I preferred it to be mine. I was turning 20, another mile-marker. I was no longer going to be a teenager. Fictitious images of my family bemoaning the fact that they could not celebrate that with me made me feel like I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. If I had to be gone for either of them, would I have to give up the trip?
I ended up teaching English in Southeast Asia on my birthday. By that time, I was too excited with what we were doing to feel downhearted. On the special day, I went with my team leader to go get lunch. We picked out some fruit and enjoyed good conversation. Walking back to the English Center, I could tell something strange was going on. Through the windows I could see people hurrying about little chores and the children of the overseas staff were acting “secretive,” throwing shifty glances and pretending like they could not be seen.
Opening the door, I was flooded by the sounds and sights of a surprise birthday party. Everyone had decorated pieces of paper with funny or encouraging sayings, sticking them to the white walls. The regular English Center staff had baked me a huge chocolate chip cookie — my favorite kind — for a cake, and their daughter presented me with a gift she had bought in a local market. It was a necklace, the pendant in the shape of a bird perched on a stick. My team gave me a card they’d all signed.
Hands down, that was one of my best birthdays ever. It was short, sweet, book-ended by hard work that still had to be done. Worrying about which special date had to be swallowed by my trip overseas, I never imagined such a loving and encouraging expression of my 20th year
If you’re worried about missing something important, maybe you’ll find a different kind of blessing during the trip you applied to take.
When people are together away from home, opportunities for little celebrations help everyone feel more comfortable. Maybe you’ll miss out on being with your family or friends for that special occasion, but you can take it with you and enjoy it with your team. It might be just the encouragement they need too.