Today is my birthday! And I’d like to invite you to participate in my favorite birthday tradition. Every year since I was a little boy, my parents made sure something special happened at my birthday party. When all my friends gathered around for cake and presents, Mom and Dad would stand next to me and explain it was time for everyone to say what they liked about me. One by one, all my friends would share what they appreciated about me. When I was young, it was mostly stuff like, “He’s silly!” But by my senior year of high school, my friends said deep things about my heart and what our friendship meant to them. I only remember a few of the birthday presents I got. (The Electronic Survivor Shot gun was pretty epic.) But I remember what my friends said about me. I believe I’m a different man today because of those moments.
Even though we spent the entire year together, my friends and I didn’t talk about what we liked about each other. We usually didn’t say we liked each other at all! Somehow, in our culture it’s more acceptable to mock than encourage. But the truth is we really did like each other. But naming what we really felt made our friendship—and our lives—much better.
A friend of mine talked recently shared how he was challenged, as a full-grown man, to write a “love letter” to his non-emotional, now-senior dad. He resisted, but finally sent it. And it ended up causing the most meaningful connection he has ever had with his dad, still to this day.
My family did this again for me over the weekend (we do it at all our birthdays), so right now my fuel tank is full. I’m good to go. Who do you need to say something to? One sentence could make a big difference. It could change the trajectory of their day or their week. It might even turn into the most meaningful connection you will ever have with them.
We’re not guaranteed another year. You may not get another chance to share what you really feel. Thanksgiving is right around the corner. This year maybe you could let your friends and family know you’re thankful for them—and offer some examples of why.