A birthday lesson in your own backyard

“Not what we have but what we enjoy constitutes our abundance.”Epicurus

This weekend, my neighbor’s son celebrated his 5th birthday.

Today, birthday celebrations for children five years and under are radically different then the occasions I celebrated decades ago.

My parties consisted of a house-full of family and friends, snacks, a cake and maybe a few balloons and party favors. That was it.

Now there are “party destinations” for children. You’re no longer the “star” of your own birthday – you’re sharing the day with dozens of other kids and their families doing the very same thing. To me those aren’t the memories birthday celebrations should be all about.

So when I saw my neighbor hanging balloons on his mailbox, blowing up a bouncy house in the backyard and tossing out a few soccer balls on the grass, I was a bit surprised. This party was going to be celebrated in their own backyard.

There were a few adults, cleverly crafted games, a pinata, and a bunch of little kids, happy to enjoy sunshine and simplicity with the birthday boy himself.

I remember saying to my wife, what a perfectly wonderful birthday celebration they’ve given him on his 5th birthday – not to mention an invaluable lesson they may not have realized.

Famed journalist Andy Rooney perhaps says it best:  “For most of life, nothing wonderful happens. If you don’t enjoy getting up and working and finishing your work and sitting down to a meal with family or friends, then the chances are you’re not going to be very happy. If someone bases his/her happiness on major events like a great job, huge amounts of money, a flawlessly happy marriage or a trip to Paris, that person isn’t going to be happy much of the time. 

If, on the other hand, happiness depends on a good breakfast, flowers in the yard, a drink or a nap, then we are more likely to live with quite a bit of happiness.”

Well said Andy!

If we as a society could stop competing in this world and just be happy with what we have right now, then maybe we’d all understand what true happiness feels like.

Dale Carnegie once said, “It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.”

And the only thing that little 5 year old boy was thinking about this weekend was today was his birthday. And no matter where it was spent or how lavish the party, as long as he was surrounded by those who love him unconditionally, he was blessed “with quite a bit of happiness” indeed.