Today is my 29th birthday, and it’s hard not to be overwhelmed and humbled by all the good things in my life right now. I have a loving and supportive husband, a warm and happy home, plenty of my favorite foods to eat, good friends, a good church, and 150 copies of my newly printed book scattered across the living room floor.
To be honest, there have been moments today when I’ve felt the increasingly familiar pangs of survivor’s guilt. I can’t help but consider the fact that due to the (largely uncontrollable) circumstances of my birth, I will spend the day celebrating while roughly 24,000 children under the age of five die from preventable, treatable diseases.
It can be hard sometimes to strike a balance between thankfulness and outrage.
In fact, sometimes I think it should be harder.
For the longest time, I figured I’d take my 29th birthday to make a list of 30 things I wanted to accomplish before I turned 30. But if I’ve learned anything over the past few weeks it’s been that accomplishments in and of themselves are not ultimately fulfilling. Rather, it is the intangible, immeasurable things you pick up along the way that make all the difference—relationships, moments of clarity, fruits of the spirit.
What’s most beautiful about these things is that they are accessible to all people—the rich and the poor, the educated and the unlearned, the privileged and the marginalized.
In fact, sometimes I think they are even more accessible to “the least of these.”
So rather than focusing on 30 accomplishments I would like to achieve, I think I’ll focus on 9 character traits I would like to develop over the next year. Something tells me I’ll be working on these long after I pass my 30th birthday:
1. Love: I want my default setting to be an attitude of mercy, forgiveness, and love rather than one of self-preservation and entitlement.
2. Joy: I want to tap into that ever-present source of infinite joy by stopping long enough to find it in the little things—the bird’s next in my carport, the Book of Common Prayer, long talks with good friends, the sound of Dan breathing (but not snoring!) next to me in bed at night.
3. Peace: I want to repair that broken relationship I’ve been neglecting for so long.
4. Patience: I want to learn to revel in the in between, not just survive.
5. Kindness: I want to consider how my everyday decisions affect people around the world, and change even my favorite habits should respect for my fellow human beings compel me to do so.
6. Goodness: I want to speak as well about other people when they are not around as when they are in my presence.
7. Faithfulness: I want to help build a church that my children can be a part of.
8. Gentleness: I want to speak less and listen more.
9. Self-Control: I want to practice mindfulness in what I consume.
What about you? What character trait would you like to develop over the next year?
(Photo by jbelluch)