My birthday is approaching. A big birthday, 60 years of blessed life. And I am proclaiming it to the world by throwing a big bash.
One of my guests will be Randy, who joins me every Tuesday night for Soul Line Dance class; he loves it every bit as much as I do. Randy is an African American man, tall, the very definition of lanky. He speaks with a loud voice, wears a huge smile, and has what can only be described as a very flamboyant style of dance. When he sees me, he yells my name and opens his arms to hug me. Then he draws back, warning me that he is very sweaty…right before he enfolds me in a bear hug and calls me “sweetie”.
There is very little I know about Randy. He promises me that someday he will tell me his story. He tells me there is a lot to share. I do know that he used to live in Los Angeles. I do know that he loves to dance and is very good at it, having been a featured dancer for many seasons on Soul Train, thus explaining his flashy dance style. He once danced in a Lionel Richie video. I am not making any of this up; I saw it on YouTube!
I sense too that Randy is now living on a very limited income.
So, when I told him about my party, he said he would like to get me a birthday present, which was followed by my usual, “Oh, you don’t need to get me anything.” His response: “But I WANT to get you something.”
So, every week, Randy asks me for my list. I finally wrote down some things that I actually like and that I knew he might be able to afford. Nice smelling lotions and soaps. Honestly, I love nice smelling things. I handed him the list; he took one look and gave it a dismissive wave. “Marty, this is not a list. I want a real list.” I told him that I really do want these things, and besides, I wanted to keep the ideas affordable. Again, a dismissive sigh, “You let me decide what is affordable.”
It is very difficult to ask for things without being cognizant about what the giver can actually give. Do I ask for a bread machine? Expensive jewelry? A gift card to Massage Envy? I do not. I do not have the temerity to ask for something that is out of Randy’s reach. And truth be told, it is hard to ask for something I do not think I deserve.
Yet Randy continues to signal me across the room with an inquisitive face; he mimes writing out a list. Have I done it? I have not. And it’s getting a little uncomfortable.
I realize Randy has already given me a huge gift. He has told me that he loves me enough to get me something special, not necessarily something he can afford. He has given me permission to “dream big”, which my practical side never ever lets me do. He has shown me that I can ask without assurance that I will receive. Kind of sounds like praying to God, doesn’t it?
So, I am adding a bread machine to my list. Also, a gift card to Williams-Sonoma, so that I can purchase new dishes without any chips or cracks. I want gift cards to the movie theatre – cards that will include enough money to buy the $7.00 popcorn. I will ask for a plane ticket to San Diego so that I can visit my son. And how about a new dining room table?
Unless Randy has a secret stash somewhere, choosing to live like a simple man who rides his bike everywhere, while his BMW sits unused in his garage, I will not get these things from him.
But who am I to tell the giver what he or she should give? And who am I to tell myself I don’t deserve to ask, and perhaps receive, my heart’s desire?
Randy has already given me the best birthday gift of all. The gift of love, humility, and even the courage to ask for what I truly want.