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March 28, 2006
"What are you going to do for your birthday?" my friend asked me.

"Nothing, I hope," I said.

"Would you like to go to my jazz class with me on your birthday?" Q asked. At first I told him I might like to go. Then I realized I really didn't want to, and backed out. In honor of him, though, I am playing jazz on the radio as I work on the computer.

"How about dinner at Akbar?" Akbar is our favorite Indian place. I told him I would let him know.

"Would you like to go to Curves this morning?" Mary asked. It was on the tip of my tongue to say no, I don't want to do anything or go anywhere. But that would have been foolish. So I decided to exercise and then do nothing on my birthday.

"I can't talk now," Q said yesterday. "I'm wrapping your present."

"Oh, good," I said. "What is it?"

"It's a surprise."

But it wasn't really a surprise -- it was two pigs and two seasons' worth of seeds and farming tools and two years' worth of school tuition for AIDS orphans in Africa, all from Episcopal Relief and Development and each in its own separate email. Each one had a different message; opening them all was fun.

"Thanks for the pigs," I told him when I opened the email this morning, "and the other stuff." He went off to his jazz class and I began puttering in my office. The phone rang a few times and then I stopped answering it. So far, I haven't done anything worth mentioning, although I am seriously considering shampooing my hair. It's been a good day.

Once I wanted a birthday cake with blue frosting, and my mother made me one -- I still remember how beautiful I thought it was. That birthday I also got a stuffed monkey, with whom I slept until junior high school. Once I wanted lobster tails for my birthday dinner, and we had them. Once I wanted a blue bicycle, and there it was when I got home from school, parked in the living room.

These days, there is simply nothing I need for myself. Now, I just want the world to be better. I want there to be a world worth leaving to my grandchildren. I want to have done with selfishness, my own and that of others. Ip; I want the war to end. I want my country and my church to live up to the astonishing breadth of their own ideals. I wouldn't mind doing that myself.

Our times are in your hands, we pray on a birthday. Imagine the little girl who wanted a blue birthday cake middle-aged now, a grandmother. Imagine all of us learning, as we grow, how to be citizens of a world we do not rule, learning to love and honor our own modest place in something larger than we are. There would be no end to the happiness we could have as citizens of that kind of world. Our joy in it would even survive our taking leave of it, leaving everything we had ever owned behind.



You say it's your birthday
It's my birthday too -- yeah
They say it's your birthday
We're gonna have a good time
I'm glad it's your birhtday
Happy birthday to you!

Yes, we're going to a party party.
Yes, we're going to a party party
Yes, we're going to a prty party..

I woulkd like you to dance -- Birthday!
Take a cha-cha-cha-chance -- Birthday!
I would like you to dance -- Birthday!

You say it's your birthday
Well, it's my birthday too -- yeah
They say it's your birthday
We're gonna have a good time
I'm glad it's your birthday
Happy birthday to you!


Want to see my birthday pig?
And my little girlfriend, orphaned by HIV/AIDS but so proud of herself in her very cool school uniform?
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