Remember George no man is a failure who has friends. ~Clarence Oddbody, Angel 1st Class, It’s a Wonderful Life
Prior to last Friday, I have been thrown two surprise parties. The first was on my 30th birthday and the 2nd a decade later on my 40th birthday. At the time, they were enjoyable. My family and many of my friends joined me in celebrating those milestones making the events special in a way that simply cannot be when milestones are celebrated alone.
At the time of the event they were enjoyable. That joy was tainted a few years after my 40th when both events were thrown in my face by the party host. The caustic words heaped upon me, designed to make me feel guilt ridden, put me in a mode where I never again wanted a party thrown for me especially a surprise party. Even the thought of a party in my honor filled me with dreaded feelings of guilt.
With my pending trip to India, I told my kids that I did not want a going away party especially a surprise party. I did agree to a get together with my family giving me and them the chance to say our final goodbyes. We had a very nice dinner together at my mom’s and all my siblings attended. We are a very tight knit family so it was great spending a final few, very noisy (we are a very loud family) hours with the lot of them. With us, even the cutting of a pie is a cause for hilarity.
It will be strange not seeing them for the holidays because we spend all the big ones (Easter, 4th July, Thanksgiving, Christmas) together every year. I’m sure when those days come and I’m in India away from my family, away from those I hold dearest my heart will sing a lament.
Despite my best attempts at a low key exit, a surprise party was on the docket. The source of the party was so unexpected that I was caught thoroughly off guard…in a very good, most excellent manner. This was the first time that I didn’t have an inkling that a party was brewing.
My workmate, in a very devious way, invited me to his house along with members of the groups to whom I gave leadership training, to plan out their continued leadership development after I move to India.
Growing leaders is my passion and I was desperate to ensure the hard work we began together with the 6 class program had a future. I told them in the final class that the training could either be the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning. The devious one used this knowledge as bait, the perfect bait which effectively blinded me to the subtleties that another game was afoot.
If I must be honest with myself, part of the reason I was against a party is that I have doubts, doubts that I am one worthy of a party. Behind my confident (sometimes seen as arrogant) exterior, I do sometimes wonder if I am friend material, if I touch other’s lives in a memorable way. I sometimes wonder if I, as a human add value to the lives of others or am a drain and thus a failure in the human arena.
That night stirred in my heart memories of one of my favorite movies, It’s a Wonderful Life. I felt like George Bailey must have felt when the people he had touched expressed their gratitude in the unforgettable Christmas Eve scene closing the movie.
The outpouring of love from all those in attendance, all those who made time in the busy schedules on a Friday evening to bid me a fond farewell, displaced my fears and left in me a deep sense of gratitude to them all. It also is making it more emotionally difficult to go to India and not see them on a regular basis.
Thank You to my family and friends for sending me off to India complete with a heart overflowing with love.