I am long since passed the age when birthdays bring parties and confetti. Nowadays, my cake has enough candles to set off the smoke alarm. Instead, birthdays now offer moments to reflect on my life and my journey.
But I still get presents. And like anyone, I enjoy a good present. This year, the best gift I received came in a surprising form. It arrived in the form of a voicemail.
I turned on my cell phone and saw a message from an old friend. He and I have been playing telephone tag for several weeks and it was nice to see his name. I pressed play and it began as a normal birthday message. “Happy Birthday, Rachel.” And then he continued “let me tell you what you mean to me.. the cool thing about you is..” He went on to enumerate the ways in which I have influenced and inspired him.
I had tears streaming down my face at the end of the message. It was such a beautiful gift. In a poignant one and half minute message, my friend made me feel loved and seen. He gave me the gift of seeing myself through his eyes.
And he has some incredible eyes. This is a friend who I admire and respect, who often serves as an inspiration to me. To know that he feels the same is deeply moving. It made me wonder if he how I feel about him.
How often do any of us take the time to tell our friends what they mean to us? How often do we thank the people in our lives for the way they shape and inspire us? How often do we acknowledge all the amazing individuals who have helped us become the people that we are today?
Research in positive psychology tells us that this giving act not only enhances the lives of those we tell, but enriches our own lives as well. The act of writing a letter of appreciation to someone who has been important to us, increases our own happiness. Gratitude breeds happiness which in turn breeds more happiness and more gratitude.
The simple act of reaching out to an old friend, a new friend, a teacher, a mentor, or a family member to tell them what they mean to you has the power to start a spiral of positivity. So sit down at the computer and write an email, or find that piece of stationary and fountain pen or simply pick up the phone. Give someone the gift of your appreciation.
Which reminds me, I have a phone call (and a favor) to return.