I love my family more than life itself.
They are the center of my world, the starting point for my calendar, and the source of my greatest joy. So, many years ago when a speaking gig meant that I would be two-thousand miles away from my daughter Kelsey on her sixth birthday, my heart ached with guilt, disappointment, and remorse. I would be home in time for her party on the weekend, which was all that really mattered to Kelsey, but to me, I couldn’t help but feel that I had really let her down.
So, the instant that my presentation finished, I rushed to the phone (this was a pre-cell phone!) so I could talk with my little girl and wish her a happy birthday. I broke into an enormous grin when I heard her precious voice answer the phone.
Little did I know I was about to receive a lesson from this six-year-old sage that I would never forget!
“Hi, Kelsey! Happy Birthday, honey!” I exclaimed.
“Thank you, Daddy.”
“I miss you so much, Sweetie. Tell me, what was the BEST thing that happened on your birthday?”
“Well, Mommy took me and Jenna to the Red Robin for dinner.”
Knowing that this was her favorite restaurant, I figured that was her complete answer. “That’s great, Kelsey. So going to the Red Robin was the best thing that happened all day.”
As if I didn’t have a clue, she immediately corrected me. “No, Daddy. That wasn’t the best thing.”
I began to see that there was more to her story.
“Well, what WAS the best thing?” I asked, now quite curious.
“When we got to Red Robin, I had to go potty really bad.”
I chuckled and asked her, “Now don’t tell me THAT was the best thing?”
“No, Daddy!” she exclaimed in that ‘don’t be so goofy’ tone I loved so much when I teased her.
“So, what was it then?”
“Well, when I went into the bathroom, there was a big line of ladies waiting to use the potty.”
I couldn’t resist joking, “Kelsey, I certainly hope THAT wasn’t the best thing that happened on your birthday!”
“Oh, Daddy, you’re so silly! No, the best thing was that when I saw the long line, I told them it was my birthday, and they let me go FIRST!”
Her joy and sincerity were so real, I did my best to keep from cracking up until after we said goodnight and hung up. Then, I sat there alone in my hotel room, rolling in laughter and completely in love with my precious little girl.
But, as I flew home the next morning, I began to see the simple and profound wisdom that Kelsey had shared with me through her delight at moving to the front of the potty line.
It struck me like a lightning bolt…Kelsey had awakened me to the truth that I, and nearly every adult I knew, would have completely missed the magic of such a birthday joy. First of all, shackled and constrained by worrying about what others thought about us, we would never have had the confidence and effervescent spirit to share with a line of ‘focused’ individuals, all intent on the same ‘mission,’ that it was our birthday. Even more important, I realized we would have missed the fun, delight, and preciousness of a moment that for six-year-old Kelsey was better than any present.
Her secret was that SHE was present for the moment, and therefore open to receiving the simple joys that make life truly rich.
From that day forward, I made it my habit to end every correspondence, email, and phone message with a simple reminder of Kelsey’s wisdom:
“Remember to enjoy every precious moment!…”
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