Cupcakes, Love and Memories

Are there birthdays in heaven?

As many of you know, I quit my job and decided to return to school to get my Masters in Social Work.  It has always been my dream to do something that matters to others.  I find that I am most fulfilled when I see others being filled.  It has been an interesting journey, to say the least.  It’s often scary, and it’s a lot of hard work, but I love what I am learning and I’m looking forward to working with people and making a difference to them and to our community.

As part of the program, for three days per week I am working as an intern at the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Department’s Daily Reporting Center.  I’m working with people who are on probation or parole.  We offer classes and job training for our clients so they can receive the ammunition they need to make better choices in the future.  The choice to work at the DRC was definitely out of my comfort zone, because I have been a victim of crime several times. How would I feel about the people I would be serving?  Would I be able to care? Would I see hope in them or would I feel judgment?  Would I be able to help them?  I chose to work there so I could expand my horizons and challenge myself.  And I love it!

All of my concerns and preconceived notions about what to expect went away on Day One. As I have met these guys, each and every one of them, I have loved them.  Each of them is a unique individual, with their own set of challenges and gifts. What many of them have in common is that they have most likely faced multiple traumas in their lives, in childhood, as adults, or both.  They may not have ever received unconditional love from anyone.

Today, we threw a birthday celebration for our clients, and I got to help organize it. This was right up my alley, because at a church I helped to build years ago, one idea I had that really took off was to buy a box of birthday cards, and for every church attendee’s birthday, we would all sign the cards and write personal notes on them, and then mail the card to the person. People took such joy in such a little thing.  They felt special and loved.  I couldn’t wait to try this with our clients.

What a blessing it was!  The guys were so surprised. Of course they loved the cupcakes baked by one of the other interns, they were delicious! And they really loved holding their cupcakes while we sang Happy Birthday and then blowing out the candles.  But what really touched me was when I saw one of the guys standing there reading his birthday card that had been signed by all of the staff.  He was so touched, I think I saw tears.  He said, “thank you so much for this card, I really appreciate it.” Such simple words, but they conveyed so much emotion! Today he felt special. He felt like he mattered to someone.  All because of a cupcake and a birthday card.  It’s so easy to make people feel special.  Today our clients felt cherished.

As I was basking in the warmth of our birthday celebrations today, I remembered how much my sister Tracy loved birthdays.  And it just so happens that tomorrow would have been Tracy’s birthday!  I feel like we got to honor her birthday today by blessing others, by making them feel special on their birthdays the way she felt special on her birthdays.  Because birthdays ARE a reason to celebrate!  On each of our birthdays, we are reminded that we are all here for a purpose, that we all matter, and that we have another year ahead of us to count our blessings and to share those blessings with others.  So, happy birthday to our clients, and a very happy birthday to my sister in heaven. I hope you enjoyed the celebration, Tracy!

Tracy and me, Christmas, 2009.  She went to heaven the following July.