The birthday gift I never wanted but needed

My birthday breakfast extravaganza was going just as I planned.

Then with one twist, everything changed.

I changed.

Here’s the story.

The extravaganza was going to look like this. I’d devour gluten-free chocolate chips pancakes smothered with butter and maple syrup at home with my beloved family. Then I would go out (I went alone since one of our kids was sick) for a sesame bagel, toasted and smothered with lox smear; and to top it all off, I’d have a cappuccino and a chocolate donut. And all of the items were to come from my favorite neighborhood places that specialize in each item.

It was a gluten lovers gift of all gifts. And I was going appreciate every bite.

Things were going perfectly until I got to the donut shop.

There were dozens of the chocolate donut I wanted, but I only needed one, my grand finale. I asked for it, and the attendant obliged me. My mouth started to water from the anticipation. I brought my coffee with me since I had to have it with my donut; I had been dreaming of this moment for days, the magical melding of sweet perfectly fried dough with slightly bitter milky decaf coffee—culinary perfection.

But to pay I had to set down my little white cup. I quickly put it down on the first space I saw which was next to the white Square payment iPad.

Then it happened.

The attendant twisted the iPad around and knocked my coffee off the counter, and it landed on my new white shoes and spilled all over one of them, transforming it instantly into old and brown. As the warm milk emptied to soak through the fabric, I felt more than just sticky wetness on my foot.

I felt fury fill my heart.

With a single act, my perfect shoe and birthday experience were snatched from me. And I blamed the attendant.

Bending down, I snapped up my coffee, but the damage was done. The cup was still surprisingly full even though the cooling milk seemed to pool around my toes. Then I scrambled out the door before anything else could happen.

And as I was walking, feeling the squish in my shoe with each step, I started eating and sipping, hoping it would help me feel better. But it didn’t.

I had to process what happened, what was happening inside of me.

When I looked at myself, my reactions, my fury, it was not the kind of man I wanted to be. I felt so petty, and childish.

Why did having crisp white shoes matter if my heart was stained with vanity? And how could I be so unloving as to think such ugly thoughts about another person who was just doing their job and accidentally bumped my coffee cup, when I was the idiot who set it there in the first place. “It was an accident,” I thought to myself.

And then I realized it wasn’t just that, it was a lesson. It could have been from God or just something that happened. Whatever it was, it taught me this.

I am still in process, and I still have much growing to do, even at midlife.

My mind started to think about the great gifts that filled my life like the donut and coffee that were having a party in my mouth, my family whom I love and all of whom I would soon see, my life and ability to walk albeit with soggy toes, but I was still bipedal and alive.

I was blessed (I am blessed).

Gratitude filled me and washed over the fury. I stopped obsessing over the stain, and I continued to observe how much I had been given despite my flaws.

I asked God to forgive me for my foolishness, and I felt the sun warm my face as the thought of celebrating the rest of the day with my family warmed my heart.

Now I saw things clearly: The spill wasn’t just an accident.

It was an opportunity to grow.

It was a gift.

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