Friday, June 22, 2007


My husband, Ken, and I recently attended our brother-in-law Ed’s sixtieth-birthday party in Florida -- on his fifty-ninth birthday.

Five months before the event was to take place, my sister Jan emailed telling me what she and their children were talking about doing. “We know he’ll be expecting something big for his sixtieth,” she wrote. “And we want to surprise him for that, so we figure the best way to do it is to give it a year early.”

Later, we had email from both of her daughters telling more about plans for the party, and about rooms that were being reserved for out-of-town guests at a local marina and resort -- on the beautiful Emerald Coast of Florida’s panhandle -- where the party would be held. Excited about their plans, Jan and the girls had a great time shopping and making arrangements for food, decorations and entertainment, while trying to keep everything hidden from Ed.

On the day of the party, they told Ed that the family -- their two daughters, their son, the three spouses and their granddaughter -- were meeting for dinner at their favorite steak house. That morning, while the women decorated the party room, a son-in-law lured Ed off to Destin for lunch and to shop for fishing gear. As they dressed to go out for dinner, Jan told him, “Tom (mine and Jan’s younger brother) is in town and going to eat with us, but we need to stop by the motel where he’s staying so he can follow us to the restaurant.”

When they, their younger daughter Katie and her husband reached the motel at the marina, Katie glanced at her watch with a big sigh. “Christy (her sister) was supposed to meet us here,” she said. “But you know she’s always late. Why don’t we go in to the bar and wait for her.” At the front desk, she told the receptionist, “We’re going back to the bar and wait for my uncle and sister.”

In on the plot, the woman answered, “Sure. Just go to the end of the hall there and turn right and you’ll see the door to the bar.”

As they walked away from the desk they heard a man behind them say, “I didn’t know you had a bar in here.”

Later, Ed said with a laugh, “I didn’t know it either, but I’ve learned that when I’m out with Jan and the kids it’s better just to go along with whatever they say instead of asking questions.”

With all the talk that goes on when family members are together, he paid little attention anyhow to what was going on around them. So when they opened the door at the end of the hall to shouts of “Happy Birthday,” he was surprised to see around fifty of his friends and family members from across Florida and Alabama converging on him to hug his neck, shake his hand and record with cameras the shocked expression on his face.

The room was elaborately decorated. A friend, formerly in the catering business, had prepared barbeque, which was served with all the trimmings. Pecan pies, baked by a niece from his mama's recipe, were served along with a decorated birthday cake. A DJ supplied taped music from Jan's and Ed's courting days. A friend sang and played jazz on his saxophone while another sang old country love songs karoke style.

“I can’t believe all these people came all this way and went to all this trouble and expense for me,” Ed said. “You’d think I was somebody special, or something.”

“You are somebody special,” someone said.

And I agree. Ed is Somebody Special. We are all somebody special. So special that God carefully planned, then formed each of us individually before we were born.

“…(You) created my inmost being,” said the Psalmist. “You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made….” God weaved us carefully together with great plans for our lives as he was forming us (Psalm 139:13-16).

Yes, we’re all special people. When we're feeling down on ourselves, or looking down on someone else, we need to remind ourselves that God made each of us special. And we need to find ways to show others how special they are. We don’t have to go to all the trouble and expense that so many people went to in order to wish Ed a happy sixtieth birthday--on his fifty-ninth-- but there are all sorts of little ways we can show it. Like a phone call. A card for no special reason but to say “I think you’re special.” A smile. An encouraging word. A glass of iced tea served on a hot day to someone just coming in out of the heat.

Speaking of iced tea, maybe I should get up from the computer and go take a tall glassful to my Somebody Special, who’s working out in the yard in the heat.
(photos by V Jon Nivens,

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