This week we celebrated Micah and Levi’s birthday. They have never celebrated a birthday before. In Ethiopia there was no birth record for them. In fact, their birth date is just an educated guess. We were so excited to be able to throw them their first ever birthday party.
The night before the party Joel stayed up late trying to figure out the perfect present to give his brothers. He insisted it be something only from him. He wanted it to be something special. He finally settled on his scooter. Joel cleaned up his well-loved and much-used scooter and packaged it up in a large box. He wrapped it himself (with A LOT of duct tape) and then attached a homemade card. It said…
Happy Birthday Micah and Levi.
You are great brothers.
I love you very much.
He set the box and the card at the bottom of the stairs so the boys would find it first thing in the morning.
I was worried about this whole scenario.
Our children came from a life of almost nothing. In the orphanage, they did not have even one possession to call their own. Everything was community property. They got one outift to wear on a Monday and wore it for the next 3 days until wash day. They had a few deflated soccer balls to share among the boys. There were some books in the school room. Often times adopting families would show up with little trinkets to hand out. Bubbles. Stickers. Lollipops. These were all used and re-used and shared among everyone.
And then they come to America. The land of plenty. The land of consumerism. They see stores filled with aisles and aisles of beautiful new clothes and amazing new toys. They see homes filled with more belongings than they have been exposed to in their entire life. They see their mom and dad go to a magic machine where you simply push some buttons and money comes out. And they assume that anything they desire should be theirs. They don’t understand when we say “no” or “too much.” They don’t like it when we give them used or second best. They don’t understand why we are trying to teach them thankfulness. Why should they be thankful, anyway?
They lost their father.
They lost their mother.
They lost their country.
And we want them to say thank you?
Friday morning Joel is waiting excitedly for Micah and Levi to wake up and head downstairs. He shows them his gift. He helps them unwrap it. He watches with anticipation as they examine the new scooter. And his face fills with sadness as Micah says, “This dirty. Me no like.”
Joel tries to understand. I see him struggling with his feelings as he takes Micah out to the garage and shows him how much fun it can be. And he asks Micah several times, “Do you like it? Do you want it?”
And Micah says no.
And my heart breaks.
For both of my boys. Both of whom don’t understand.
I don’t want you to think poorly of Micah. He doesn’t know any better. And really, aren’t we all just as selfish and sinful? We just do a better job of hiding it from the rest of the world.
I tried to remedy the situation by talking to Joel about why Micah reacted the way he did. And talking to Micah about why he should be thankful. But in all honesty, I don’t think I helped much. Joel ended up in tears and Micah ended up angry. So we picked up the pieces and moved on.
You know, blending all these personalities and histories and emotions into a family is going to take time. Love is not something that I can demand or expect from any of my children. Learning thankfulness is a long process. For some of us, it is a life-long process. Don’t we all struggle with thankfulness now and then? Don’t we all have times where we complain to God about what we have, and instead ask for more or better?
But let us try this…. “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 and “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!” Psalm 107:1
After all was said and done, we ended up having a great birthday! We had friends and family over for a swim party, a pinata, and of course cake and presents.
The boys seemed a little overwhelmed by all of the attention, but I don’t think they will ever forget their first birthday party. And I hope they don’t forget the lesson on thankfulness; something we all need to work on every now and then.
Happy Birthday to my littlest boys – Micah, age 7 and Levi, age 5.