Lewis Carroll first coined the phrase ‘unbirthday’. Why wait until it’s someone’s official special day? Make plans to spoil someone, either spontaneously today or in the near future. Surprise them if you know that’s what they like, or pre-warn them if that would make it easier for them to accept your invitation.
Green: Send someone a message to let them know you’re thinking of them.
Amber: Offer to babysit for a couple who don’t manage to get out much. Tell them to be as late back as they like!
Red: Casually ask the person you have in mind what their idea of a special day would be, then do your best to create it for them – even if it’s not your thing.
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” (Matthew 22: 37–39 NIV)
Sometimes you have no idea how much you need a gift until you receive it.
Last summer I was working myself into the ground. I’d been developing two national events, writing a book, leading a fundraising project and helping to lead an organisation I’m so passionate about that it feels more like a calling than a job. Heading up the youth work at my church was rewarding but also a huge commitment. The rest – and hopefully the best – of my time was invested in trying to be a good husband and dad. And while we were intentional about making time to relax together, I didn’t realise that I wasn’t taking any time at all for myself.
That idea feels like a selfish concept but even Jesus, when He’s giving out His most important commands, expects us to love ourselves; that’s the measure by which we judge how well we’re loving our neighbours (Matthew 22:39).
Still, I couldn’t justify that to myself. It took the generosity of another person to force me to enjoy a treat. A great friend got in touch and demanded – in the kindest way – that I join him for a day watching England play Australia at cricket. Now, that may sound to you like extreme punishment but, for me, that was the most incredible gift. Top tickets to a sell-out sporting event, watching my favourite team in the blazing sunshine. It sounded utterly glorious and, in practice, it was bliss.
As I sat in the sunshine, forced by the measured speed of the game to still myself and simply relax, I could feel my brain and body unwinding. I needed this so much, but I would never have invested that much time and money in myself. I’m so grateful to my friend for seeing my need, and responding to it with extreme kindness. It reminded me to look after myself too so that I’ve got the capacity to see and respond to the needs of others, just like my friend did for me.
Martin Saunders is the Director of Innovation at Youthscape. He’s also the Youth Team Leader at St Mary’s Reigate, and author of The Man You’re Made to Be.
He’s married to Jo and they have four children.
Today’s charity is: Youthscape
Youthscape is a community of projects making a positive difference to young people.