It was the other side on the other side our world. Everything was different. I thought I knew how different it was and I was willing to accept that, or so I thought.
It was my birthday. And, I left my home with lots of preconceived notions about what should happen on a person’s birthday, especially my own. Certainly those working in my office would have a cake for me and we’d sit for a few minutes, eat a little cake, and enjoy each other’s good company. Perhaps, I thought, there would even be some small decoration in the office marking the importance of this day. We may even all go out to lunch together to celebrate.
I walked in through the office door expecting celebration. There was none. Instant disappointment pulsed through my heart. There were no small decorations. There was no cake. There was no hint of distinction for this day. It was just another day of work, and as the day continued, I labored to set my disappointment aside. I soon felt an unsettling discontentment floating in the cool, conditioned air.
I had been so focused on myself when I came to work that I hadn’t noticed the puzzled faces throughout the office and as the first hour of business was creeping to an end, my friend Junji made a quiet, heartfelt inquiry.
“Isn’t it your birthday?” he asked. “Victor and I thought it was, so we told everyone.”
“Yes it is!” I said with a little excitement because of the acknowledgment.
“Aren’t you going to buy us some cake?” Junji continued. “We were all so excited to celebrate your birthday, but when you didn’t bring cake to the office, we were a little embarrassed. I thought I had given everyone the wrong information!”
They didn’t have the wrong information. I was on the other side of the world all right!
“I’m so sorry!” I apologized. “Where can I find the best cake?”
Junji told me where I could find the best cake and I left immediately without telling a soul where I was going. I didn’t want to ruin their surprise party!
Surprise! The party began upon my return and we all had cake together while enjoying each other’s good company. It gave us a chance to talk experience the Birthday Cake Principle first hand. They taught me about their birthday traditions so we could enjoy every one of them on what turned out to be one of the most special days of my life.
And it was more than just a special day. It was the day I discovered that when others do things in a contrasting way, a way different than we do it ourselves, or the way we were taught it should be done, it doesn’t mean they’re wrong. It simply means it’s different! And, such differences can add delightful surprise to our lives.
We can all have our birthday cake principle and eat it too.
Lynn Butterfield lives in Erda and is a managing broker for a real estate company.