Every year on March 15, I take out this beautiful message to read and share:

Henri Nouwen

Birthdays need to be celebrated. I think it is more important to celebrate a birthday than a successful exam, a promotion, or a victory. Because to celebrate a birthday means to say to someone: ‘Thank you for being you.’ Celebrating a birthday is exalting life and being glad for it. On a birthday we do not say: ‘Thanks for what you did, or said, or accomplished.’ No, we say: ‘Thank you for being born and being among us.’

On birthdays we celebrate the present. We do not complain about what happened or speculate about what will happen, but we lift someone up and let everyone say: ‘We love you.’~  Henri Nouwen

Henri Nouwen was a Catholic priest, writer, professor, and theologian. Ordained in 1957, he was also, in his lifetime, a teacher at Yale Divinity School, a, visiting professor at the University of Notre Dame, along with writing thirty-nine books. He had a life filled with international learning, travel, and life experiences.

Henri Nouwen’s Influence on My Life

God’s Beloved was the book that introduced me to Henri Nouwen, when a colleague shared it at a spiritual group almost twenty years ago.

I never met him or saw him speak in person but articles about his enthusiasm and “engaging” speaking style came across for me in his words:

“I wanted to know how we could integrate the life of Christ in our daily concerns. I was always trying to articulate what I was dealing with. I thought that if it was very deep, it might also be something other people were struggling with. It was based on the idea that what is most personal might be the more universal.”~ Catholic New Times 1986

Of course. That clicks! I love to be with people and you don’t even have to be in a jolly mood for me to lean forward, look you in the eye, and want to get more of who you are. I find it with the tile guy who is visiting us daily for bathroom renovations;  I’m privileged to have conversations with our contractor about family and core beliefs along with when the vanity will be installed. It happened with the clerk at Walgreen’s who had an especially striking purple hair color; it is gifted to me at the breakfast table as my sweetheart and I linger over that second cup of coffee.  And it happens over and over with my twin Eileen.

People are fascinating. And if these thoughts on my birthday hold true for me and you and anyone who reads this, that makes some kind of a universal connection, doesn’t it?


Happy birthday, whoever and wherever you are!girl twins in satiny dresses sitting by toys, one year old


Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. She also enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Tucson Tellers of Tales, and just about anywhere there’s a mic.