Birthday gifts | Persons, places and things


By Barb Arland-Fye

I arrived at Café on Vine the morning of April 1 and received a warm hug from Lauri Jones, the kitchen manager, who wished me a happy birthday. Then I headed up to the office of Waunita Sullivan, the executive director, who also greeted me like a friend and handed me a birthday card before we sat down at the table for a story interview.


Just a few hours earlier, I had been running late at home and then discovered my car and office keys were missing. I knew the day ahead would be demanding and the missing keys seemed like a foreboding. However, I leaned into God, the keys appeared (on the floor in the backseat of my car) and the morning activities flowed smoothly!

A wonderful, handmade birthday gift from Assistant Editor Anne Marie Amacher and a card from the staff gave the morning a special touch. Still, self-imposed deadline pressures preoccupied me. I had scheduled an early afternoon visit to a friend in a nursing home but felt tempted to reschedule. The familiar nudge on my conscience from God convinced me to honor my commitment.


I arrived at the nursing home on time to find my friend smiling and waiting near the front desk. We walked to her room and she shared what has happened in her life during the past few months. The changes and transitions have been difficult for her and I simply needed to be present and to listen. It was a grace-filled hour, in my opinion, and I left knowing that the gift of time is invaluable to the gift-giver and the recipient.

Back at the office, I tackled a few more tasks before heading out for eucharistic adoration, Stations of the Cross and soup supper at my parish. I committed to helping with cleanup, which is not my favorite task. I arrived about five or 10 minutes before eucharistic adoration ended and that time in silence and prayer centered me.

Another birthday present from God?

As I headed into the kitchen with Jim Walsh, my partner as a parish Synod representative, he wished me a happy birthday, which I appreciated very much. I had not shared my birth date with him or anyone else at church, but apparently my husband Steve did.

About a dozen parishioners were in the kitchen to help serve supper and to clean up, which lightened the task and shortened the time “on the job.” The group chose to wash dishes by hand, which suited me. Several of us took turns doing dishes and in between those turns, I enjoyed laughter and conversation with fellow parishioners, my faith family at Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire.

Father Apo Mpanda, our pastor, called out two people celebrating birthdays that day — parishioner Bill Moore and me. The supper guests and volunteers sang happy birthday with enthusiasm. Bill and I looked at each other and smiled and then I returned to the kitchen for more chatting and chores — but mostly chatting.

When I returned home earlier than expected and contemplated doing some “home work,” my cell phone rang. The first of my three brothers was calling to wish me a happy birthday. As we talked, my phone buzzed with a message from another brother. The third brother called after that. Their phone calls and one from my friend Marcia, Facebook posts from my son Patrick and others, and a voice mail message from my parents singing happy birthday all were God’s nudges of the many living gifts in my life — family and friends.

Finding the missing keys that morning led me on the path to appreciation for God’s guidance in my life.

(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at

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