I was recently killing time on Facebook when I came across a girlfriend’s status update that stopped me in my tracks:
One of the comments in the thread revealed that fourteen of the little boy’s classmates RSVP’d that they would attend the birthday party, but only one of them actually showed up. I blame this on the parents. It’s doubtful that the parents of the thirteen kids who failed to attend had legitimate emergencies that would warrant not showing up for an event that they already committed to. And what about texting or emailing the birthday boy’s parents ahead of time to let them know they had to cancel?
Until I had children, I never fully understood the amount of time and money involved in throwing a party. I imagined the situation where the little boy was probably counting down the minutes until his friends came to his birthday party, only to have one person show up. (And thank God for that one person!) Sure, it was gorgeous in Florida last weekend and there were likely other things these parents would have rather been doing than sitting at some kid’s birthday party, but couldn’t they have just sucked it up for two hours and honored their commitment? My heart goes out to the birthday boy and his parents, which my girlfriend described as “devastated.” I hope I never have to see my children experience that type of heartbreak and disappointment, even though it’s probably inevitable. Anybody who thinks that the birthday boy should “get over it” because disappointment is a part of life needs to consider how they would feel if the birthday boy was their child and they were the ones who had to see the pain in his eyes.
What made reading this status update more difficult is that I’ve been guilty of RSVPing to events and subsequently being unable to attend. This happens rarely and usually only involves weekday girls’ nights where the event seemed like a great idea when I initially received the invitation and RSVP’d. Then, by the time it rolled around a couple weeks later, I was exhausted from working and traveling all day, had a screaming (and sometimes sick) child to feed, bathe, and put to bed, and the last thing I felt like doing was getting dolled up and driving to a place where I had to be social. And when I sent that horrible text to the host(ess) “Hey, I’m so sorry but I had a crazy day today and am not going to be able to make it tonight,” I am usually thinking, “It won’t matter if I don’t go because I saw on the E-Vite that twenty other girls will be there.” Well… what would happen if the rest of those twenty girls did the same thing? Or even ten of them? In reality, during these scenarios I’m thinking about myself and not the person it might be negatively impacting: the host!
Let’s put the RSVP issue aside and move onto attending events that aren’t necessarily appealing (or convenient) to us, but are important to the person of honor. Like the bachelorette party in New York City for the girl who attended all of your events when you were the bride-to-be? Or the baby shower for the girl who hosted your baby shower when it was your turn to be celebrated? Or the awards luncheon (all the away across town when you only have an hour lunch break) for the friend who worked her tail off toward the accomplishment that she’s now being honored? It’s impossible to attend everything we are invited to, and sometimes there are genuine conflicts but, overall, who are we considering when we accept or decline? Ourselves, or the person being celebrated? Shouldn’t we want to make other people feel special, the same way other people have made us feel special?
We live in a world that teaches us to think solely about ourselves: “What do I want to do today?” “What feels like the best decision for me?” “I have to put myself first.” Me, me, me. To a large degree, it’s important to consider our own best interests when making decisions, but where do we draw the line? I don’t know the answer to this question. We can be so absorbed with ourselves that we don’t think about how our seemingly harmless choices can hurt somebody else. What would happen if the world taught us to base our decisions on love and service for others? What would happen if we universally had that attitude?
Perhaps the only good thing to come out of this horrible birthday party story is that anybody who hears about it might second guess the next time they consider blowing off a commitment. I know I will.