When I was growing up, my mom used to joke with people that I was the first (and best) Mother's Day gift she had ever received. As a typical firstborn, I ate it up. Contributing to her happiness like that made me feel proud and honored. I glowed in the belief that my very presence is a gift to the world; to my mom.
One of many indictments against the millennial generation (of which I am a partial member, straddling the and Gen X), has to do with narcissism. "Millennials are so vain that they expect their every movement or thought are worthy of public consumption and praise via social media" the complaint goes. "Millennials are so self absorbed that they blog instead of journal, podcast instead of converse over meals, and can't help but check their phones for likes or comments even during presentations where someone else is talking or performing."
Let me tell you something. The criticism is spot on. Millennials are narcissistic. We are self absorbed. We are consumed with the belief that we are gifts to the world.
(And so are you.) And so are the so-called "greatest generation", who's very moniker betrays this quality that all humans share from their very first breath. And so are the Boomers - who make the biggest possible splashes in all they do - who sell our future for profits today - who believe in themselves so much that they fear relinquishing control to the GenXers or GOD-FORBID, millennials.
We come into this world helplessly focused on ourselves, and we more often than not leave it just the same. We each must answer the question "Who am I?" to form our very identity - even if that identity formed is essentially tribal and wholly integrated with community. We choose how to shape our lives; we choose our style, our attitudes, our energy expenditures. Everyone develops an ego. Even the most humble among us.
When my sons were born, they were helpless, demanding, screaming, captivating, enchanting, bundles of joy. They were unabashedly all about themselves. They couldn't see past their own wants or needs. Life truly was all about them. Their every squawk and chirp, grasp and flail were clear evidence per se.
And as a dad? I believed (and still do believe) it. Thinking back on the hours following their births, I am still enchanted. In those holy moments, equal parts wondrous and trying, I believed it fully. "We're gonna have so much Fun together," I whispered, "You're gonna have a great life. You're gonna grow into a remarkable man. God's got amazing stuff planned for your life. It's all about you Finn. It's all about you Sawyer. You are loved. You are wanted."
And truly, as their dad, I believe my boys ARE a gift to the world. They hold in them calling and gifts, strengths and weaknesses, talents and temperament. And as they grow into mature masculinity, they will make the world a better place.
And that's kind of it isn't it? "I am a gift to the world."
Even as much as the statement sounds loaded with egoism, it's true. Whether spoken by Millennials or Boomers, two-year-olds or rock stars, little old ladies in nursing homes or prima-donna pastors. We are gifts to our mothers, our families, the world.
In this sense then, "I am a gift" is far from narcissistic. Rather, it is just about the most humble spirit any of us could have.
"I'm here to serve. I'm here to give. My life isn't my own - it's really not about me. It's about what I can do to make the world a better place for all of us."
And so on my birthday I remember once again with gratitude and humility - that my very existence is in fact a gift. To me. To my mom. And to you. Hopefully the world is better after another year of me on the planet.