Sunday, 14 July 2013

Birthday parties are strange

events. I am still not sure why we celebrate birthdays, celebrate "getting older".
The Senior Cat and I were invited to an 80th birthday party yesterday. The birthday person knows a great many people. She is the wife of a retired priest. People like that do tend to know a great many people.
The Senior Cat had an 80th birthday party too - and has since had a 90th.
I know other people who have had their 40th, 50th, 60th, 70th, 80th and 90th birthdays. I have even known people who had their 100th birthday and a party with it.
But, I am still not too sure about this party business and "celebrating" the fact that you are getting older. Looking back it seems odd that we humans should be so anxious to grow up and to celebrate our birthdays. Other animals do not bother with birthdays. They just get on with the business of living.
My birthday falls on a day when a great many people party for other reasons. Fortunately for me people tend to assume I have a party to attend and I can usually get away with nobody making a fuss. I mean, let's face it, life is just going too fast. I still have so many things I want to do. I don't have time to celebrate getting old.
I don't think Malala Yousafzai is going to have time to celebrate getting old either. As most of us know she spent her 16th birthday addressing the United Nations.
She did it with more poise and composure than many adults would manage. Her language was simple. Her diction was excellent.
If you watch her speech (to be found on more than one place on the 'net) look carefully at the camera as it catches her parents. Her father has to swallow hard at one point in an effort to hide his emotion. Her mother wipes away tears.
Oh yes, she is "just a kid who happens to have...." as someone tried to tell me yesterday. And yes, up to a point, that is true. But I think she is also an internally driven girl. She could not have delivered that speech in the way that she did unless she believed in what she was saying.
"Let us," she said, "pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen, one book can change the world. Education is the only solution."
The 80th birthday yesterday was a celebration of a useful, busy and varied life - much of it spent serving other people. It was good to be able to recognise it.
The 16th birthday though was a powerful statement about what might still happen. Idealistic? Perhaps - but does that matter? I don't think it does. It was a 16th birthday worth celebrating. Happy Birthday Malala.


Anonymous said...

Malala's speech was incredible coming from a 16 year old. She will make a difference in this world, and hopefully a big difference.

Anonymous said...

And this old man is not ashamed to say he wept at her words. Bob C-S

Sue Bursztynski said...

A brave girl! Girls her age in Australia would be busy arranging sweet sixteen parties for themselves. Thank heaven they don't HAVE to think of important things! Some of them do anyway.

It's often family and friends who want the celebratory party, and you just get on with it. My father was delighted with the party for his 80th, while my mother made it clear she did NOT want one. We respected that, but still get together for coffee and cake and give her gifts she can use or use up. On one of my landmark birthdays I made it clear I didn't want a party, so the friend who had hinted at it took me out to dinner somewhere flashy instead.