I have never taken my birthday as a special day and many have passed unnoticed.
In fact, it was not until Senior 4 or 5 that it stuck in my head that I was born on 11th and not 9th March which is what, for some unclear reason, I always thought was my birthday. Anyhow, my mother who is the most authoritative and reliable on this matter said I was born on March 11th 1978 and because I trust her, it is my birthday.
So, Saturday 11th March 2017 was my 39th birthday but unlike other birthdays, I was reminded three weeks to it by a friend who, as I travelled for a fellowship in the US, bought a present for me and asked that I open it on my birthday - I complied and so every day I saw a beautifully wrapped gift, I waited for the day. On the eve of my birthday I thought deeply about what this day should mean beyond ‘Happy Birthday’ messages that usually flood phones or skype addresses. I asked myself, three questions that I did not have immediate answers to: a) why am I alive; b) what is my purpose in life; what difference am I making in the world? I slept over these questions but before I could give them further thought, I received three Birthday messages which gave me some direction: the first, from a Director of an NGO Coalition in Uganda read:
‘Happy Birthday Arthur! My words of appreciation to you will never be sufficient, but from the bottom of my heart, I am indebted to you. I bless God for you…you have mentored me and stood with me, above all you have encouraged and believed in me. You are a strong force in my life and career. Thank you so much Arthur. God richly, richly bless you’.
The second one from a Ugandan working and living in Kenya read:
‘… I didn’t even know you were born…I have always thought you just erupted from heaven. I have always put you in the league of Labongo and Gipiir…’
And the third, from a student in my home district read:
‘My dearest Arthur...I have waited for this day for as long as I can remember. I don't usually get so excited about birthdays except mine and a few important people in my life, but today I celebrate yours. Am so thankful to God that he has seen you through to this day and am even more grateful that he made our paths cross…you inspire me and have changed me hence bringing out the best version in me. I pray that for this year and the rest of the years he blesses you and no evil eye fall upon you’
All the messages were flattering but profound in helping me answer the questions I had on the eve of my birthday. I am alive, first because it is God’s will and I must live to serve Him and whatever talents He blessed me with, I should exploit, especially in advancing His will for the world. To the second, my purpose in life is to make today better than yesterday and tomorrow better than today in all that I do.
A good birthday in the end, perhaps one of my memorable because of the words I got from people whose lives I have touched as well as the wonderful gift pack that I finally opened to find two lovelies - one a Book containing 54 Speeches that changed the world and a plaque with a message from Mother Theresa.
From the words from my 2 friends and the gifts, the answer to my third question emerged - I must live, not for myself but for others, and the world. And since life is not infinite on earth at least, I must ‘Aspire to Inspire before I expire’!
(The writer is the Country Director of ActionAid Uganda)