by ~Richard Bach
Rae! Thank you for inviting me to your birthday party! Your house is a thousand miles from mine, and I travel only for the best of reasons...a party for Rae is the best and I am eager to be with you.
I began my journey in the heart of the hummingbird you and I met long ago. He was friendly as ever, yet when I told him that little Rae was growing up and that I was going to her birthday party with a present, he was puzzled. We flew for a long while in silence and at last he said, "I understand very little of what you say, but least of all do I understand that you are going to a party."
"Of course I am going to the party," I said. "What is so hard to understand about that?" He was quiet, and when we arrived at the owl's home, he said, "Can miles truly separate us from friends? If you want to be with Rae, aren't you already there?"
"Little Rae is growing up and I am going to her birthday party with a present," I said to the owl. It felt strange to say going like that, after talking to Hummingbird, but I said it that way so Owl would understand. He, too, flew in silence for a long time. It was a friendly silence, but as he delivered me safely to the home of the eagle, he said, "I understand very little of what you say, but least of all do I understand that you call your friend little."
"Of course she is little," I said, "because she is not grown up. What is so hard to understand about that?" Owl looked at me with his deep amber eyes, smiled, and said, "Think about that."
"Little Rae is growing up and I am going to her birthday party with a present," I said to Eagle. It felt strange to say going and little after talking with Hummingbird and Owl, but I said it that way so Eagle would understand. We flew together out over the mountains, and soared the mountain winds. At last she said, "I understand very little of what you say, but least of all do I understand this word birthday."
"Of course birthday," I said. "We are going to celebrate the hour that Rae began, and before which she was not. What is so hard to understand about that?" Eagle curved her wings into steep dive-flaps and stepped to a smooth landing on the desert sand. "A time before Rae's life began? Don't you think rather that it is Rae's life that began before time ever was?"
"Little Rae is growing up and I am going to her birthday party with a present," I said to Hawk. It felt strange to say going and little and birthday after talking with Hummingbird and Owl and Eagle, but I said it that way so the hawk would understand. The desert poured by far below us and at last she said, "You know, I understand very little of what you say, but least of all do I understand growing up."
"Of course growing up, I said. "Rae is closer to being an adult, one more year away from being a child. What is so hard to understand about that?" Hawk landed at last upon a lonely beach. "One more year away from being a child? That does not sound like growing!" And she lifted into the air and was gone.
Seagull, I knew, was very wise. As I flew with him, I thought very carefully and chose words so that when I spoke, he would know I had been learning. "Seagull," I said at last, "why do you fly me to see Rae when you know in truth I am already with her?"
Seagull turned down over the sea, over the hills, over the streets, and landed gently upon your rooftop. "Because the important thing," he said, "is for you to know that truth. Until you know it until you truly understand it, you can show it only in smaller ways, and with outside help, from machines and people and birds. But remember," he said, "that not being known doesn't stop the truth from being true." And he was gone.
Now it's time to open your present. Gifts of tin and glass wear out in a day and are gone. But I have a better gift for you.
It is a ring for you to wear. It sparkles with a special light and cannot be taken away by anyone; it cannot be destroyed. You are the only one in all the world who can see the ring that I give you today, as I was the only one who could see it when it was mine.
Your ring gives you a new power. Wearing it, you can lift yourself into the wings of all the birds that fly - you can see through their golden eyes, you can touch the wind that sweeps through their velvet feathers, you can know the joy of going way up high above the world and all its cares. You can stay as long as you want in the sky, past the night, through sunrise, and when you feel like coming down again, your questions will have answers and your worries will have gone.
As anything that cannot be touched with the hand or seen with the eye, your gift grows more powerful as you use it. At first you might use it only when you are outdoors, watching the bird with whom you fly. But later on, if you use it well, it will work with birds that you cannot see, and last of all you will find that you'll need neither ring nor bird to fly alone above the quiet of the clouds. And when that day comes to you, you must give your gift to someone who you know will use it well, and who can learn that the only things that matter are those made of truth and joy, and not of tin and glass.
Rae, this is the last day-a-year, special-time celebration that I shall be with you, learning what I have learned from our friends the birds. I cannot go to be with you because I am already there. You are not little because you are already grown, playing among your lifetimes as do we all, for the fun of living.
You have no birthday because you have always lived; you were never born, and never will you die. You are not the child of the people you call mother and father, but their fellow-adventurer on a bright journey to understand the things that are.
Every gift from a friend is a wish for your happiness, and so it is with this ring.
Fly free and happy beyond birthdays and across forever, and we'll meet now and then when we wish, in the midst of the one celebration that never can end.