Birthday Gifts by Jamie Kirkpatrick


So yesterday was my birthday. The actual number didn’t really matter but whether I liked it or not, it was definitely time to turn another page in the yearbook of my life. I’ve made it from Truman to Trump and like everyone else, I’ve been jumbled a bit in the washing machine of life and hung out to dry on the clothesline of experience. But all in all, I’ve been undeservedly blessed and I’m grateful for the many gifts I’ve been given along the way.

Gifts like having loving parents, witnessing the birth of my two children, and having a loyal and loving wife and five precious grandchildren. Like finding a world of good friends, a happy home, and a place to stand here in Chestertown. Like watching the sun rise on Mount Kilimanjaro or a harr creep in from the North Sea in Scotland, or hearing a loon on a Canadian lake, or lying out under the stars in the blackness of the Sahara night. Like working with wonderful colleagues, athletes, and families in Special Olympics International or interacting with interesting students and parents at Duke Ellington, Landon, St. Andrews, and Georgetown Day School. Those kinds of gifts and more.

Gifts like growing up in a real city like Pittsburgh, or spending a summer with the Grenfell Mission up in Labrador and another one studying in Kenya, or serving six years in the Peace Corps in Tunisia, Morocco, Afghanistan, and Washington. Like having wise and empathetic mentors like Bob Bryan, Lawrence Sagini, Steve Vetter, Bill Crawford, and Sargent Shriver. Like being infused with an abiding love of learning from invested teachers at two good schools, a superb university, and a challenging graduate program. And more…

Miraculous and unexpected gifts like catching a foul ball off the bat of Mickey Mantle or watching Bill Mazeroski’s home run sail over the left field wall to win the 1960 World Series or seeing Franco Harris’ incredible “immaculate reception.” And more…

Like the most precious gifts I try hard not to take for granted: freedom; good health; a warm, dry home; healthy food; enough money to make ends meet and then some. Like the happy memories I have of cherished old friends and the bittersweet memory I cling to of a dear friend who suddenly passed away just a couple of days ago. Like loving and being loved. All these and more…

Floods in Texas; danger on the Korean peninsula; chaos in the White House: it would be easy to fret our lives away. Instead, spend a moment thinking about the gifts in your life; count them, say them aloud or silently, whatever it takes to store them in your mind and heart so that you can draw on them when you need them most. And you will…

In 1848, a Shaker elder named Joseph Brackett penned a song we know today as “Simple Gfits.” It goes like this:

“Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.”

May we all come ‘round right.

I’ll be right back…

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was released in May and is already in its second printing. Jamie’s website is









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