I’m usually a mess the day of my kid’s birthday party. I’m frazzled, frantic, and barely pulled together before showtime. I’ve fallen into the trap of making sure each of these occasions is a Pinterest-perfect event.

If the birthday party is at my house, I make sure every corner of the house is clean. I make sure I have enough food for all the invitees and more. And I make sure the decorations all fit in to a certain theme. I just can’t help myself.

But here’s the thing: I’m never actually sure who’s going to show up. I don’t even know who I’m doing all of this work for.

Who’s coming?

As a mother of preschoolers, I send enough invitations for every classmate in my child’s class to receive one. Even the students I don’t know. I have to, after all. You can’t send invites for just some of the kids and not others. You can’t nicely ask the teacher to avoid putting them in certain kids’ backpacks.

That would just be rude. Mean. I would never even think of doing that.

As a result, though, several parents and kids I’ve never met arrive at my front door as guests to the birthday party. Maybe I’ve seen them in passing at drop-off or pick-up. Or maybe I’ve never seen them at all. But they’ve chosen to accept an invitation that I extended to them. And they’ve come over. To my home.

When is there another scenario in which this sort of thing would happen?

But it’s funny. I end up getting to know these parents—and really liking them. I think, I would enjoy spending more time with this person. I’m similar to this person in a way that I didn’t know before.

I find commonalities with nearly total strangers. And that’s a really beautiful thing.

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The beauty of surprise guests

My kids’ birthday parties force me into a position where everyone is invited to the party. Regardless of who they are, where they live, whether or not they look like me, or what church they attend (if at all).

Yet how often am I willing to exclude others for my own personal comfort in other situations? How often do I not invite certain people to the party, to the work lunch, or to the conversation because I can’t recognize the things we have in common?

Even worse, sometimes I exclude people because I can’t recognize what their differences will add to the situation. I’m more focused on the things that make us different than the thing that make us the same: We’re all image bearers of the Lord.

This reality check compels me to seek other opportunities to show hospitality (Hebrews 13:2), even to total strangers. And to find commonalities among my brothers and sisters in the body of Christ (Romans 12:5). We can find something in common with nearly everyone if we try hard enough.

I’ll be face-to-face with another one of these opportunities in a couple months. That’s when my next child will have a birthday. I’m not sure yet what the theme will be or what food we’ll have. I’m not even sure who will show up. But I like it that way.

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