Sharing my wealth for my golden birthday and beyond

SMA is a common thread in many of the joyful moments in this columnist's life

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by Halsey Blocher |

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I just turned 26 on Sept. 26, which makes it my golden birthday. Never heard of a golden birthday? You’re not alone. It’s believed they were invented by American author and teacher Joan Bramsch in the 1950s. She celebrated each of her five children’s golden birthdays, and the idea seems to have become more of a trend in recent years.

There’s little information available about where she got the idea or why we celebrate golden birthdays today, but in preparation for my own, I wanted to find out more. I kept digging and eventually switched gears to researching gold instead. That sparked an interesting idea.

Counting my blessings

As you might expect, gold is associated with luxury, wealth, royalty, and opulence. (Coincidentally, 26 is also an angel number that’s connected to good money management, wealth, and abundance.) Living with SMA probably doesn’t sound very luxurious, though. In fact, I’ve written before about how it can be a dirty job. But as strange as it might sound, SMA has still brought richness to my life.

I’m not talking about money or jewels. There’s a different kind of wealth that’s harder to measure but carries just as much — if not more — influence: blessings. And so many of my blessings are in some way tied to SMA.

For starters, I’m blessed to have a loving family, close friendships, the SMA and rare disease communities, a team of dedicated medical professionals, and a fulfilling career that my disability helps me qualify for. SMA is a factor in each of these settings, and many of the cherished relationships that grew in these places would look entirely different or be nonexistent without it. And I consider good relationships to be one of the most valuable blessings a person can have.

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Sharing optimism and experience

I’ve never claimed that living with this rare disease is easy, and I won’t start now. SMA has led to scars, hospitalizations, loss, grief, and a number of other hardships. But when possible, I like to think positively, and when I do, it becomes clear that SMA is a common thread in many of the joyful moments of my life.

It surprised me to learn that gold is also considered optimistic. An article on the website Color Meanings says, “As an uplifting and encouraging hue, the color gold wants the best for people. Gold is a cheerleader. It celebrates successes and motivates people to reach their potential.”

These are admirable qualities that we can all strive for. When we’re supportive and celebrate each other’s accomplishments, we all get an opportunity to shine. And while anyone can be an encourager, those of us with SMA and other disabilities are often equipped with empathetic dispositions that make encouragement come naturally. We have such a need for empathy and support ourselves that we recognize how important they are for the people around us, too.

When we’re fortunate enough to be blessed in abundance, one of the greatest ways we can have a positive impact is to share that wealth with others. There’s nothing wrong with taking pleasure in what we have ourselves, but I do believe that God intends us to use our blessings to enrich more lives than our own.

Another blessing we all have is the lessons we’ve learned and the attributes they’ve fostered. But while we want others to have these things, too, we don’t necessarily want them to go through what we did to obtain the same result. Instead, we share our experiences and what we’ve learned so that more people can benefit from our experience.

Living with SMA has helped me grow in wisdom, compassion, patience, resilience, adaptability, optimism, faith, trust, and much more. These are a few blessings I’ve had, and I hope to pass them on to those who cross my path.

My golden birthday wish

As the world gives way to autumn and the trees begin to shower us with their own golden offerings, it’s my golden birthday wish that we all choose to seek our blessings every day and live generously with whatever we’re given. Life itself is worth more than gold, so imagine how wealthy we’ll be when we share even a little of our lives with those around us.

Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.


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