In the song, “Many Roads,” one of my favorite songwriters describes the strange, winding path that sometimes brings people together. He says:

You can see the roads that we all traveled just to get here
A million miniscule decisions in a line
And why they brought us to this moment isn’t clear
But that’s alright

Could it be that the many roads we took to get here
Were just for me to tell this story
And for you to hear this song
And your many hopes
And your many fears
Were meant to bring you here, all along

In the past, I’ve joked about being nervous to see all my friends in the same room at the same time because of how different they are. While this is a little ridiculous, it is true that each of you represents a unique piece in my story, some of which seem like they’re from completely different lifetimes. It’s no secret that my family and friends mean the world to me. So, unlike Bilbo Baggins at his 111th birthday party, I’m not going to insult you, but rather share what I appreciate most about you:

  • I love what you’ve taught me about hospitality and how what we’ve been given was meant to be shared.
  • I love how you make me laugh and forget the cares of the world. Sometimes that’s what you need the most.
  • I love how you’re a safe place for conversation – full of empathy and understanding. 
  • I love how you use your gifts to make beautiful things, whether that’s food, music, log rounds, or open homes.
  • I love it when we grab shaved ice or Thai food, even when it’s a bad karaoke night.
  • I love how the people I work with have turned into family, and how I actually get excited to get up in the morning because of them (unless it’s Monday, of course).
  • I love that my church is a beautiful picture of the early church and how it has healed some very broken places in me. I also love that I’m slowly winning my pastor over to my style of music.
  • I love that I can talk to you easily about things like fear, depression, anxiety, and loneliness because you withhold judgment and show compassion instead.  

There’s a reason why I pulled you all together tonight. Besides celebrating the fact that I’m done with school for FOREVER, it’s also to tell you that I love you — and that you’re the best bunch of people I know. 

Note: And then, I proceeded to play two of my favorite songs live songs with my instrumental trio — “Concerning Hobbits” from Fellowship of the Ring and “City of Stars” from La La Land. Because music always makes everything better. I am truly thankful for everyone who showed up and helped make this celebration an amazing night. From the strawberry shortcake to the watermelon cooler to the eight types of salsa — you make this crazy life worth living just by being in it. 

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Logo   Bailey Gillespie works as Director of Academic Engagement at William Jessup University and is working to finish her book manuscript. She lives near Sacramento, California and loves connecting with people over health, creativity, and faith. Recently, her writing has appeared on Real Hope RisingThe Rabbit Room, and The Deeply, Co. Read more at baileygillespie.com or follow her on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and Goodreads.