Twice in one weekend I felt like I was at a filming of the final scenes of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”Saturday and Sunday I attended surprise birthday parties for two friends with milestone birthdays. Both ended up being powerful tributes to the guests of honor; the kind that left me yearning to live a more loving, prayerful, generous life.The first struck me at a personal level because my friend is a fellow mom. In about ten years, my kids will be the ages of her kids, so I listened closely to the tributes they wrote out and read. They spoke with respect, admiration and gratitude for how their mom had been there for them, listening and loving them during the difficult teen years. I was so happy that my friend had the privilege of hearing her children quite literally rise up and call her blessed–they stood next to her and told stories of how they listened to her every word, taking to heart the truth, insight and wisdom she uttered.I walked out thinking about my 12+ years of parenting and how long and tiring they have been at times, how filled with delight and challenges, how difficult and wonderful. And yet here are kids ten years older that my own, and as they reflected on what their mother has meant to them, they referred almost exclusively to the years my children have ahead of them! It’s not that these early years will be forgotten–let’s hope!–but it was a sobering reminder that the next ten years ahead of me are just as critical. My choices from here on out will make as huge an impact on the future adults my children will become as these first 13 already have.The kids talked about their mother’s listening skills. They talked of her godly wisdom and her love. They thanked her for being there for school events and standing by them when they struggled with self-esteem. She helped them focus on what really mattered and spoke truth to them about how to stay strong as followers of Christ.I turned to one of my friends and said, “Ten years from now, will my kids say these kinds of things?” I don’t think my friend heard me, because she shrugged. Or maybe she did, and she was just being honest.Today’s party was for a friend who turned 70. His wife and kids arranged an enormous gathering, contacting family and friends from all eras of his life. After we ate, people went around and said a few words about their relationship with him and the impact he’s had. The place was packed, so this took a long time. Over and over people spoke of his generosity and how he lived out his faith in actions.He’ll drive across the country to take care of a friend or help somebody move or sit by their bedside during an illness. He listens. He prays. He’s a servant-hearted, humble father-figure.He’s made decisions in life to be available to his family–some were career choices that kept him from climbing the corporate ladder. He turned down offers that would have had him working long hours at the office, because he wanted to be there for his six kids as they were growing up and later to be available for his grandkids, too. And he has. He has been there, and while he has very little in the way of success from the world’s perspective–he doesn’t have a lot of cash or a big house–he has a room full of admiration, love and respect. He’s inspired us all. Many talked of wanting to emulate him. Many said he’d changed their lives. He’s poured himself out for others, and in a way, laid down his life for his friends; not literally, at least not yet–he’d be willing–but in order to live a life of love, he’s given up much that most of us crave.One of his daughters said she was thinking about how people collect things–antiques or stamps or art. She said she got to thinking about it and concluded that her parents collect people.We instinctively glanced around the packed room. How true. A beautiful, clutter-free collection!And as each of his kids stood up and said words of tribute, and then his grandkids spoke earnestly of how wonderful their grandpa was and how much he sacrificed to be with them, I thought again to my own future. What will mine say of me?I don’t think either of these friends reads this blog, but if they do–happy birthday!For the rest of us, may we all live such wonderful lives, collect people along the way, and love them generously and sacrificially.At the close of today’s party, the birthday boy’s wife came up to express her own tribute. Among other wonderful observations, she noted that at church this morning, they sang “To God Be the Glory,” and said, “Honestly, that’s all it is. It’s all God. We’re just ordinary people. All the things you’re saying today, it’s Him. He’s the One working anything good in our lives.”May we also live such humble lives, giving God glory and pointing people to Him.