I love learning. I love the feeling I get during that Eureka! movement when something finally clicks inside my head and makes sense. I've found that even though it might take a long time coming to that point, it is usually a strong basis for continuing to learn.
For example, in tennis my coach will repeat a strategy to me, fifty or a hundred times. He'll try and reword it in an attempt to explain it, but until something clicks inside me, it's direction, not knowledge. Once I am able to comprehend what he's referring to, BAM! I can do it! It's an exciting feeling and it helps me to grow as a tennis player. This is true for me in life as well.
There is so much for me to learn and so much I want to learn... and learning takes time. But, when it does, it's rewarding and strengthening.
Luckily, not all lessons require me to actually do something. There are times (few, though they are) that I can learn from observing and then incorporating that knowledge into my life.
Observation, alone, does not create learning, you need to reflect on that which you observed and really see it in your own life.
One lesson I learned, and I mean truly learned, was what that you don't scrimp on birthday cakes. While this may sound rather frivolous and silly, like all lessons, it has greater meaning.
When I was a child, we a Bunny Cake Fiasco of '86. In short, August was a month with many celebrations, in addition to back-to-school preparation, and closing up the woodhouse for summer. It was a hectic time as that time of year is for many people. My mother thought she'd be shrewd and celebrate everything on one day. She looked through her freezer and removed a cake shaped like a bunny face that she purchased back at Easter time.
The cake came out after dinner and was quietly divided into seven teeny tiny pieces. No one said a word, but ate the few bites of cake that was offered. We were taught to be polite and never complain about a gift, but to be gracious and appreciative. Then, one day, my grandmother (who was one of the recipients of the cake) let out a chortle and made a funny comment about the lack of cake. We all laughed, relieved that she said something.
Through the years, my siblings and I have retold the story and the disappointment from that day is still evident. In fact, none of us can see a bunny shaped cake without giggling like fools.
But, what is the lesson here?
It's not to criticize something that was done twenty + years ago, but rather to embrace the opportunity to make a birthday (or anniversary) a celebration. Making a birthday cake for the birthday celebrant is a gift, a simple acknowledgment that they are loved and worthy of a simple gesture.