On Friday, July 12th I woke up to the rock’n Beatles tune, It’s Your Birthday, with my wife jumping up and down and dancing on top of our bed holding balloons that said “Happy 50th Birthday”.  Half awake I said to Jill, “Today is not my birthday…you’re a month off, babe.” “Not a month off”, Jill responded.  “Today is 50 days before your 50th birthday Tommy Spaulding.”

I was hoping for a Porsche for my big birthday.  Or a trip to Tuscany.  Or backstage passes to a Billy Joel concert at Madison Square Garden.  But what my wife gave me that day was worth far more than a fancy car, romantic trip to Italy or to hang out with the Piano Man in New York City.

“For the next fifty days, Tommy, I’m going to give you one letter a day from fifty people around the world that love you.  People that have had a positive influence on you.  Or you’ve had on them.”

Then Jill hands me letter number one.  And my life has not been the same ever since.

August 31 was three weeks ago.  I’m now 50 years and twenty-one days old.  But something is different about me.  I’m not talking about the grey in my beard.  Or the little wrinkles under my eyes.  I’m talking about my heart.  Not the organ, per say.  But the love and hope in it.  Or, more correctly, the love and hope that is overflowing from it…thanks to these 50 letters.

The last few years have been hard for me, both personally and professionally.  Nasty lawsuit with an ex-business partner.  Lifetime restraining order against someone who wanted to cause harm to me.  Losing a half million dollars opening a failed sub-shop.  Relative telling me that I was, basically the devil, because I couldn’t have dinner with him and his wife’s parents when they were visiting town.  The list goes on.  Lots of hurt.  Lots of pain.  Lots of loss.  But the saddest of all…I started to lose hope in goodness.  I started to lose hope in people.

Until Jill started dancing on our bed with balloons in her hand.

Amazing what 50 letters can do for someone’s soul.  Someone’s heart.  And someone’s hope.

My mother told me she was proud of me in a way that I’ve never heard before.

My close friend Byron told me that I changed his two son’s lives.

My agent Michael told me that I’ve had a profound impact on his life.  And that he is nicer to people…even the waitress…because of me.

My friend Amy told me that I helped her connect her head with her heart.

My mentor Jerry told me that I’m like a son to him.

My teammate Holly sent me a timeline of all our interactions…highlighting the influence I’ve had on her.

My HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) guy, Russ, told me that I taught him how to love deeply.

And my fourteen-year old daughter told me that I was a “cool dad” because I let her control the music in the car!

The list goes on. 42 more times.  And here’s what I’ve learned.

Love wins.

Influence matters.

And when you hear the same things fifty times over and over…you start to believe it.

So, the next time someone you love- someone you manage- someone you care deeply about…has a special birthday- ditch the fancy car, romantic trip or backstage passes.  Instead, pour into their hearts by reaching out to the people who love them most and ask them to write a letter.

You will be amazed at the lifelong impact you will have on them.

You will be in awe of their endless appreciation.

And you don’t have to dance on the bed, holding balloons, jamming to Beatles music to deliver your gift.  Just time organizing all those letters…and the Porsche to help deliver them all!