Today is my oldest brother’s birthday. Happy birthday, Robert. (I doubt very seriously that he ever reads these comments, but I’ll call him sometime today and I might tell him that his name came up.)

I find myself often mentioning the fact that I am the oldest of six sons. I think I do it to justify being the uptight, overly competitive, bossy person that I so often am. Someone had to be in charge of that rowdy crew.

But I also do it because I am so very proud of every one of them. I believe it’s possible to be sensitive to those who have not been as fortunate as you are while still being incredibly grateful for what you have. I hope that’s the way I am with my family — I grieve for those who don’t have one or who don’t have good relationships with their parents or siblings, but I couldn’t be more grateful for the one I have. In some future post I’ll express my thanks for my wife and children and grandchildren, but today this is about my brothers.

Each of them is a strong family man, committed to his spouse, dedicated to his children, and doting on his grandchildren.

Each is a hard worker (we got that from our dad). Regardless of their chosen profession, they apply themselves with integrity to the task at hand.

Each is a pillar of his community. They volunteer; they serve on committees and boards; they coach and mentor.

Each is a churchman. So much of our conversations are about the churches we serve, some as laymen, a couple of us as ministers. You wouldn’t have to be with us long to see that the church is central to our lives.

And each of us is absolutely drama averse. There are issues about which we are passionate, but we never seem to elevate minor issues to major ones. It leaves energy for the important stuff and makes being together so much more enjoyable.

I sincerely hope that, if you have the opportunity, you can talk about your family with the kind of love, respect, and admiration I have for mine. However, whether you can or not, you’ve got a family, the family of faith. And you’ve got brothers and sisters who love you and who are going to treat you like kin. Thanks for indulging me today as I express gratitude for Robert and Billy and Tim and Don and Mark. But remember, you’ve got people for whom you can be thankful too.