My 35th birthday is in three days. THIRTY FIVE. I don’t know why this seems like such a bigger deal than thirty. Perhaps it’s because I’m on the highest point of the hill before toppling down into my late thirties? That’s what it feels like. In the last few weeks, I’ve felt a sort of out-of-body slow motion thing happening—lots of reflecting and introspecting—and I wake up most days feeling like this can’t be real life. I need to say this out loud—I love my life, exactly as it is right now. The last year has been about connecting with my family, downsizing, and pursuing passions. It’s the kind of fulfillment that money could never buy—it’s peace.
I’ve seen this line floating around social media lately in multiple forms, and it has really stuck with me—to raise your standard of living, raise your standard of giving.
Like whoa, right? It’s exactly what I believe. As we’re looking another promotion in the eye for Scott (thanks, Air Force!), we are so excited to see how that affects our ability to give. We have everything we need and more. Why not give the rest away?
On August 17th, I set out to celebrate the month leading up to my birthday with purposeful acts of kindness; my goal: 35. I got this idea from my friend, Dena, whom I ran into one night when she was out for one of her friend’s birthdays. They were on a mission to complete 35 acts of kindness together. This year, my birthday week is hectic (as I am sans husband and starting up all the beginning of school year activities with the kids), so I gave myself a little grace and started a month early.
I won’t list everything I/we have done, but I will tell you about a couple of things that our family loves to do. First is the supertip. This started a couple of years ago when the boys and I were eating at Buffalo Wild Wings in Olympia, WA. Our waitress was 8+ months pregnant, and my mama heart beat for her. We left a 100% tip and snuck out as quickly as possible. It has become a bit of a trend. We don’t eat out a lot or this would break our bank, but let me tell you—there is nothing better than hearing my kids say, “Mom, can we supertip?” First, it feels good to brighten someone’s day obviously, but I also love that my kids are gaining an appreciation for the service other people provide us. It’s a privilege to walk into a restaurant, sit down, and have someone bring food to us. We do not take that for granted.
Secondly, with the help of our church, we made up some baggies with snacks, chapstick, tissues, bandages, and water to hand out to people standing with signs. There’s a particularly busy intersection I frequent where almost every day at least one person is standing on the corner. If I’ve got a baggie in the car (I try to always have a few), I park in a nearby parking lot and walk across traffic to give them one. So far, this month, I’ve given baggies to Nick, Carl, and John. Every time, I ask their names and then ask if they’ve had lunch. If they say no (which is almost always the case), I give them enough to get something at the Wendy’s nearby. In each of these three cases, they immediately picked up their things and walked to get lunch. I’ve heard all that has been said about people experiencing homelessness—that we shouldn’t give them money, that they’ll just spend it on drugs and alcohol, that the best thing we can do is leave the work up to the professionals. Well, nobody is the boss of me, and when I actually talk to and touch these people, I’m acutely aware of how they feel the rest of the world views them. I will continue to support the missions and food pantries that serve this population with donations and volunteer hours, but I will also not sit by while human beings feel hated, judged, or invisible.
Over the last (almost) month, we’ve plugged expired parking meters, bought “just because” gifts for teachers and friends, left “coffee cash” in library books with notes saying “Your next treat is on us!”, sent care packages to friends recovering from surgery, and handed down clothes. We’ve donated to causes benefiting classroom teachers, a lovely young girl who is killing it at life despite some significant challenges, women in transitional housing, kids in Ethiopia, cancer patients, refugees, Make-a-Wish kids, and a program to train healthcare workers in Uganda. Basically, if someone asked, we gave—not a lot, but enough to say to the people asking—“We care about you, and we care about what you care about!”
I honestly cannot think of a better way to celebrate being on earth for 35 years—I hope you all understand that this doesn’t come from a place of piety. Not even at all. I am overwhelmed by the love and generosity that permeate my life and my being. OVERWHELMED. It’s from that place of abundance that I’m inspired to share.
You know what the weirdest part about all of this is? The day after I started this, I got an email from the school saying we’d won a drawing at back to school night for $25 off our band fees.
Two days later, I was walking to school with the boys, and I glanced down. Tucked between the sidewalk and the grass was a piece of paper that looked like a dollar bill. I picked it up and thought it must be a promotional flyer because NO ONE FINDS $100 LYING ON THE GROUND. But I did. I did. (My dad took this super awkward picture of me as proof. I thought only the money was in the frame.)
Four days later, we got a letter in the mail that there had been some sort of medical billing mix up when Scott injured his shoulder skiing in Breckenridge (15 years ago!!!), and we were owed $594. It’s completely legit. When does this kind of stuff happen? Seriously?
Aside from that, I’ve received random cards in the mail with encouraging words and a couple of unexpected gifts from friends.
I still have four days and 10 acts of kindness to go. We can take care of those no problem. You know what would make me the happiest girl in the world? If you would join me.
Will you do something between now and September 17th in honor of my birthday? What I want more than anything else in the world right now is for more love and kindness to be purposely given.
If we’re friends, you know that I’m fighting sex trafficking in Sonagacchi, the largest red light district in Kolkata, India right now. I would love it if you considered donating $35 to this project. Am I shamelessly plugging right now? You better believe it. It’s my birthday, so I get a pass. If you’d like to give $5 because you’ve only known me for five years, that’s cool, too. Or if you want to give $1,000 because you are worth 1000 points of awesome, we will accept that as well. (We have $5,535.14 to go to see this project to its completion—our family gave $140…$35 for each family member.) If you want to give, you can CLICK HERE and put your amount in the box for “Current Project—Tamar Project India.” As always, your donation is tax-deductible.
Happy birthday to me, friends. What a gift it is to know you and a gift to be alive!