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Using Our Birthdays As A Day to Serve

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My kid may tower over the rest of her class, lick the floor of restaurants, and pass endless gas that she thinks is hilarious, but if there’s one thing she’s done that makes me a proud parent, it’s how she responded to my question, “What do you want to do for your birthday?”


Our oldest turned four this year and a few weeks before her big day, I asked her what she wanted to do on her birthday. Like any good parent, I wanted her to feel special, and everyone knows that the way to do this is to focus solely on your kid (as much as possible) for the whole day. I was prepared to take her to the zoo, aquarium, indoor splash pad, cake with her friends, or whatever big adventure she could think of that was different than the usual park play date I tend to set up throughout the week. Instead, what she said blew me away.

With no prompting from me, and without hesitation, my sweet daughter responded, “I want to take balloons to all my friends!”

I had brainstormed with this girl. I had played up the day. I made sure she knew what birthdays mean. And out of everything she could have chosen, gifting something small but joyful to her friends was what she wanted to do. So that’s what we did! She helped me make and decorate chocolate cupcakes and she picked out 25 balloon colors at the grocery store. Yup, I untangled that many strings of balloons, 25 times, so we could drive around and surprise her friends that morning. And guess what? She DID feel special on her day, even though the gifts weren’t going to her. I don’t think I could be more proud of her!


Her thoughtful idea sparked a new tradition in our family. For our birthdays, we are going to use the day to feel special by providing a small act of service to someone else. Because that’s what happens when you take a moment to think outside of yourself and help someone smile: you get what I lovingly describe as a “secondhand service high.” Kindness is always a win-win for everyone!

Sure, our kids will get to have a birthday party every few years—the traditional kind with cake, presents, party hats and a fun activity with all their friends. But who says they need something grandiose like that every single year? Instead, we will make the day special by thinking outside ourselves. In this way, we do not take advantage of our position or this earth we’ve been lucky enough to be born onto. It will be fun to see what service ideas the kids come up with in the years to come!

What do you do to celebrate your family’s birthdays?

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