Why not help someone else on your birthday?
More and more, people are doing things to give back on their birthday, and I love that. Birthdays for me have been very up and down. I’m born the week before Christmas (today, in fact!) and as a kid very often my birthday was ignored and as a young adult I had friends who would whine and moan about my birthday because it interfered with their Christmas party and prep plans (and also because I had a knack for friending people who would treat me poorly) but the last several years my birthdays have been good mostly. I having a loving relationship and loving friendships and all that helps when it comes to birthdays.
Another thing that helps in any difficult situation is to give back to someone else. It helps you gain perspective and turn the focus to what you have rather than what you don’t have. When you offer your time and energy to someone else, you lift them up and also realize that you have a lot to give this world, and what’s more, our world needs your contribution.
Having a birthday now, at midlife, is different than we were kids. It’s a thrill to get old (and so much better than the alternative) but a “thanks for getting older” celebration isn’t exactly the same without streamers, lots of cake and ice cream, and toys. (Not that a midlife party couldn’t be that, but it’s probably something a little more tame. Like a nice dinner with friends.)
Chances are, when you’re in midlife you work on the anniversary of your birth, do housework, take the kids to their activities, and care for mom and dad. You might have a cake and someone to sing to you, but it’s not the big celebration it once was.
Maybe the solution can be found in the way we celebrate. Instead of a birthday being about you, why not make it about everyone else? I read a story years ago about a guy who celebrated his 65th year by doing 65 random acts of kindness. Specifically, he stood on a corner for 65 minutes and handed out $5 bills to people.
I loved that idea, but this type of give back celebration doesn’t have to be about money. It can be time. Doing good deeds. Helping out a friend.
I came up with some ideas on how I could celebrate the big “52” this year:
- Volunteering at my local food pantry and donating a food item for every one of my years.
- Writing 52 thank you notes to people who have helped and inspired me.
- Do 52 errands for friends who need babysitting, grocery shopping, cleaning, etc.
- Buy coffee for 52 people in the coffee shop.
- Write down 5.2 things I like about ten of my friends and send it to them with a handwritten note.
- Make a mental note to say 52 positive things in a week to people I encounter.
There’s only issue I can see with this plan, and that is that for every year you get older, you have to give back even more to top what you did before. But then, maybe that’s the point!
I’ve got my list of possible ways to celebrate my birthday. Care to join me?