Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Birthday Project

My birth date, December 30th, has long been riddled with problems my entire life.  If you have a birthday between Christmas and New Year's then you know what I am saying.  Expectations are always set for a great day, but they never seem to materialize.  People forget, gifts are combined with Christmas, no one is in town, the plans of New Year's Eve the next night supersede any focus on celebrating with me.  I have even been given guilt trips because of how terribly timed my birthday I had any control over that.  I am understanding, but it still stinks.  Or rather, it always used to stink until this year. 

About a month ago, I discovered "The Birthday Project."  Immediately, I knew this was how to transform the negativity often associated with my birthday into something completely different.  Instead of focusing on me on my birthday, I was going to focus on others.  Instead of receiving gifts, I was going to give gifts.  Some of the ideas were small, some of the ideas were larger, some cost money and some only took my time.  Some of them touched people in my immediate circle, but more went to those I did not know at all. It turned out to be the BEST. BIRTHDAY. EVER.

Here is what I did, in the order in which it happened:

1.  At the gas station, I bought the drinks for the man behind me in line.  He just stared at me like I was a lunatic.  I loved it!
2. Stopped by my Mom's house and gave her lots of hugs and told her how much I love her and cherish her.  She is the best mom in the world, people.  I am so blessed!
3. Gave a dog treat for a dog being walked in the neighborhood.  Surprised look and a big thank you.
4. At the bank, put quarters in all of the gumball machines.  Told the teller all about the Birthday Project which inspired her to the same on her next birthday.
5. A person in the parking lot of the bank had a dog in her car, and I offered a dog treat.  She gave me a big smile, a thank you and a SURE!
6.  At Costco, I let the person behind me get in front of me.  Who doesn't appreciate that!  They did!  Thanked me multiple times as the lines were really, really long!
7.  I gave some money to a homeless woman at the light.
8. I taped 6 bags of popcorn to the RedBox movie box with a note that said, "Free Popcorn for your movie.  Take one and enjoy this random act of kindness"
9. Gave out bottles of water and handwarmers to other homeless people collecting money around the Wendover/I-40 area. Amazed at the appreciation and thanks.
10. Gave a new friend a small bouquet of flowers.  What a way to brighten a day!
11. Gave an old friend a small bouquet of flowers.  Got the best, longest hug!
12.  Stood in the lobby of Target and with permission, gave out single dollar bills to kids coming in so that they could pick out some little treat from the Dollar Section.  Parents thought it was great, no one told me "no," and the kids' grins were priceless.  Got lots of "Happy Birthdays," too!
13.  Distributed 37 handwarmers to men outside of the Open Door Shelter, with the remaining given inside to be distributed.
14. Handed out 22 bottles of water at the Main Bus Terminal in town.  Oh my, the elderly African-American ladies were unbelievably sweet! They give the best hugs! Everyone wished me a happy birthday, too!
15.  Stopped to check on a driver whose car was in distress.
16.  Dropped by the Salvation Army and delivered 36 various chocolate candy bars.  I explained what I was there to do and this was the response, "Wait.  Let me get this straight.  It is your birthday and you are giving US chocolate?  YOU ROCK! What an awesome idea!"  The kids went nuts, by the way.
17.  A lady walking with 3 kids under the age of  8 was walking towards the Salvation Army and I gave her a bouquet of flowers. Oh, the look on her face!  Was it the most practical thing I could have done for her? Probably not. She said, "Who are these for?"  I said, "You!  Everyone deserves something beautiful."  She started crying.  Oh my!
18. Let several cars into a long line of traffic due to road construction.
19. Paid for a man's lunch in the drive thru at McDonald's.
20.  On our last stop, we surprised my 85-year old grandmother.  We gave her 25 yellow roses.  As predicted, she cried.  She always cries over anything slightly emotional, so this was a Niagara Falls moment.

Twenty collective acts that translated to touching over 130 people.  Were these earth-shattering acts? Absolutely not.  Did it brighten someone's day unexpectedly?  I am positive it did so for one person - me!  Will I do it on my birthday next year?  No.  That is because I don't plan on waiting so long to do it again.  I plan on making a conscious effort to do something every single day moving forward, not just on my birthday.  Let the planning begin!

This is not a post about how great Kelsey Dumoulin is because she did this on her birthday.  This project is not about me.  I certainly don't own the creative rights to it. It is about looking outward on day that is usually very self-focused and at times greedy.  This is a post to inspire you to consider The Birthday Project on your special day.  What if everyone did it?!?


Marie said...

Ok...I am totally crying -- that is awesome.

margreet said...

dear kelsey, happy birthday! You brought a tear to my eye too. What goes around comes around! TEss and I want to wish you and your loves ones a very happy New Year.