On August 6th, I’ll be 31 years old. I wouldn’t bring it up because 31 isn’t one of those milestone years that people tend to get excited about, but after three decades (plus 1/10th of a decade) of life I’ve finally caught on that many people also care about the little birthdays in between. They even get bothered if someone else’s birthday passes without a fuss. I’m obviously not one of those people, but I do appreciate that my feelings and generally poor memory for dates aren’t the only things that matter, even on my own birthday.
My past three birthdays were incredible – full of travel, and friends, and gifts so touching they made me cry – and this year I got a new computer and the quiet vacation in the country that I asked for. So please, if you’re thinking of buying something for my birthday this year, I’d like you to remember that I’ve been very fortunate, and there are probably people closer to you (in proximity or in life) for whom even a small gift will make a much bigger difference than it will for me.
For my birthday, I invite you not to celebrate, but to donate. Some of my favorite forms of giving are:
Give non-perishable food to local food pantries. This is one of the fastest and easiest donations you can make, and few things are as immediately helpful as wholesome meals.
Donate blood if you’re eligible to, and if you’re not, you can ask your employer (or your club, society, writing group, clique, etc.) if they are willing to host a blood drive. Can’t hurt to ask, and it could save lives.
While on the subject of literally giving of yourself, I ask you to please register as an organ and bone marrow donor. The criteria for these are often different than for blood donation, so even if you’re not permitted to donate blood, your other cells and tissues might still be useful and appreciated.
Support medical research. The odds are very good that your life has been impacted in some way by cancer, HIV, heart disease, autism, malaria or other health problem. The odds are also good that there is a trustworthy charity dedicated to funding research into better treating or preventing that problem. Please, before you spend any money on a gift for me, invest in the good fortune of us all by sending your money where it can help the most.
Besides food, flesh, and funds, the best thing you can ever donate is your time. Post a blog, make a video, tweet a link; take a moment to do whatever small thing you can to make the world safer, healthier, and kinder for others. Even if the only thing you do on August 6th is pause and listen to someone who only needs to be heard, it will make a difference.
And it would make me even prouder of my friends than I already am to see you express your affection for me in a way that benefits more lives than mine.