My Best Birthday Gift

Today is the 50th time I’ve celebrated my birthday. As a family holidays and birthdays aren’t usually a huge deal, even “landmark” ones like this one. But we still generally have a nice meal from a restaurant and spend time as a family. Those of us who like sweets have cake, I’ll have the snacky-salty things that make me happy.

The best birthday gift, though, was my 41st birthday. Just a week or so before I came up with the idea of 500 Kindnesses, a tandem bike ride that Daegan and I would take together from Toronto to New York City. It would work like a charity ride with supporters showing their support by giving. But instead of giving money, which not everyone can give, they would pledge to do something nice for another person. There was a web form that people could use to submit their “pledges”. Over the first week 2-3 pledges came in. With a goal of 500, I had a long way to go.

On the day of my forty-first birthday, something must have shifted because all of a sudden it seemed like people started noticing my project. Over the course of the day 20-30 different pledges came in: people planning to give their friends who are new parents a night out by babysitting for them, another person bringing food to the food bank, someone else deciding to bake goodies and leave them for their neighbours. It was such a beautiful rush to see all of these things happening. Throughout the day I would go to Sage and say “Oh wow! Look at this one! Someone has decided to start volunteering for a women’s shelter!” or to share other exciting news.

At the end of the day there were a couple of dozen new pledges from all over the world, acts of kindness in all shapes, sizes, and forms. I was happy to see my project working but I was even more happy to just know all of these nice things were happening in the world.

At the end of the day, over a dinner of Thai food Sage made a confession: “I messaged everyone I knew and did a Facebook post I hid from you talking about your project and asking for people to support you.” And support they did. Best birthday gift ever.

And today, in honour of my 50th birthday, I’d like to ask if you could do this again. Now, more than ever, a small kindness for another human will be appreciated. Many are worried about an election going bad, lots are worried about the economy and their jobs, and of course we all are worried about a worldwide pandemic. Check in on a friend, call a neighbour, bring a book you love to a friend. In some small way let someone know they matter and there is good in the world. And let me know with the form below. I’ve made it anonymous as I know sometimes people can be a little self-conscious about talking about the good they’re doing.

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