A Big Birthday, A Lesson in Gratitude

To celebrate my milestone, my family and I completed 40 Random Acts of Kindness


As parents, planning our kid’s birthday is always a given..birthday cake, party, presents. But what about your birthday? What do you do to celebrate? Well this year, I am celebrating a “bigger” birthday and I really wanted to celebrate with style. Of course, anyone in Sonoma loves a good party, that would be a no-brainer. But maybe something a little more meaningful would be in order? When I came across “the birthday project” on the online pinboard, Pinterest, I knew I had hit the nail on the head. 

The birthday project was started by another mom, Robyn Bomar, as a way to celebrate her 38th birthday in 2010. She decided to celebrate by doing 38 Random Acts of Kindness, one for each year of her life. Since she had such an amazing birthday doing this (actually she says it was her best ever!), I decided to up the anty 2 more and celebrate my birthday by doing 40 random acts of kindness all around Sonoma, while involving my kids as much as possible over this past Thanksgiving weekend, one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year. 

When I first mentioned the project to my kids, my son said, “Mom, why would you want to do that?”  My daughter on the other hand, was actually excited from the first moment I told her about the project. She immediately started thinking about all the nice things we could do for others. Throughout the weekend, every smile and thank you we received just made us want to do more. People seemed shocked that we were out doing good deeds on such a busy weekend. We had a great time giving fellow neighbors in Sonoma a little bit of happiness and seeing many people smile.

We have completed a little over 30 of our initial list so far and have several more to do this week as we are doing our regular errands. I made a list to keep us on track but I also left room for a little spontaneity. Many ideas were suggestions from my kids. You can also find a large list of ideas on the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.

My 40 Birthday Acts:

1. Leave little treat for our mail person with a note of thanks.
2. Drop off toys for Infineon Holiday Toy Drive at Sonoma Fire Department.
3. Buy coffee for person behind me in line at Starbucks.
4. Buy gift card at Safeway and give to person behind me in line. (This was the first one I did and I had butterflies. The look on her face was enough to almost bring me to tears!)
5. Buy gift card at Whole Foods and give to person in line or someone walking in store. My kids decided to each give a gift card to someone in line and one was a teacher at their school and another was a parent of a good friend. They were so excited!
6. Tape quarters to newspaper machine in front of Post Office.
7. Tape quarters to vending machine in front of Safeway.
8. Tape free code to Blockbuster Express Machine at Safeway.
9. Donate bag of clothes and bag of food to FISH.
10. Deliver bag of dog treats, peanut butter, towels and blankets to Pets Lifeline.
11. Make bookmarks and deliver to library.
12. Deliver treat to librarians at my kids school.
13. Deliver cookies to fire station. (We were lucky enough to meet the nicest fireman and he gave us the greatest tour of the station.)
14. Deliver handmade cards to nursing home.
15. Send a thankful you are my friend card to someone far away.
16. Deliver a special treat to my daughter’s teacher.
17. Deliver a special treat to my son’s teacher.
18. Leave a nice tip for the coffee girl.
19. Hold door open for someone behind me.
20. Return someone else’s cart.
21. Deliver $5 McDonald’s Gift cards to random kids in townn (these were donated by my mom).
22. Deliver Thanksgiving grocery bag full of food to make Thanksgiving dinner to a neighbor. This was an idea from the birthday project website and it was so much fun.
23. Deliver gift cards to janitors at my kids’ school.
24. Tape popcorn bags to Blockbuster machine
25. Tape quarters to rides and video games at Train Town.
26. Hand out water bottles and fresh fruit to people walking and jogging along the trail. (This was hysterical-people thought my kids wanted money at first. We had a couple tell us we made their day and a lot of people were just amazed. We will definitely be doing this again!)
27. Deliver crayons and coloring books to emergency room at hospital. We had a really nice woman donate an entire bag of brand new Beanie babies for us to deliver too!)
28. Put pennies and nickels in sand at the big playground for kids to find. (my kids loved this!)
29. Go to ice cream store and buy a scoop for another child (or gift certificate).
30. Load bags of groceries in the car for others.
32. Handed out cookies to kids after they get out of school.
33. Buy a gift card for someone at restaurant and leave at their table.
34. Leave cookies for police station.
35. Hand out balloons to kids shopping with their parents.
36. Hand out lottery tickets.
37. Make cookies and pass out to neighbors you don’t see very often.
38. Tape Tide One load and quarters to washer at laundry mat (had no idea it was $3.00 to just wash!)
39. Let mom with kids go ahead of me in line.
40. Last one is an idea from my son, take some of his Halloween candy and hand it out to other kids that weren’t able to go trick or treating. So cute!

We have had a such a great time and all of us were exhausted by the end of the weekend but wanted to keep doing more. It honestly is too much fun! My daughter came home after one of our long days and started filling a box of toys for other kids that may not have as many. My son also told me that he wants to do 50, for his seventh birthday next year! Encouraging our kids to give back can never be taught at too early an age. I was amazed at how excited they were to keep going.

Maybe during this busy holiday season ahead, when we are all exhausted and overspent, take the time to do one random act of kindness for a fellow neighbor. Reaching out to share kindness with our community makes it a better place for everyone to live. And teaching this valuable lesson to our kids is, I believe, essential. If everyone in Sonoma, did just one in the next month, we would have almost 9100 acts of kindness rippling through our town. Now that would be an amazing birthday!

Ciera Rudin November 30, 2011 at 06:32 PM
Inspiring, thanks for sharing!
Renee December 02, 2011 at 11:24 PM
What a wonderful idea! I always tell everyone I have everything I could possibly need and the idea of turning your birthday into a day of giving is great. And even better because you included your children in the giving.
Suzanne Barbara December 02, 2011 at 11:27 PM
What a great way to teach your children the joy of giving. I am going to steal your idea and for the holidays, I think I will take the next 23 days and do a "random act of kindness" on each day. Thanks for the idea.
Michelle Rulmont December 06, 2011 at 02:15 AM
Wow! Love it Suzanne and Renee! Let me know what RAOK's you do!! It was the funnest part of my birthday and now I find myself doing them all the time!
shely vollert February 17, 2012 at 09:13 PM
I LOVE this article! What a fantastic idea Michelle!
Robyn Bomar April 16, 2012 at 02:38 PM
You are a phenomenal woman. I hope your birthday kindness has spilled over into your every day life...when you have such an incredible birthday experience, I find it hard NOT to let it infiltrate the other 364 days of the year! :) Thank you for sharing your story and for including links back to the website. Blessings, Robyn Bomar


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