In anticipation of her seventh birthday Goosey flirted with the idea of a "friends" party. That year I felt that Goosey was old enough to hear a truth: she had enough stuff. She didn't need gifts from her friends. If she wanted to have them over to celebrate with her that was fantastic, but really, she had everything she could want in the way of toys, books and clothes. I suggested instead that we ask each friend to bring two cans of food for the local food bank which would then be donated in her name. She was in favor of the idea, especially after we discussed that fact that there were children in her own town, probably at her own school, whose parents didn't have enough money to buy food. In the end, Goosey chose to attend a Blue Man Group performance with her dad over the party (but she did help me put together a box of food for the pantry).
The following month Goosey was invited to a birthday party for a classmate. I was so happy when I read the invitation and saw that in lieu of gifts the little boy requested that everyone bring an item or two to donate to the local animal shelter. Included was a list of urgent needs and the website for the shelter with a more comprehensive list. When I took Goosey shopping for that party I found that she was more excited to pick out items for the shelter than she ever had been shopping for her friends. She understood that she was giving something that was truly needed.
Today Goosey went to another birthday party. The sweet little girl is one of Goosey's "set" at school--Sarah. In her invitation Sarah requested that donations be made to the National Kidney Foundation. More specifically, to the team that she will be walking for in the local NKF's Kidney Walk. Sarah's grandmother, to whom she is very close, had a kidney transplant twenty years ago. Today her grandmother is still healthy and active. Each year the family walks in support of the NFK in an attempt to give back a fraction of the wonderful blessings they have received. This year Sarah is old enough to participate.
When we read the enclosed note requesting donations instead of gifts Goosey was so enthusiastic that she ran upstairs and brought down her jar of spending money. She counted out the amount she had available and asked if she could please donate it. We told her she most certainly could and that we would add to it also.
I love what these two children have done--they have chosen to have others celebrate their birthdays in a non-traditional, but much more meaningful way. They chose to ask their friends to help others. What a beautiful way to honor your friends on their special days.