Tomorrow is my birthday! For seven years now, The Smile Project has helped me turn May 20 into a “Birthday Giveback.” You can read all about the history in our last blog post. With your support we’ve been able to “giveback” in so many deeply meaningful and creative ways. I will never have the words to fully express my gratitude. With this in mind, and as my 27th birthday crept closer, I found myself asking why we (The Smile Project) weren’t formally opening the opportunity to more people.
Each year, after my birthday giveback, my friends, family, loved ones, and even strangers tell me they’d like to do something similar for their birthday. And each year, I promise to share information and resources. But people get busy and the buzz of a service filled day is replaced with busy schedules and deadlines and to-do lists. But not this year. Something clicked for me this year: it was time to launch the program. That would be the ultimate Birthday Giveback.
If you haven’t already, please take a moment to visit the-smile-project.com/birthday to read more about this initiative. It’s designed to encourage folks to engage with giving around their birthday (flipping the script on the traditional act of “receiving” on their special day). You can sign up to do a giveback on or around your birthday, or in honor or memory of the birthday of someone you love.
When you sign up, we’ll help you plan your project and even promote it on The Smile Project website, social media, and blog (to your discretion). For example: Riley’s birthday is June 10. Riley loves animals. They are asking all their friends to donate supplies to a local animal shelter. We’ll share Riley’s project and encourage people to participate in it from wherever they are. And how cool would it be for Riley to see people all around the world donating supplies to an animal shelter in celebration of their birthday!
There’s a lot more information about how the #SmileBirthdayGiveback program works and I encourage you to spend some time on our website or viewing our latest video and posts for more information. But now, I’d like to spend the next half of this post talking about my 27th birthday giveback plan.
I’m intentionally doing my Birthday Giveback project on May 22nd instead of my actual birthday, May 20. For years, the entire point of Birthday Giveback was that it was strictly tied to the actual birthday. And while that’s fun and symbolic, the simple fact is that’s not always possible. And we want to make sure this program is accessible for all, regardless of when they are able to “giveback.”
All that said, on May 22nd, I will be gathering with some loved ones in a park to paint kindness rocks. I purchased flat rocks on Etsy and bought non-toxic paints from the craft store. It is highly important that you use non-toxic paint if you plan to leave your rocks outside or hide them in a public park or natural location.
To be honest, I’ve never painted rocks before. In fact, it’s been years since I’ve painted anything. I have no idea how this is going to work. And that’s okay. Because my Birthday Giveback this year is centered first on community and bringing together the people I love. It’s about being outside with friends and laughing and reveling in what it means to be together, after a year where we so often felt apart.
If you are in the same location as me and would like to join, let’s be in touch and I will share the details of the event. If you aren’t but still want to celebrate my Birthday Giveback, I suppose my “official project” is painting rocks. But more than that, I’m asking you to do something on Saturday that is seeped in kindness and community. If it is safe and you feel comfortable given your current vaccination or health status, spend time with someone you love and be a little extra kind to each stranger you meet. I really can’t think of a better way to honor or celebrate someone.