THE REVERSE BIRTHDAY
Instead of making your birthday party about receiving gifts, make it about giving gifts to others.
Giving even in small ways can be a lot of fun, easier than it seems, can bring people together and can make more of an impact than you might imagine. I did a small calculation and realized that if only 10% of the world's population started doing #reversebirthdays, all the extra days of giving would add up to 2,054,794 human years. Every year. That blew my mind and inspired me to add my tiny %.
1. HANDING OUT GIFTS TO HOMELESS FOLKS (this is the one i chose to do this year, more about it below)
2. MAKE HAND-WRITTEN NOTES & HAND THEM TO STRANGERS (we incorporated this, too. you can ask your guests to picture someone they care about while writing the notes to make them meaningful, but obv don’t put the name so it could apply to most anyone)
3. VOLUNTEER TIME AT A SOUP KITCHEN OR OTHER FOOD DISTRIBUTION CENTER
4. VISIT AN ELDERLY HOME (they love performances, including bad plays and awful music, but even just talking to them and holding hands is amazing)
5. VOLUNTEER TIME AT A HOSPITAL OR HOSPICE (this can be very intense, but very powerful)
6. CLEAN UP A SECTION OF ROAD OR SOME OTHER PUBLIC AREA (more fun than it sounds like, and strangely fulfilling)
7. PLAN A FLASH MOB (synchro dance or musical performance. more work than the others, but so much fun!)
8. MODERN DAY BARN-RAISING (have all your friends meet to renovate one friend's house)
9. ORGANIZE A YARD SALE AND DONATE PROCEEDS TO A LOCAL CHARITY
10. YOURS! (i'd love to add more to this list. if you have a good one i haven't mentioned, please let me know)
MAKE IT HAPPEN:
This is the exact text i sent to my friends. Feel free to copy directly or adjust to taste, of course.
i am having a reverse birthday party sunday night and you are invited
(in lieu of gifts, pls bring coconut water, fresh undies, functional clothes you don't wear anymore, 6x8 tarps, snacks etc (or just your presence) which we'll be giving to streetfolks in DTLA together as a group)
5:00 pm: meet at my place for snacks and writing small love-notes (which we'll also be handing out)
7:00 pm: we'll all leave together to the city center
9:00ish: anyone that wants to can come back to my place to share stories and hang out
thanks for being in my life"
My friends and I did #'s 1 and 2 this year for my reverse birthday and it was an incredible experience. In fact, we all loved it so much, we decided to get together once a month to do it again.
A few things we learned that may help:
A. stay in groups of 5+. when dealing with people in duress it never hurts to be careful and there is safety in numbers.
B. Blankets and coats were the most popular items. We gathered these from our homes from things we didn't use as well as made a trip to the local Goodwill, filling up our vehicles with as much as we could fit.
C. Most requested that we didn't bring (because we thought it might be weird but we wished we had afterward): new underwear.
D. One of my friends made about 30 PBJ sandwiches and they were a huge hit. Simple, healthy food will never go unappreciated.
E. Asking the names of the people you meet is humanizing and can elevate the experience from a frenzied survival-based exchange to a powerfully connective interaction.
F. Ask people what they need most. If you're up for it, make a shopping list and return when you have time. (we did this and it was amazing).
G. One of my friends brought single roses and handed them out individually. It brought tears to everyone’s eyes several times.
H. We ran out of items much quicker than we expected to. There really are a lot of people who could use help. Don't worry about bringing too much.
H. Before we left we spent an hour making hand-written notes and cards to hand out to the people we met that were filled with encouraging words and pictures. It's not about skill. It's about care.
I. The shared group experience is one of the most beautiful parts. All of us caravanning together, squeezed into two vehicles, talking about what we were thinking and feeling was one of the best parts.
J. At the end of the evening, we all returned back to my place and spent two hours talking about how the experience affected us and coming up with ways to do more. It was beautiful seeing so many creative minds pouring their energies together for such a good reason. Many of the people who came had never done work like that in the past and it was very impactful.
K. Hands down, it was the best birthday of my life, and I plan to do it every year from now on.
We'd love to hear about your experience. Feel free to use the hashtag #reversebirthdays on social media or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org