Of Birthdays as Blessings for Others

MaryRose Cobarde Candare
ILLUMINATION’S MIRROR
5 min readDec 25, 2023

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Since we were little and quite frankly no matter our age, cakes and balloons remain symbolic fixtures of birthday celebrations.

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Moms like me have in our pockets more than a few unique ways of celebrating our little ones on their birthday. We greet them with decorations, sneaky presents, and balloon avalanches as they awake to their day. We let them choose the meals for the day and grant every wish possible, at times stretching beyond budget. The birthday crown, treasure-hunt-for-gifts, and most imaginative themes are gestures of joy and celebration we shower on our little ones.

We love them so much we even give them presents on our own birthday. On this note, we step into the meaningful plane of giving in order to witness joy.

When my now older two kids were little, I, too, got excited whenever my children’s birthdays rolled in. I would quickly make simple plans, in part to delight them but also to use the occasion as an opportunity to teach them to share delight with others, often needy strangers.

Photo by author

Each year, on their birthday, a small portion of what would have been part of our humble celebration is set aside for random acts of kindness. I would tell them to celebrate with those who would otherwise not experience a treat. There were street children in one year and sick children in another. Children’s eyes beamed with joy, holding simple goody bags. And the balloons never looked as colorful as when they adorned hospital wards. Then there were the elderly, poor, and uncared-for — vendors and garbage collectors. Their frail bodies somehow perk up with the unexpected lift from strangers. The things we give are so little (possibly inconsequential in the view of some), but they come with great love.

Photo by author

Charitable giving on birthdays, celebrating for a cause, and similar traditions inspire me. And being that “charity begins at home,” I often find that the first people I want to make happy on my birthday are my dear parents. Present for parents, this is another tradition that makes the celebration worthwhile.

Photo by author

Just as we celebrate in different ways, we can give meaningfully. I practice this on my birthday. I’d put together a list of wishes. They are all for other people, many of whom I have never even met. The great thing about these wishes is that they do not cost much. They are easily doable on any given day, although I guarantee you, some might find them corny or mushy, but that is hardly unbearable. I can live with such hazards of the ‘giving talk’ just as I relish messages from friends who privately share about doing the same this and that in their own way.

Wish List:

· presents for parents: blooms and warmest hugs for my then ailing mother and a treat for my dear father

· hugs and kisses for my husband and kids (“for” not “from,” …giving remember? But of course these presents really give the giver)

· healthy treat for street children

· warm food and even warmer hugs for homeless, old people

· balloons and books for sick children

Photo by author

· give a bottle of water and buy from old vendors (If you have a bit of spare cash, buy candies or native kakanin or banig or any other item being sold by vendors toiling under the punishing sun back in my home country of the Philippines. Buy even when you don’t need what they are selling. The vendors could really use the meager income as well as the sense of dignity from work)

· chat with the cleaner in your school or office or the street asking about their family; thanking them for their work

· send out messages or cards to those who are going through tough times (even beyond family and friends)

The concept is quite simple — kindness for others in lieu of a gift. At the risk of sounding excessively sentimental or even preachy, I send out these wishes believing that they are adequately worthwhile and even necessary. In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be any children dying of hunger or old people being neglected and abused. But this is the condition of our troubled world. This is why I am in awe of kind-doers who shed light and ease burdens. They share their tales for nothing but the hopes of sustaining the acts of goodwill. I figured if you’re going to get a kick over something, it might as well be something that helps another person, even momentarily. If you are going to copy someone, imitate those who serve others with joy. Don’t be cynical about the motives of people helping other people. Deep down, give without a hope for praise or reward. Giving itself is the greatest gift.

The famous fable writer Aesop puts it in simple terms: “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” And to this, I humbly add that the business of kindness is everyone’s business, birthday or not.

This story was originally published on https://momcenter.com.ph/ on September 18, 2017.

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MaryRose Cobarde Candare
ILLUMINATION’S MIRROR

wonderer, author, content creator, editor, teacher and lifelong learner