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A New Tradition: Give Away Your Birthday

Authored by Julie Smith Turner

I never knew one of the most difficult things you face as a parent is giving your children too much. But the signs are everywhere in our house. The bedrooms have toys. The living room has toys. The family room has toys. Even the bathtub has toys.

I never knew one of the most difficult things you face as a parent is giving your children too much. But the signs are everywhere in our house. The bedrooms have toys. The living room has toys. The family room has toys. Even the bathtub has toys.

We are grateful for everything we have and appreciate gifts, but our kids have enough. More than enough. This year we decided to try something new. As we planned the usual birthday party with lots of friends, I sat down with my almost seven year old. We brainstormed about gifts that wouldn’t be too expensive and could be put to good use by people who really need them. Initially, he reacted like I expected. He wanted gifts at his party. The more we talked about it and I reminded him that he’d still get a few real presents, he thought it would be nice to do something for someone else. The final idea was all his. He decided to collect art supplies for Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital.

I can’t say he felt great about forfeiting gifts then, but I could tell he felt better when he saw the massive pile of crayons, paints, coloring books, colored pencils and markers our guests gave so very generously. As I unpacked and sorted all the bags and boxes, it felt a lot like Christmas in August.

I called Jack in to have a look at his birthday “gift.” As he trotted in, he gave a big “whoa” and looked through the collection. As he lingered longingly over a thick X-men coloring book, I reminded him how special the book would be to a sick boy at the hospital. “Mommy,” he sternly reminded me, “you know girls like the X-men, too.”

Today we finally dropped everything off and he was very impressed with the Children’s Hospital. We looked at the fish tank, the reception “boat” and he talked to several folks who worked there. He thought it was all pretty neat.

Here’s what I think is so neat. Jack will probably never know or understand the full impact of his gift, but I do. I’m very proud he was willing to give away his birthday gifts to help others. I’ll make sure he never forgets the three huge bags of joy he gave on his birthday.

About the Author

Julie Smith Turner is a mother and writer-in-chief of wordsmith, a copywriting and creative services company in Columbia, SC.