Last September, I read a story by Margie Boule in the Oregonian about Matt Strong, who for his 25th birthday had requested that his friends not give him presents but instead do acts of kindness and send him an email to let him know about it. He said he didn’t need another DVD or more material items. It had been a tough year for Matt and his mom was touched by his decision to forgo birthday presents. I was too. At the time, I had been working on my mitzvah project for almost two years. But Matt was just 25 years old. His request seemed wise beyond his years.
He had this idea when things had gotten to a low point in his life. He had seen a little old lady on the bus who was struggling with her grocery bag full of cans. When she got off at Matt’s stop he helped her.
He realized that good deeds don’t take that much effort.
Matt began to pay attention and realized that good deeds were easy to do.
In the end he received, many emails from friends he hadn’t heard from in years, classmates and coworkers. The acts of kindness included many that were relationship oriented.
Matt’s birthday request not only inspired his friends and family. Readers from the paper also copied his idea. On December 16th, Audeen Wagner turned 80. Here’s the note she sent to friends and family.
“Dear friends and relatives,
I will be celebrating my 80th birthday this December. Instead of buying a lovely and expensive gift for me, as I’m sure you were planning to do, please do a good deed, then send me an e-mail telling me what you did. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, just an act of kindness . . . .
“In this world of distressing, depressing news (the war, the economy, politics, Mariners baseball), it is so refreshing to hear about seemingly small and insignificant acts that become a veritable landslide of loving concern for others . . . .
Friends and family across Oregon, Washington and California offered dozens of acts of kindness in her honor. People sent flowers, helped the homeless, gave charity, volunteered in toy drives and offered free babysitting. Many of Audeen’s friends were thrilled that her birthday request helped them get into action.
So who has a birthday this week or this summer? Perhaps instead of presents, you’ll follow Matt and Audeen’s lead. You never know who you might inspire or motivate and how beneficial it will be for everyone involved!