11th Birthday Party
Nathan's Birthday, 2002
My son has 6 local cousins, 5 local sets of aunts & uncles, 2 complete sets of doting grandparents, and other cousins and aunts and uncles at a distance. That is quite the resource for a tremendous supply of birthday presents for any eleven year old in America.
Don't forget all those 5th grade classmates who love coming to a party, and are trained by our culture to bring presents, almost as if they were an entry fee.
My son could have expected close to 30 or 40 presents at his birthday party, and he would not have been disappointed.
This year we had an offer for him that we hoped he wouldn't refuse. We offered to do his 11th birthday a little differently.
He could invite his classmates & neighborhood friends, and instead of letting them bring him toys (the culturally approved standard), we asked them to bring money for a donation to a charity of his choice.
He thought it over and agreed, which for an eleven year old in today's culture reflects hope. He thought about the 5 or 6 charities we mentioned (Angel Tree, Trans World Radio, Children Are Hope, Make-A-Wish, Christian Children's Fund) and he chose Christian Children's Fund. (It is not known as Child Fund International).
To help the parents with their post-party involvement, we printed out copies of the CCF website home page and gave one to each child to take home.
We held the party at Jeepers in a mall, and the children had a great time. Jeepers is one of those places where the children can run around an indoor park or play electronic games. As the employee's there saw what was happening, and the missing pile of beautifully wrapped gifts, they asked what was going on, so we explained.
We had only envisioned teaching our children something, and never expected what happened next: several of the young teenaged employees were so touched by my son's willingness to give, that they put some of their hard-earned money into the shoe box.
We raised enough money to help the charity sponsor a third-world child for almost a full year, and helped our own children realize priorities. We also had an impact on their friends, their friends' families, the children and teachers at their school that heard about it the next day. We also impacted the employees at Jeepers and many who have others who have heard the story or read this article.
My wife, and my children and I are not great people, in fact we are sinners of the worst sort. Yet, we value our relationship with God and try to respond when He talks to us. It was our actions at His prompting the touched all those lives. I am thankful He gave us the idea, the courage to carry it out, the love of the people that surrounded us, and we choose to give Him all the credit!