The Best Birthday Yet

How my 30th birthday went from the most dreaded to the best yet!


My 5th birthday. We were at a hotel since as we were following the Coors Classic Bike Race.

This is a bit overdue. Many of you were so awesome to participate in my Random Acts Of Kindness (RAOK) birthday project back in August (2012) and have been inquiring ever since to know how it went. My next birthday isn’t too far away now and while I don’t have specific plans for what I’ll do just yet, I definitely want to incorporate being intentional about serving and blessing others as a form of celebration. I also made it a goal of mine to make sure I post this report about my last birthday before this next one sneaks up on me!

A Condensed Summary:

With the help of my sister and a friend from work, I managed to do about 15 RAOK’s on my actual birthday and another 15 throughout the course of the following week. Even 3 or 4 months after my birthday I was periodically hearing back from folks who had forgotten up until then to tell me about the ROAK they had done for my birthday. It felt like a never-ending trail of gifts as I’d happen upon an e-mail or ran into someone I hadn’t seen in a while only to find out they too had done an ROAK for someone else in honor of my birthday. These were gifts indeed! A huge THANK YOU to everyone who participated!

How it all came about:

In the months leading up to the big 3-0, I was in no mood to celebrate. Then through a story I heard on K-LOVE radio and through a blog and website I came across online, something changed (Website:

Reading the blog gave me a very refreshing change in perspective. When I stopped thinking about myself and what I wanted to do for ME on MY birthday, and started thinking about what I could do for others, I got excited. I actually started looking forward to my birthday rather than wishing the day would never arrive.sc0000c167

I read the blog post several weeks before my birthday. I knew right away I wanted to do something similar. Many of the RAOK’s Robyn and her family did involved spending money. I had to get a bit more creative since I didn’t have much in the way of cash so I am glad I had a little time to plan ahead. Since I love to bake I decided to have a number of my ROAK’s involve giving away baked goods. I recruited some help from family and friends (special thanks to my dad, my older sister, Vanessa and co-worker, Haley for their help!) and together we were able to accomplish the following on my birthday:

  1. Took a plate of cookies to the Cotati Police Dept.
  2. Took cookies to two of the Rohnert Park Fire Stations
  3. Took cookies to work to share with co-workers
  4. Took cookies to two of my dad’s neighbors
  5. Took cookies to the ladies who work in my church’s office
  6. Delivered a pan of coffee cake to my church for the pastor’s meeting the next morning
  7. Left a plate of cookies at church for the missions committee meeting that night
  8. Gave homemade baked goods to my landlord
  9. Gave mini loaves of coffee cake to two of my customers
  10. Bought two bouquets of flowers and gave one to a friend and the other to my manager, who was having a hard week
  11. Bought a water bowl for my customer’s dogs to use
  12. Wrote a postcard to my niece who loves getting mail
  13. Did some unsolicited cleaning at my dad’s while he was napping
  14. Made a donation to a friend’s yard sale
  15. Gave several pounds of coffee to a friend to use at her church
  16. Gave my step-dad and brother each a pound of coffee

Copying Robyn’s idea, I too sent out an e-mail to many of my friends and family asking them to do an RAOK on my birthday as a way of helping me to celebrate. Here are some examples of the creative RAOK’s they came up with:

  1. Gave $10 to a cashier at Starbucks to pay for the next customers drinks
  2. Hosted several kids from a Rwandan children’s choir for several days
  3. Made a meal for the family of an acquaintance who was in the hospital
  4. Gave money to a homeless person
  5. Sent hand-written cards to friends and family
  6. Made large amount of salsa to share with neighbors
  7. Gave a ride home to a lame man on a very hot afternoon

My mom is amazing! She is very generous and always eager to help and serve. She took this idea and ran with it! Instead of doing one RAOK on my birthday, she decided to do 30, one-a-day for the following month!

I think she’s on to something. The real point in it all is to not just do RAOK’s on special occasions like birthdays or days we set aside to serve others, but to constantly be on the lookout for RAOK’s we can do everyday, in the common, mundane places we regularly frequent and to the people we pass on the street day after day. As a very detail-oriented person, I am a firm believer small things can make a big difference. It’s all too easy to brush a small act of kindness off because we are in a hurry, or have had bad experiences with people who didn’t appreciate our effort to be kind or helpful or we think it won’t make a difference. I bet if we stopped to think about it, we all can think of times when ourselves or others did a small, seemingly insignificant act of kindness that turned out to have a much bigger impact on the recipient than anticipated. Please feel free to share your own examples of such instances in the comments below or any other creative RAOK ideas or stories you may have!

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2 thoughts on “The Best Birthday Yet

  1. Happy birthday, Hillary! I hope & pray you are well. You sound great! Were you ever able to connect with Gordon and/or Su-a? I’m praying for you and Gordon and Su-a. Lord bless, Br Phil


    • Thanks Phil! My birthday actually isn’t until the 14th of this month. It is a good thing I’m not superstitious about being wished an early birthday (many Sicilians consider it bad luck)! Thanks for the prayers!


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