Skip to content

It’s My Birthday and You Have to Listen to Me

The internet has made our world smaller, and that is a good thing. Everyone who has spoken to me about microblogging knows that I’m madly in love with the work that my friends at Epic Change do. I’ve fallen for Africa without ever having visited because of the Twitter Kids.

As a community we’ve watched disasters unfold in New Orleans, Japan, and Haiti. We’ve taken action and raised millions of dollars quickly and efficiently. This is a good thing, this is an incredible use of the connectivity the internet provides.

What we haven’t done is support our own communities.

My childrens’ school supports a local food bank. Every Friday every child is expected to bring in one canned or boxed good. Those hundreds of items are dropped off at the food bank so that individuals and families who aren’t as lucky as we are get proper nutrition (yes I attribute a lot to luck in this economy). Periodically the classrooms have competitions where the class who brings in the most canned goods will win free dress or an extra recess. This is when my son gets competitive. He will beg me to go the 99 cent store and buy lots and lots of tuna fish or peanut butter so they can win the prize.

I’ve explained to my children that feeding the poor means that we’d send them the same food that we’d be willing to eat. I’ve winced as my children pull my favorite cans off our shelves to give them away, but then I remind myself that I have the incredible privilege of going to the grocery store without worrying if I can afford soup. Still, I struggle with this. I’m human, and like everyone else I can be selfish.

While I watch millions of dollars being raised in my community for third world countries, I’ve simultaneously seen our local schools fail, our food pantries empty, and an increase in homelessness.

I can’t change the world. You can’t change the world. We can all change someone’s day, and perhaps offer a glimmer of hope for the future.

Today I’m asking each and every one of you, my readers, to walk into your kitchen, and to find three cans or boxes of high quality food and to donate that to a food bank near you. If you feed your children organic peanut butter with no sugar added, my expectation is that you will donate that same high quality food to a food pantry. If you love to have Amy’s Organic Soup please consider donating that same high quality food to a family near you that might not otherwise have dinner.

If you have $2 or $20 to spare I challenge you to walk to your nearest public school and give that money to their parent association, or just to the school, so that they can buy things like paper and pencils. Los Angeles schools have no money for paper.

If you have time I’m asking you right now to find a way to give some to your community. I don’t care if you answer phones at some sort of hotline or pick up trash on the side of the road. Maybe you’ll make dinner for a family who is on a tight budget.

I’m tired of the internet being all about vague charities that are funded by mega corporations who are looking for a little marketing to toss into their tax exemptions. I’m sick of sending a dollar to a stranger so that 40 cents can be used for administrative costs. I love the idea of non profits finding their roots online, but even more I love the idea of each of us unplugging for a few minutes each week to make a difference in the towns we live in.

All I want for my birthday is for you to give a little something back to your community. The community you see right outside your front door.



28 thoughts on “It’s My Birthday and You Have to Listen to Me”

  1. Happy Birthday!!

    I totally agree – I rarely donate to things going on in far off places but I do serve my own community through Rotary International and everything I give goes to the local women’s shelter.

    I can’t sleep in good concience knowing my neighbour might be hungry but we sent money to another country.

  2. I feel exactly the same way, there is so much we can be doing for our communities. I will absolutely be donating to the Food Bank and the School.

    Happy Birthday Jessica, you continue to inspire me and make me want to be a better person. Thank you for that.

  3. Great post and I’m happy to share it! Our Canadian schools don’t have the same initiative but the Food Banks will be gearing up for the Easter Food Drives … I’m on my way to my cupboard to start filling up some grocery bags.

  4. Cheering loudly and baking you a virtual birthday cake! I know we could do more and I feel the same as you about giving the same quality food that I feed my family. We can’t always do that because our budget is so tight that I sacrifice many other things for the healthier foods just for us, but I do realize we also give our time to the local soup kitchen. Thanks for the *push*.

  5. Happy birthday, Jessica. Mine follows yours by two days.

    One thing I’d like to mention about food shelves is that many of the donations aren’t usable by the very poor. I’m talking about things like Hamburger Helper, which require meat; pancake batters that require eggs & oil; cream soups and puddings which require milk, etc. Canned tuna, salmon, and jars of peanut butter are much better choices. Also, many children (yes, even the poor ones) will not drink powdered milk, so nutritional, whole juices are very popular.

  6. I always try to give back to the community in some way whether by monetary donation or helping in recycling or food donation.
    Happy Birthday by the way – Trisha (momdot) reposted a link to this blog as a tweet.

  7. Thank you! And Happy Birthday! I so believe in everything you just said, and I often find myself trying rally the troops in our community to band together. We are stronger in numbers, but every small action contributes to a larger plot. My family and I practice this as often as we can…$1 donations here and there, donations to the school we buy extra school supplies throughout the year, we participate in can food drives and toy drives, donate $$ for meds, coffee for troops etc. It is SO important for our children to witness these actions as it is our jobs as parents to raise little citizens of the world full of compassion, tolerance and humility. It’s funny you bring that up about donating what we would feed ourselves or our children…you are so exactly right on that. It crosses my mind all the time when we are donating food. Thank you for being real with that!

  8. Awesome, bday wish, Jessica. And already granted by me on a regular basis. Might I also suggest contributing $$ to your local Boys and Girls Club :)
    I hope you’ve had a lovely day. We have to set up at least one lunch before the school year is over!

  9. I love your point about giving others the same food you would be willing to eat. Such a reasonable expectation, really. I shudder when I see the prepackaged bags of Kraft macaroni and cheese, canned green beans, and other lower-quality foods at the supermarket that you can purchase and drop in the donation bin on your way out. Whenever I buy food to donate, I always try to pick up things we want to and do eat: better-quality soups, canned fruit, peanut butter, etc.

  10. Happy Birthday and great post! I disagree with your tip of buying the same things that you feed your own family. As someone who frequently volunteers at a local food bank, I have learned that those in need will choose items/brands that they are familiar with. When people are allowed to browse our shelves, they will choose Campbells, Progresso, WalMart brand (Equate) or Aldi’s brand before they will grab a fancy organic soup that they never heard of. Some of the organic and expensive brands are extremely hard to get rid of. I am not saying that there are no people in need that would prefer a healthier brand, but the majority will choose what they are familiar with.

    Another thing to consider is that you can donate less food by giving brands that cost more. If you have $20 to buy food for giving, you can probably give 15 cans of Campbell’s soup, and 8 cans of organic soup. I would rather see 15 people getting fed over 8. You know what flies off of the shelves? Mac and cheese, corn, peanut butter, tunafish, saltines, jelly, soup (veg/Chicken noodle), Rice-a-Roni, and cereal. This might not be the food that you and I would eat, but it is what is popular at most of the food banks that I have been to.

    Thanks for writing this post, it is so great that you chose your birthday wish to be asking others to donate to their local communities.

  11. Great post Jessica – and you’re right, they’re so much to be done right outside our own back doors. So much love for celebrating your birthday this way ;) Hope it was so, so happy!

  12. I totally agree! I went to my son’s school today and they were using nubs of crayons that were less than an inch long. I told his teacher that tomorrow they will have at least 1 pack of brand new crayons. And not the tiny little 8 pack either!

  13. This is a very nice birthday wish, and I am going to the grocery store tomorrow and will be buying Amy’s soup with you in mind. Also, am going through my pantry. Thanks for reminding me that my life is pretty easy…and, Happy Birthday.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *