BY JENNIFER RAWLINGS
Some of my very dear friends don’t like to acknowledge their birthdays. Well I am not one of those people. I love celebrating my birthday and I like everyone to know. Today is my birthday.
The problem with “celebrating your birthday” is that sometimes they turn out to be real stinkers. There was the year my birthday gift from my friend Wendy got stolen – it was perfumed soap – apparently the thief was stinky both inside and out. One year my ex-husband forgot my birthday all together: no card, no dinner, no gift, no song sung off-key. I never let him live that down. A few years ago I spent my birthday on a broken C-130 plane in Iraq and it was blistering hot on the plane and I had to pee in a bucket behind a makeshift curtain. My sixteenth birthday my mom gave me tights; my best friend got a car. On my eighteenth birthday I went to a bar and got sick on 3.2 beer. My twenty-first birthday I was broke and living in New York and I waited ‘till the next day to break up with boyfriend at the time so that I would have a date, a gift and a free dinner.
So this year when my husband started asking me what I wanted to do for my birthday, I felt a certain amount of pressure. I didn’t want to have a bad day. Yesterday, my dear sweet second husband suggested that we take the day and drive to the Santa Ynez wine country. It sounded appealing – beautiful scenery, wine tasting, good food. Sounds like a great way to spend the day. I told hubby I wasn’t sure and I would let him know (crazy huh?).
As we ate dinner last night I realized what I wanted to do with my day.
I wanted to do volunteer work and focus on others.
So today, I am breaking my day into three parts. I am volunteering at Covenant House: a sanctuary for young adults ages 17-23 that are homeless. There are approximately one million homeless teens across the country and nearly 5000 of them die every year on the streets. One-third of teens that are homeless are forced to exchange sex for food.
Either before or after Covenant house I will be going to Skid Row in Los Angles. I am not sure what I am going to do there, but I feel compelled to go. Think about your own circumstances and how truly easy it is to wind up destitute or homeless. There is a reason people say “ it takes a village” and it truly does. If we don’t hold hands tightly with one another the fabric of our communities will fray, creating big holes that people fall through.
After that I am going to dinner at my favorite restaurant and reflect about what I want to do with this gift- another year of life.