40 Acts of Service

Me and my face, preparing for The (slightly less) Big 39.
I'll be 39 tomorrow.

Birthdays always make me a little contemplative and navel gazey, but this one even more so. Of course I've been thinking about getting older, noticing more little lines on my face that I know will only get deeper, and knowing that I'm well on my way from being a young person to a middle aged person, regardless of how old I actually feel.

My uncle (who is in his 70s) says I'm still young, so there.

Having accumulated a degree, a husband, four children, a house (and a mortgage!) and am impressive array of household goods, I feel like I've managed to check the majority of the boxes you're "supposed to" have done by this point in life, and I have to admit I feel quite good about that.

Mine is a good life, and I am so very grateful for it. It hasn't always been an easy life, as just having celebrated the third birthday of our little boy who is no longer here reminds us, but oh!: it's a good, rich and beautiful life I have been given.

Which brings me to the biggest thing I have been thinking about in regards to my birthday: when I have been given so much, what am I giving back? I believe in service. I believe in taking part in your community and giving back where you can. I believe in "if not me, then who? If not now, then when?" As a Christian, I believe in " Inasmuch as ye have done it into one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me*". I believe that that world is not going to get any better unless we stand up and do something.

So I have decided that my 39th year is going to be my year of standing up and doing something.

I want to celebrate my 40th birthday next July, knowing that I have made a contribution to this world, and that I have made service and philanthropy part of who I am. I want my children to see that part of being a human is stepping up and taking responsibility, maybe especially when it's not glamorous or fun.

I'm throwing it back old school with a good old-fashioned Project Project project (remember when I used to do those?) where I will undertake something and then write about it as I go.

Here is the plan:

  • I will make this coming year, leading up to my 40th birthday a personal year of service. 
  • Over the space of that year, I will perform at least 40 acts of service of varying size and intensity, at a rate of roughly one per week (that leaves 12 opportunities for life to get busy, or for an act of service to stretch over several weeks if necessary). 
  • When a cash donation is the best way to support a cause or organization, I'll give money. However, I am making it a rule for myself that I can't just give money every week. Giving money is easy, and I want to engage more deeply with the various people and organizations I come across this year. I'd like to learn, to get involved and get my hands a little dirty. Also our finances might not be able to handle me giving our money away every week. 
  • Each act of service has to be a new one. If I fall in love with an organization or a way to serve along the way and want to keep working with them, that's wonderful. I'll keep doing that. However, I will not be counting an ongoing relationship as a new act of service. I want to find 40 new ways to serve.  
  • Every time I serve, I will write a blogpost about it. I'll do this so I can have a record of what should be a pretty memorable year, so you can follow along if you're interested, and also so I can highlight a number of organizations and individuals trying to make a difference in the world. Maybe this  could even help some of you will find an organization that you'd like to work with too?
And that's it!

Before I end, I really want to highlight that I'm not doing this so you'll think I'm wonderful. I'm doing this to fulfill a strong desire that I have to contribute. Serving others makes me happy, and has been a lifeline to me at several difficult stages of my life. I'm happy when I'm busy, and happy when I feel useful. So while you could say that this whole thing is almost a little selfishly motivated, say that because I'm doing something that I love, not because I'm trying to attract your attention to how great I think I am. And hopefully, once your attention has been attracted, we can quickly deflect it to all of the great ways that you serve too. 

Thanks for reading! I'm excited for you to help keep me accountable in the year to come. And if you happen to know of any great organizations that I might want to look into, locally or globally, please let me know. 

*Matt 25:40


  1. Happy belated birthday! My birthday was on the 17th :))) I love how you want to spend the year leading to your 40th birthday. <3


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