Birthday Challenge: 35 Acts of Kindness. One Day.

Last week, I turned 35 years young. And like all birthdays, I used the time as an excuse to reflect on the year before and make plans for the year ahead. But this year was unlike any other birthday.

I did 35 acts of kindness. In one day. With 90 minutes to spare! Throughout the day, I took photos and kept a running list of good deeds. My husband, kids, and a few friends helped along the way, and it was the BEST. Birthday. EVER.

Each act of kindness had a corresponding element of my life for which I am grateful, and I’ve outlined them below. Some of these cost money, but many were absolutely free and very easy to do. Here they are, in the order I did them:

Grateful For: A Husband with a Great Sense of Humor.

1.Took the Liberty of Updating Hubby’s Facebook Status for Him — I noticed that Mark hadn’t updated his FB status in a very long time. So I did it for him. So thoughtful of me, no??

Grateful for: Safe Transportation.

2. $10 Starbucks Gift Card for the Bus Driver — Emily thought of throwing in an air freshener from Southwest Airlines that featured “New Plane Smell”. Then laughed hysterically at the idea of her school bus smelling like an airplane. [Update — He informed us later that he enjoyed some tasty coffee!]

Grateful for: Awesome Teachers

3. Special Treat for Emily’s Teacher — Emily had mentioned that her teacher was fighting a sore throat. So together we put together a little “feel better soon” treat with tea bags, sugar packets, a napkin, stirrer, and some cough drops. [Update — Note from teacher said it, “certainly brightened” her day!]

Grateful for: Amazing Kids.

4. Packed a Special Treat in Emily’s Lunch — A special note and a few mini marshmallows made Emily smile!

5. Took Clara Out for Breakfast — Thought my little girl could use some one-on-one time at the diner. While we were there, we did several more acts of kindness. We were in the car to leave, and she complained that she was tired, wanted to go home, and had “enough with the kindness”. I explained I was just getting started, this was item number 5, and I had 30 more to go. Thankfully, she came around pretty quickly.

Grateful for: The Wisdom of Elders.

6. Held the Door Open for an Elderly Woman.

Grateful for: Hot Coffee.

7. Paid for Someone Else’s Coffee — At the diner, anonymously. The look of surprise was pretty funny!!

Grateful for: Service with a Smile!

8. Left an Extra Big Tip — Little known fact about me is that I worked as a waitress for a few years prior to leaving for college to help pay for some of my books and other living expenses. Waitressing is hard work, and a great restaurant server can make a meal so much more enjoyable.

Grateful for: My Husband’s Job

9. Muffins for Everyone at Hubby’s Office — Since I can’t bake, I ordered a box of muffins while I was at the diner. These things were HUGE!

10. Complimented Everyone — While I made deliveries to everyone at Mark’s office, I gave sincere compliments to every person there.

Grateful for: Good Health

11. Delivered Copies of Highlights High Five for the kids in the Hospital’s Waiting Rooms.

12. Organized Donations of Items for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation of the Lehigh Valley — More on this event to come later. A very special thank you to our awesome sponsors: Stonyfield, Honest Tea, Melissa & Doug, and Highlights. Their generous donations of organic yogurt, drinks, coloring books, crayons, toys, and magazines completely blew me away.

Grateful for: Our Beautiful Planet

13. Picked up Litter on the Sidewalk.

Grateful for: Business Opportunities Available to Me

14. Made a Kiva Loan — is an organization that provides micro-loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries. Lenders can choose what amount to donate, and once the loan is paid off, you can either withdraw your funds or re-loan to another entrepreneur. [Update — this loan has now been completely funded!]

Mark and I have loaned and re-loaned the same $25 over and over again to various Kiva accounts! Of course, every loan carries some risk that it may not be repaid. If you’re interested in learning more about Kiva, click here.

15. Helped a Friend with a Computer Issue.

Grateful for: Our Reliable Mail Service.

16. $10 Starbucks Gift Card for the Mail Carrier — left in the mailbox for a special surprise!

Grateful for: Unexpected Compliments

17. Complimented a Woman on Her Lovely Shoes.

Grateful for: Witnessing Creativity in My Kids

18. Paper Marbling for a Girl’s Birthday Party — I couldn’t have planned for this, but it worked out perfectly. I got a text message from a friend who was hosting a birthday party for her daughter in just two short hours. Managed to put together some supplies for paper marbling as an ice-breaker activity for ten 5th graders. [Update — Text from my friend 2 hours later said it was a “huge success!”.]

Grateful for: Amazing Parents

19. Complimented a Mom and Dad — On their very well-behaved children at the café. The kiddos were amazingly patient while they waited for their sandwiches and really made me smile.

20. Called My Parents — On Facetime. And shared a laugh with my mom.

Grateful for: Healthy, Organic Food

21. Surprised a Shopper with Stonyfield Vouchers — Shhhhh! I hid them at the store!

Grateful for: Back-to-School Supplies

22. and 23. Paid down two separate layaway contracts at Kmart down to $0.01 — While this was the most costly item on the list, it was totally awesome. Kmart allows anonymous donors called “Layaway Angels” to donate funds towards someone else’s layaway contract. Recipients’ names are never disclosed, and donors can opt to have their funds donated toward accounts with children’s clothing or toys. Recipients must make their final payments to pick up their merchandize, but Kmart allows donors to take down someone else’s layaway to just $0.01.

Once a donation has been made, Kmart gives the donor the option of leaving a little note for the recipient. Here’s mine!

The hardest part of this was in choosing which accounts to pay off! I went with two which had lots of back-to-school items, new shoes, toys, and children’s clothing.

And then I cried.

Because the act of buying new shoes for my kids, is something I had been taking for granted. And we have so so so much to be thankful for. If you’d like to learn more about how you can help pay down someone else’s layaway account, USA Today wrote a great feature article here. It will bring tears to your eyes!

Grateful for: Amazing Friends

24. Ran a Simple Errand for a Friend — This was easy, but one of those things she had been putting off for awhile. And I was happy to help!

25. Gave Hugs to Friends.

26. Gave a $10 iTunes Gift Card to a Friend — A spontaneous delivery to family friends who love music and apps!

Grateful for: Caring Neighbors

27. Muffins and Hugs to the Neighbors — The elderly couple who lives across the street from us have been like a third set of grandparents to our kids and I appreciate them!

Grateful for: Dinners with My Family

28. Paid for Someone Else’s Dinner — Did this anonymously when I went to pick up our order for Chinese takeout and paid for the dinner that was sitting there waiting to be picked up.

Came home from the Chinese place, ate dinner, then opened my fortune cookie to see this:

And I couldn’t agree more!

29. Donated to the Lion’s Club — in the change jar at the checkout counter. Easy peasy.

30. Let Someone Go Ahead of Me — love doing that because it’s such an easy way to make someone’s day just a bit better.

Grateful for: Men and Women Who Fight Bravely for Our Country

31. Adopted a Soldier — Registered on and was paired up with a soldier to send letters and packages.

Grateful for: Smiles!

32. Uploaded a Silly Pic to a Friend’s FB Page — for a smile! [Update — it worked! And got a laugh too!]

Grateful for: Community Safety

33. Cookies to the Police Station — The look of confusion on the officer’s face made me giggle, but I made it a point to say “thank you”. Also, my good friend Kimberly supplied both the idea to do this (when the idea of visiting the fire station fell through because no one was there. oops!), and the cookies to donate (which she baked herself). She is totally awesome and accompanied me for the last few items on the list.

Grateful for: Unexpected Awesomeness

34. Paid for Person Behind Me at the Grocery Store — Had already made up my mind to do it, but the store was practically empty. Was just about to finish checking out, when a disabled man got in line behind me. This was the first time I stopped to explain that for my birthday I was doing 35 acts of kindness. Have I mentioned how much we have to be thankful for???

35. $10 Gift Cards to random diners at a family restaurant — This last one was a LOT of fun!! Surprised three groups of diners at Red Robin w/ gift certificates and every one of them smiled!

And making lots of people smile…??

….well, that’s all I really wanted on my birthday.


  1. Dear Valerie,

    You should have done this when you were 12! 😉

    Also, 35? Could have fooled me! Happy Birthday!


  2. C

  3. I loved, loved, loved this! So thoughtful of you…and fun!! I can just imagine the joy you brought to those you shared your kindnesses with. Happy belated birthday! Hope you have a wonderful year. 🙂

  4. My next birthday is 35, if you don’t mind I may copy this gift you gave yourself. Thank you for this.

  5. You are a beautiful, inspiring woman!

  6. Fantastic!! Happy Birthday, you are beautiful inside and out — here’s to many more wonderful years because every year really is a gift! May just have to do this for my own birthday this year : )

  7. Wow! This is awesome!
    One dumb question… How do you pay for someone behind you? You wait till he’s done, too? So, the customer knew then? It’s not anonymous?

    • Good question! At the Chinese place, the food was sitting there waiting to get picked up, and no one else was there. So I did it anonymously. The grocery store… yes, waited until he was done at the checkout, then stepped up and offered to pay. Not so anonymous! lol

  8. Val, I just love this & am so inspired. The comment about the shoes and the K-mart program made my eyes a bit teary. Thank you for sharing this awesome experience with us.

  9. I am so inspired! My next birthday is in November, and I will be 38. I think I can pull off 38 random acts of kindness in 1 day! Thank you for providing such an amazing idea. Can’t wait to do this!

  10. This is so awesome! Maybe if I plan really well I could pull this off for my 46. Yikes, I would have to make sure I didn’t get side tracked. My husband and I do something like this at Christmas time, where we pick someone really deserving to get a nice gift. We wrap it up, sneak over at night, ring the door bell and run. It is so much fun when you hear people talking about it trying to figure out who did it. We have done a microwave, a tv and random other things.

  11. Thank you so much for sharing this. What an amazing, inspiring post. 🙂

  12. Happy belated birthday, friend! What a great way to spend your special day! (PS I would have cried too at the layaway) You are so SPECIAL!! Thank you for brightening up our days with your blog and this great post 🙂

  13. I teared up by about number 16 Valerie! What a special human being you are. I love love the idea of giving to children sitting in the hospital waiting room (all the ideas are wonderful!). This is another of your ideas I will have to copy, except I will have to come up with 7 more ideas than you by my next birthday (eek) 🙂

  14. This was a very good idea! I love it…and u even made me tear up a few times with all ur random acts of kindness. This is amazing!

  15. What a sweet (and inspiring) idea! I just celebrated 39 back in June, so next year is 40 and that’s a big one!!! I think I will start thinking now about how I can do 40 kind things in one day. It sounds like you and your family had fun helping others. Oh, and Happy Belated Birthday!!!

  16. I read someone else’s post on this and it is inspiring me to do the same. Thanks for sharing your day of giving to others!

  17. I will be 40 in a couple of months and have been thinking of how I want to celebrate. Thank you for giving me the answer!

  18. What a great idea! I think I will make a plan and do it in November on my 70th Birthday! I’m going to have to get up early with my running shoes on!

  19. Wow! You’re amazing! And happy birthday too!

    I read somewhere that an older woman takes all of her friends and family to dinner on her birthday because she spending time with them is the best gift, and also being grateful for having people who love her. I’ve always admired that, and now have someone else to admire too.

  20. Heather Berner says

    I lOVE this!! As a family, we have committed to delievering one hot meal, once a month to one of our neighbors. Its been awesome. My kids are learning that Kindness is a seed that takes a little encouragement and will eventually grow and spread its beautiful petals. You are really an inspiration!!

  21. Happy birthday, and you are amazing!

  22. each of these items is awesome. but it would be nice to learn how each of these acts contributed to your knowledge of the Creator, who creates all of the relationships and who makes us love helping other people. Would you like to share?

  23. I saw a post of someone doing this on my birthday at 5:00 that night, and wasn’t able to do it that year.
    You’re totally AWESOME and happy birthday!

  24. This is wonderful! I would love to do this for my upcoming 35th. Thank you for the inspiration. Happy Birthday!

  25. I’ll be 35 on Dec. 22 and since “good will towards men” suprises are more common around Christmas, I’m trying to think of another way of doing it. Maybe 35 days BEFORE my birthday or something…

  26. Wow, I loved reading this & by the end was crying. Amazing thing to do on your birthday when most people are putting themselves first, you put others happiness before yourself. I have Masses of respect for you. Xx

  27. this made me cry! what a wonderful way to show your gratitude! happy belated!

  28. My 35th birthday is next month. I was already planning on doing this… love how wonderfully it worked for you. Happy Birthday!

  29. This was great of you to do. And you mentioned a cpl things I want to look into also, so

  30. Thank you so much for this great post! It has inspired me to have my own birthday blog hop. I linked up to your inspiring story. I hope you don’t mind.

    Check it out!!

  31. Sounds like an awesome birthday! Happy birthday!

  32. Can I be just like you when i grow up? You are so super awesome! I loved this! you are such an inspiration! More Valerie D’s in the world please! 🙂

  33. Can I be your neighbor/letter carrier/bus driver/friend? What an AWESOME way to spend your b-day. I’ll be 35 on my next one…you’ve given me something to think about.

  34. I love this. You are amazing. I am going to be 40 in March and I think that will be the perfect time for a birthday challenge like this. However, you spent a lot of money – I’m not so sure I will be able to do that. I’ll have to be frugal!

  35. You have inspired me. This is wonderful. Don’t even know how I got directed to your blog but so glad I did. So for my upcoming birthday, I’d better start now as let’s just say I have a few more to come up with.

  36. What a great idea! You’ve inspired me… already thinking of how I can expand on this sentiment on my own upcoming birthday. (Aiming to top you only bc I’m older, of course.) Great idea for helping kids redirect all the attention (and overwhelming # of gifts) that are splashed onto them on their own birthdays, as well. If I do my own acts of kindness, I’ll be sure to reference back to this! Thanks for the idea.

  37. This was a beautiful post. I’m sniffling. Thanks for sharing. It’s so important to be thankful and pay it forward! Inspiring!

  38. That truly is a great idea!! I am turning 45 next year..yikes!

  39. Happy belated birthday. What a touching and inspiring way to celebrate! For my 40th, I made 40 baby blankets for our hospital’s NICU. I invited family and friends to help, but I made about 30 myself. The unexpected benefit was the great improvement in my very, very rudimentary sewing skills! 😉

  40. M.Williamson says

    Tears!!! This was so moving and amazing. What a fantastic way to spend your birthday. I will bet some of your lucky few even paid it forward!

    Thanks for the warmth!

  41. We celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary today and part of our date night was to do 10 random acts of kindness. Best anniversary ever, hands down. We had so much fun! Thanks for the idea!

  42. This is incredible and inspiring! I’m inspired to do something myself–maybe every year! As a teacher, I think this can also teach my students a lot about being grateful for the often-neglected things in their lives, and I am going to share it with them too. Thanks so much!

  43. Alexandra says

    I love what you did. Congratulations! Since you´re so creative I´d love if you could give some ideas for my boyfriend´s birthday gift. Thanks!


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