• Ian McClellan

Week 35: I will pledge my birthday.

Updated: Apr 30, 2021

I love everyone else’s birthday.

On everyone else’s birthday, I am a big fan of enormous number-shaped balloons and long strings of bunting covered in glitter.

On everyone else’s birthday I love confetti cannons, surprise parties – and surprise parties with confetti cannons. I love nothing better on everyone else’s birthday than waking up and having a glass of something you shouldn’t have for breakfast.

On everyone else’s birthday, I will wrap chairs in brightly coloured paper and will scatter tiny, shiny celebration shapes across desks and workstations. I will take longer than you should for lunch, or stay up far later than I thought possible and sing until the last person is in bed and the day is really good and done.

If I ask everyone else what they want for their birthday, I mean it sincerely. I will do my utmost to contribute to a day of everyone else’s dreams, buried in sprinkles and wrapped in an enormous rainbow ribbon. If someone else wants a pop out cake for their birthday and if it was absolutely necessary, I would personally don an age-appropriate outfit and pop out to 1980s soft rock. I mean every endearing word, and love the excuse to say it.

I love everyone else’s birthday. But I always find it hard to get behind my own birthday.

It is not that I don’t like getting older or anything like that. It is my 44th birthday today and I feel healthy, strong, happy, privileged and grateful for my life. Every year that passes, I learn more about myself, love deeper. Every year, I work harder to make sure these feelings continue and work hard to make every day a good day for me and everyone in my life.

Every decade that has passed, has been better than the last.

It is also not a perceptible dislike – I’m just a bit ambivalent about the day. The go-to reason when I explain it, is usually something vulnerable such as not liking the attention, but then I’m not sure that is true because in lots of other ways I love attention. It might be an impulsive nature, or a belief that if we deserve a treat or a special moment, then that treat or special moment should be immediate, not on a pre-appointed day in three months’ time. I want to work hard and feel I deserve treats, but don’t want to wait for them.

However, recently I had an epiphany and understood with the largest amount of clarity the reasons for this ambivalence, courtesy of Seth Godin and via Seth’s Blog. I have only discovered Seth’s Blog recently but in his words, the blog has been appearing for more than a decade. I am inadequately qualified to give an accolade that reflects the brilliance of Seth and his team, the best I can say is receiving his daily thoughts is one of the favourite moments of my day.

A few years ago, Seth pledged his birthday – just gave it away. It is no longer his birthday, it belongs to others. Please read about this here, but if you don’t have time, then the words that Seth used, that hit me hard in a really good way was this:

What if your birthday can change the world?

I love this. What if you woke up on your birthday, and as well as looking forward to spending some time with friends and family, you could drop a pebble in the ocean of world, and create ripples of good? Not just once, but every birthday for the rest of your life?

This means I finally know what I really want for my birthday. I want to start celebrating my birthday differently, starting today.

I believe in making small connections, that make big changes. I believe that everyone can make a difference. We are all connected, and if we all believe we can individually make a difference, and share our ideas - we can create a direct positive impact. So from today, I want to join a seed of change in our world, where I will pledge my birthday to others. It does not just belong to me any more – it belongs to others on our planet who I do not know, have never seen, but am sure are living a life that I’d find hard to accept.

This week, and from today, I will pledge my birthday to charity: water.

charity: water are dedicated to providing clean and safe drinking water to those who need it, and to contributing to the 785 million people in the world who live without clean water – which is one in ten people.

In their own words:

Access to clean water changes everything for the communities that Clean Water supports. The majority live in isolated rural areas and spend hours every day walking to collect water for their family. Not only does walking for water keep children out of school or take up time that parents could be using to earn money, but the water often carries diseases that can make everyone sick. Access to clean water means education, income and health - especially for women and children.

This is not a donation. It is an investment. It is a direct investment in schemes set up to work with local communities to provide the best sustainable solution that provides access to clean water for that community. It aims to make sure this solution is supported to help keep that water flowing for years and change lives forever.

The way that this works is really easy. It means is that on my birthday each year, I will make a donation to charity: water, and ask anyone who would like to, to do the same by following this link. It means that if you would usually buy me a drink on my birthday, then I am asking instead for you to contribute £1, $1, €1 or whatever you would like to instead to charity: water. This will then contribute to a generation of glasses of clean water for someone else.

I am trying to raise £100 this year as a start point, and I have made a pledge of £50 already to get started. This will mean a £100 investment in providing clean water to people who need it, and who didn’t before.

My planetwise project this year means acknowledging that we are all connected, and that we can all make a contribution to the big changes, by making small changes. But this is also compared to yourself, not to me. This means if you would like to do the same and pledge your own birthday, that would be awesome too and you can do that on this charity: water page, but of course this comes with no pressure.

Imagine if we all did this? Imagine if five of my friends did this, and then five of theirs did the same. The result is exponential. If you do, then I’d love to hear about, or please tag me on social media as I’d love to see it happening.

I’m feeling good about this change, it might be one of my favourites so far. But I guess it also might come with some breaking news. It is the first time I have acknowledged to myself that Project Planetwise is not going to be for a year. Finding small changes that make big positive impacts, won't end after week 52. I think it is going to be forever.

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