Worth Partying For

Thursday’s MAD question: Why do we throw parties? We celebrate the wonderful events in our lives by giving gifts. It is a celebration of having. We celebrate birthdays (having life), weddings (having love), graduations (having education), but what about those who have nothing to celebrate? Can you take the challenge to Make A Difference?


What is going to be celebrated this week?

  • Nearly 80,000 births
  • Almost 43,000 weddings
  • More than 5.8 million birthdays

For all of these things, traditionally we give gifts. We also give gifts for graduation, bat mitzvah, bar mitzvah, confirmations, anniversaries, retirements,  religious holidays, debutante balls, funerals, housewarmings, state or made-up holidays, divorces, championships…the list goes on and on. How much do we spend on it all?

  • Average gift card is worth $59
  • 140 million people gave and/or received a gift card last year.
  • Average worth of birthday gifts: $46
  • Average American households spent over $750 on holiday presents alone.

Doesn’t sound like we are gift-giving people, does it? Behold. Let us do the math.

Now, if we assume only 70 million of those people bought gift cards, that is a total of $4,130,000,000. Yes, more than $4 billion spent on gift cards alone.

What did Americans spend on end of year holiday gifts? 115 million households x $750 =


We still have not added in the numbers for important holidays like Valentine’s Day, Grandparent’s Day and the ever important Personal Assistant’s Day. Are you beginning to see where this is going?

Action Plan

1. Choose one celebration where you would normally receive gifts. Plan a party.

2. Choose one worthy cause. You have loads of choices:

  • National hunger or poverty
  • Rights (animals, women, children, elderly)
  • International ___________
  • Health (cancer, autism, AIDS)
  • Safety (volunteer fire department, police fraternity, paramilitary benefits)
  • Someone you know who needs help (job loss, illness, death in the family)
  • Environmental causes: Save the (whales, trees, wombats)
  • Natural disaster relief
  • Local charities (food bank, reading centers, foster homes)
  • Education programs (cash for computers, libraries, college scholarships)

3. Gather donation information. Send email invitations to all of your friends and family (borders mean nothing) asking them to donate to your cause instead of buying or sending you a gift. Even people who normally would not have given you a gift will contribute to a worthy cause in your name. Make sure to include:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Telephone number (including TTY)
  • Website

Do not pass anyone up. Post your request to your social media outlets and your religious or social club newsletter. About three days before your event, remind everyone what you really want them to do for you.

4. Make it up. Even if there is no reason to have a party, invite your friends over and have them bring a dish or drink and money. Spend time raising awareness for your cause.

5. Ask for a substitute. The next time you are invited to a gift-giving event, ask your host if you can donate to a pet charity in lieu of a gift or flowers. Your friend may never have had this idea.

Make A Difference

A disaster relief MRE

If everyone would give up their birthday gifts for this year, more than $10 billion would be donated to charity. If only half of Americans gave up birthday gifts: 155 million x $46 = $7,130,000,000. How much is that in terms of food?

That is more than enough to fund the entire American free and reduced school lunch program for a year. It would serve more than 5.7 billion school lunches. In terms of disaster relief and military meals, it is enough money to produce more than 983 million MRE (meals, ready-to-eat). How much hunger impact could be made worldwide by trading in birthday money and gifts?

How much impact on your favorite cause could you make if you gave up gifts for just one holiday? Add up the costs of the last set of gifts you received. You can make a difference.

Your Turn

For less than you would have spent on a birthday card, a present and wrapping paper, you can make a difference in someone’s life. You can feed the hungry, help research cures, help families rebuild, give an education, support humanitarian rights and so much more. What cause will you choose?

‘Tis better to give than to receive. In this case, giving is receiving. It feels good to have someone donate in your name. You have opened the heart of another for your cause. Truly, it is the gift which never needs to be returned, always fits, never needs dusting and puts a smile on more faces than you could possibly imagine.


Would you tell a friend you would rather donate to their cause than buy them something? Have you ever donated in someone’s name? Do you raise funds for causes on your holidays? What is your pet charity? Will you MAD?

Author’s Note: This is not something I am asking you to do which I do not do. Last year for my birthday, I asked those who knew me to donate to the Autism Research Foundation instead of buying me a gift. Just one of my online communities donated more than $250, and these are people who have never met me face-to-face. I simply asked for a minimum $10 donation. The response was astounding.

Never underestimate the impact you make in other people’s lives, be they in real life acquaintances or virtual friends. As I stated above, even people who would never dream of buying something for you will be willing to donate to a worthy cause.

Do not be afraid to ask. The worst thing you could hear is No. But if you do not ask, all you have is No. You have heard it before:

Don’t ask…Don’t get.

(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2012
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  1. Wow Red. That was powerful. I have a birthday coming up.

  2. I used to collect for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children – it really used to piss my dad off!!! 🙂

    Love and hugs!

    Prenin recently posted..Wednesday – Not descending into blood and gore…My Profile

  3. Wonderful idea, Red! This falls into the category of actually doing something for others. If Red can do MAD, so can we! Generosity, charity and kindness to others is what we should be doing instead of consume-all hedonism. Great post, and thought-provoking. Party on! “:) ~R
    Raymond Alexander Kukkee recently posted..Political Sanctions: Punishment for Voting DemocraticallyMy Profile

  4. What a meaningful way to both celebrate with the ones you love, and turn the money or gift shakedown that so many associate and dread with a party into something that actually can benefit someone in more need. Red, you are a breath of fresh air in this obsessive and self centered consumer oriented world.
    Phil recently posted..DetentionMy Profile

    • Red

       /  March 22, 2012

      *curtsies sweetly* Not really. I consider it retail revenge. I retired from the world of buy more, and left it with the life goal of decreasing ritualistic profit.

  5. Just echoing what everyone has already said…
    a wonderful, wonderful idea, Red…
    spilledinkguy recently posted..MagnoliaMy Profile

  6. Great post. Though I prefer to suggest charities instead of asking flat out for a donation.
    El Guapo recently posted..IT. IS. SPRING!!! And time for the Spring/Summer Stupidity!My Profile

  7. Since the average person in much of the developed world has so much stuff they don’t need, giving up a gift or too would not be much of a sacrifice. Redirecting those funds to a good cause could do a great deal of good.
    Binky recently posted..Power Lemonade StandMy Profile

    • Red

       /  March 22, 2012

      It is a really good concept. I was utterly amazed at the outpouring on my birthday. I never dreamed I would raise that much money. And just think of how many wombats we could save!

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