My “Five for Five” Project: Happy Birthday to Me

I recently celebrated my 25th birthday. It’s a milestone for me in many ways. If you had told me on my 24th birthday how much my life would change before my 25th, I either would not have believed you, or I would have broken down in tears, terrified and confused by the foreignness of the description. People that were once a large part of my life are now gone, some irreversibly. New and wonderful people have entered it. Ideas, environments, and goals have changed.

Though my loved ones have always made my birthday a special day for me, in my teens I started disliking the event. Many a teenage journal contains the phrase “I’m another year older and it still doesn’t make any difference.” At the time, I meant that I was another year older and I still had no boyfriend. Poor me.

This year, that phrase meant something different. Somewhere along my journey towards this milestone I was instilled with the idea that my life should affect, in a positive way, other lives. Though I do try to be generous, environmentally conscious, and kind, I know so many amazing “Save the world” over-achievers in Vancouver that I feel selfish and lazy by comparison, and my little kindnesses (even my large ones), look like child’s play. Before I turned 25, I wanted to do Something Nice.

I had many grand ideas about amazing and awesome ways to celebrate my birthday by being a Top Notch Philanthropist. But I’m not a gala planner. I haven’t thrown a birthday party for twelve years (we had pizza and an ice cream cake back in ’99). My grand ideas became smaller and more simple, eventually shrinking to one doable plan.

I became inspired by a video on YouTube called Adeu, Barcelona!. Though I had no plans as ambitious as the artist’s in this video, I liked the idea of giving small gifts to strangers.

I wondered to myself, if I was a stranger going about their day, what would I like to find, no matter who I was? And I decided on money. I love to find money. It makes me feel lucky and I wanted to spread that luck around. Since I was going to be turning 25, I decided to donate $25 to this cause. The Five for Five project was born. The idea was that five people would find $5. Sweet and simple. They would also find a bottle of “Miracle Bubbles” (I needed something heavier to attach the money to). I also think that blowing bubbles is one of the great and simple pleasures of life.

On Mother’s Day, I attached five $5 bills to five bottles of Miracle Bubbles with the following note:

For you:

My 25th birthday is coming up. I would like to share the good luck I have experienced in my life.

Finding money always brightens my day. I hope it brightens yours. Treat yourself or give it away to someone who could use a treat.

Why the bubbles? If finding $5 doesn’t make you happy, blowing bubbles will. Thanks for being part of the city I love.

Lauren

Newspaper stand, Granville and Georgia

The weather wasn’t as great as I would have liked as I headed downtown, bubbles and bills hidden away in my bag, but it was a worthwhile experience all the same. I felt like a secret super hero.  You know how wonderfully sneaky you feel when you see a person and you know you’re going to give them a good surprise? That’s how I felt about everyone I saw. Any one of these people could potentially find one of my little presents.

On the corner of Granville and Georgia I saw an old man sitting on the sidewalk. He had a bushy white beard (like Santa) and a cardboard sign that said “Broke and Hungry”. I set one of the Bubbles with the $5 attached in his hat. I walked farther down the street and watched from afar as he took a pair of reading glasses from his pocket, waved to me, and began to read his note.

In the Fine Arts Section, VPL

No one likes to be watched when they read, and I was feeling too shy to talk to the man, so I continued down the street to set out the rest of my little presents.

For the most part I tried depositing them in places out of the rain. This is why one of them was placed in a newspaper stand and one in the Vancouver Public Library, in the Fine Arts section (also rewarding literacy, hurrah!).

After I left my last present in a flower bed, I walked back to Granville and Georgia, with the intent of introducing myself to the man with the snowy beard. I thought that maybe it had been rude of me to impose this project on a person (instead of letting them find it) and walk away. Unfortunately, he was gone, but I hope that $5 was helpful and that if he doesn’t like bubbles he was able to give them to someone who does.

Flower bed outside 900 Howe St.

I headed home that Sunday feeling happy and a bit foolish. I know my little Five for Five project is just a tiny drop in the ocean of kindness and sacrifice that is required to save this crazy world. Maybe leaving five $5 bills lying around in downtown Vancouver will prove to be the stupidest and most useless thing I’ve ever done. But somehow I feel good about it. With no intended audience, anyone who found my little gift will be someone who found $5. And the huge debt I owe to the universe for the amazing good fortune I’ve always experienced might be just the teensiest bit repaid.

At any rate, it was for my birthday, and if I want to literally leave money lying around, no one is allowed to mind. So there.

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11 thoughts on “My “Five for Five” Project: Happy Birthday to Me

  1. Aww I like this. It may not be “saving the world” exactly, but those five lucky people will have had their day brightened because of you. I felt as happy and sneaky as you described when I left easter eggs outside the doors of everyone who lives on my floor (including myself, so nobody would know it was me). It’s a nice feeling.

    • That’s a sweet idea! Giving an Easter egg to yourself also has the added benefit of you getting an Easter egg. I might steal that idea next year if you don’t mind.

      • Not at all. Oh and I made sure they were all the kind wrapped in foil, and put them in those bigger plastic eggs (because I don’t think anybody wants to eat mystery chocolate straight off the floor).

  2. What a cool and wonderful way to celebrate your 25th! Not foolish at all, or maybe a little foolish but in a very good way, like we should all be more foolish.

  3. Lauren,

    My friend Lauren introduced me to your blog a few months ago when I was feeling down (I read the blog you wrote about how feeling ‘blue’ if O.K. sometimes). You are incredibly talented and have such great words to say. This blog made me smile and think about how small gestures can make all the difference in someone’s day. I think what you do and the way that you write is inspiring to many people!

    • Thank you Shay. I was actually surprised at how much fun I had doing it. I thought I was being altruistic but really I was having a great time. If I ever do something like this again I think I’ll bring friends with me. The more the merrier!

      And thanks for reading. The feedback I’m getting on this so far is really making my day. 🙂

  4. lauren, what a lovely thought. just reading your ‘five for five’ project made me smile. i know finding bubbles would certainly make my day. 🙂

    • I thought for a long time about providing either contact information or the URL for my blog on the note so someone who found it could get in touch but decided ultimately I didn’t want the project to look like just a clever plug for my blog.

      Maybe someday I’ll figure out a good (and tactful) way to keep track of whether or not a little project like this really does cheer people up but I guess this time round I just have to trust that whoever found $5 and some bubbles enjoyed it. I mean, who wouldn’t?

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