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The Spark That Lit a Birthday Tradition

flat palm stretched out with a cupcake with light purple icing and a pink candle in the center of it
July 27, 2021
Erin Branham

You’ll never know the impact something you say or something you do will have on someone. It was a sixty second story on BRIGHT-FM nine years ago created a spark in Jeanette Hartlove.

“This all started right before my 40th birthday when I was listening to BRIGHT-FM. I heard Tracey Tiernan talking about a woman who, for her birthday, did random acts of kindness according to how old she was,” Jeanette writes on Facebook.

This simple idea lit a spark in Jeanette: for her birthday, she would do the same. In 2012, she intentionally performed 40 acts of kindness the week before her birthday and her friend Amy joined in to help get it started.

That was only the beginning. “Nine years later, it is still a rewarding tradition for me,” says Jeanette as she celebrates her 49th birthday on July 27th, performing her 445th random act of birthday kindness. “I have learned a lot. God is awesome, and we are blessed, so let’s spread His love.”

What kind of acts has she done? Jeanette’s given away gift cards to gas station attendants, taken chocolate to a friend, left a small tip for a cashier to get a treat for their break, taken coffee and a donut to a friend who was working, purchased shoes for a stranger’s child, and many more.

Can it be expensive to do this year after year? Yes, but Jeanette says she’s learned to trust that God will make a way if He’s placed an idea on her heart.

“I had been thinking about the best acts of kindness for my birthday, but the budget was tight,” Jeanette says. “For some reason, paying for someone’s gas had been on my mind and heart, but that can be expensive. I should have learned by now: don’t put a limit on God! One of my friends surprisingly and generously sent me money, so I definitely put that act on my kindness list.”

What have been some of the reactions? For one woman, it meant a great deal this year. Jeanette shares that she was in Dunkin Donuts and paid for the woman in front of her who was getting a donut. “The woman thanked me and said I didn’t know how much it meant – she had just lost her husband. I hugged her.”

You truly never know how your actions and your kindness will touch someone. One woman began a birthday tradition that inspired another woman to share her story, which motivated another woman to join in and share the kindness and joy of Christ. Jeanette highlights Philippians 2:3 on her Facebook page, and we can see it’s a verse she tries to live by: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Happy, happy birthday, Jeanette, and thanks for shining the light of Christ so brightly.

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