Today is my mother's sixtieth birthday. In two weeks, it will be my thirtieth birthday. That same day, one of my girls--Yulliana--with turn eight years old.
Tonight, my family went to a nice dinner at a steak and seafood restaurant, and then we all went out for ice cream. Mom received gifts of flowers and bottles of her favorite liqueurs and books on her favorite topics. We drove home in Dad's SUV, and now we're seated around the living room on comfy sofas, watching a show on a flat-screen television.
In two weeks, I will drive my pick-up truck to work. I'll bring in cupcakes for my coworkers, a tradition that I have derived from the childhood practice of bringing in cupcakes for the whole class on one's birthday in elementary school. After work, my friends will take me out to the Ferndale Tavern--our favorite after-hours hangout. I will open beautifully-wrapped gifts and enjoy drinks and pool with my friends. After, I will go home, enjoy a long, hot shower, and climb into bed, snug and warm and safe between my extra-plush pillow-top mattress and down comforter, head nestled in an array of pillows.
In two weeks, Yulliana will crawl off her mat on the concrete floor of her family's one-room residence and climb to her feet. The Philippines are on their school break, so she will be spared the hike to school. Instead, she will do her assigned chore--sweeping the floor--and then spend the day with her mother, helping to look after her three younger sisters while her father works as a driver in the city. They will consume a meager meal, prepared on the family's coal stove.
Without Children International, that would be the extent of Yulliana's eighth birthday. But that's not so this year. She will be invited to the center, where she will get to "shop" for birthday gifts for her special day. New clothes, a backpack, or maybe a pillow and blanket to make her sleeping mat a little more comfortable--just a small something to make her day more special, but for a child who has so little, it's so much more than just a birthday gift.
It's hope, that tomorrow will be better than today.
It's affirmation, that someone out there is on her side. Someone cares. Someone wants to help.
And it's a message, that someone wants her to have a Happy Birthday.