For the last three years, I’ve had the privilege of sharing about countless birthday celebrations across the Back2Back sites. Some of them have been elaborate – quinceñeras with beautiful ball gowns and disco-lighted dance floors, while others have been quiet, though still remarkable, a specialty Barbie Doll birthday cake in a familiar room with loved ones. Every birthday story comes with a unique challenge and experience – to make the story of the celebration as unique as the child who is celebrating.
Birthdays are a rite of passage. As far as I knew, growing up, everyone was celebrated, even before they were old enough to know what to ask for. Archived family photo albums showcase younger versions of ourselves with smashed cake covering our chubby faces. It wasn’t until I opened up myself to stories from around the world, that I learned, for orphaned and vulnerable children, some birthdays aren’t celebrated at all, before Back2Back meets them. What I’ve learned, as we’ve celebrated kids around the world, is that birthdays are less about icing on a cake and more about making someone’s uniqueness fully celebrated . . .
For a 15-year old girl in Mexico, a birthday celebration was a mark of her learning to ask for what she really wanted – a beautiful dress and a photo shoot with her best friend.
For the young man in India, birthdays are the chance to eat a meal at a local restaurant, and bargain with shop owners for a new shirt and shoes for himself and a friend.
For the teens in Haiti, birthdays mean freedom to hope aloud for something new they’ve always wanted, and believing someone wants to know.
For a 13-year old girl in Nigeria, a birthday is looking around at faces who were helping her celebrate a birthday for the very first time.
Birthdays are not about cake and ice cream, and beautifully wrapped gifts. Birthdays, the world over, are about having a permission to wish, and the presence of people who see you. They are recognizing another trip around the sun together is a reason to celebrate.
Back2Back wants to remind children, and cement in their hearts, wishing is something we’re privileged to do, because Jesus calls us His. We celebrate birthdays to remind children in Mexico, India, Haiti, Nigeria, Cincinnati, and the Dominican Republic – no matter what’s been told to them, a birthday is a celebration of all that we love about them.