I love numbers! Why, you may ask? Simply put, I love numbers because they are used in two of my favorite subjects, math and science. Additionally, they also have an important purpose in my everyday life. For example, numbers are involved in the start of my day, age, grades, and favorite holidays. Numbers can also serve as inspiration. The numbers 40 x1 and 40 x 100, at first blush, looks like nothing more than simple multiplication problems, but the solutions to the problems, 40 and 4,000, became my inspiration on August 24, 2019.
Every year, since I have been old enough to remember, my parents have given me a birthday party. Family and friends have always been so generous with giving me customized gifts, gift cards, and even cash. Initially, I would be bursting with excitement opening a few gifts and putting the others to the side to open on another day. After a few days, the excitement would die down, and I would forget about the presents. Many weeks would pass before I would finally open all of the presents. My parents suggested that future birthday parties not include present, but because this is a special day most simply did not comply with the requests. I continued to accept presents, but my parents challenged me to find a purpose for the presents.
I had a light bulb moment! On August 20, 2016, my tenth birthday, I set out to change the world, at least the world in my local community. I had no money of my own or a non-profit foundation/organization backing me, but I had an idea, a willing heart, and anticipated, as usual, lots of birthday presents. I thought that collecting school supplies and giving them to a local public middle school where children my own age were in need would be wonderful. My parents have always taught me that it’s better to give than to receive. My mom has often said, “Gabby, you can change the world; all you need is the faith of a mustard seed, and a willing heart.”
The mustard seed was planted. My mother and I set out on a journey to find a middle school. We found Lindley Sixth Grade Academy, located exactly two stop signs away from my home, but not zoned for my neighborhood. My mother contacted the Principal, Dr. Magee, and shared my idea with her. According to my mother, she seemed surprised, but honored that a ten year-old wanted to make such an unselfish gesture to give to the school instead of receiving birthday presents for herself. I decided to ask my friends and family to forgo giving me birthday presents and instead provide school supplies, cash, or gift card donations to Lindley Sixth Grade Academy.
My mustard seed started growing and the giving became purposeful. My friends’ parents liked the idea so much that they too joined in! Believe it or not, I still received presents in addition to the donations! By August 20, 2018, that small seed had now blossomed into a three year relationship with Lindley. Thanks to my friends, I personally collected and donated more than $1,000 in school supplies to Lindley sixth graders. I was especially excited because with the help of good friends and their parents the donations were much bigger than in previous years. For example, I was able to give scientific calculators and flash drives along with binders, books, note pads, paper, pencils, pens, markers, etc.
My mustard seed is still growing! After my success in 2018, I immediately started to plan for an even bigger event. Twelve months later, on August 24, 2019, I hosted a 13th Birthday "Party with a Purpose." I anticipated more than 80 guests. At 6:00 pm, I started to get dressed. I arrived at the clubhouse at approximately 6:50 pm. My heart was beating fast, and my palms were sweaty because I was hoping that all of the guests that responded “yes” would actually appear. At 7:00 pm, the official start of the party, my first guests started to arrive, and the crowd quickly swelled to maximum capacity of the facility. I could now relax and enjoy my guests because I knew that my “Party with a Purpose” would be a success without opening any birthday presents. There was food, dancing, photos, and a brief speech from Principal Magee, of Lindley Sixth Grade Academy, about the difference we were making in the lives of her scholars. Of course, with any birthday party, we sang happy birthday.
At the end of the night, when all the guests had finally departed, I sat down in the middle of my family room and, for the first time ever, opened all of my birthday presents. It was at this very moment, at approximately 11:00 pm, that the numbers 40 and 4,000 became an inspiration and changed my life. I was literally jumping with joy when I realized that, with the help of family, friends, and the local community, I had raised more than $4,000 in cash and supplies and signed up 40 volunteers in the areas of math and reading for Lindley scholars!
This experience has changed my life in such a positive way. I learned that one simple random act of kindness can do so much for the world. A person doesn’t really need her own money just a desire and willing heart. I feel it has helped me become a better person because I realized how much I enjoy giving back to my community and helping others succeed. I’ve already started planting new seeds of inspiration to see how I can multiply my mustard seed from one school to multiple schools. Even if math and science are not your favorite subjects, this experience shows you that anyone can find inspiration in multiplication!