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Christie Bolsen | Monday, September 27, 2004

A few weeks ago, I was perusing the various 21st birthday cards in the store and thinking about how incredibly depressing it is to turn 22 as compared to turning the magical age of 21, when I noticed a sign informing shoppers that Sweetest Day is on Oct. 16 this year.

Since this is my birthday, you can imagine how annoyed I was, assuming that Sweetest Day is a wannabe Valentine’s Day and a Hallmark ploy to increase sluggish October greeting card sales.

Now, however, the day took on special significance. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I went home and Googled Sweetest Day (there’s a reason people call me Queen Nerd, and it’s not just because I carry a travel-size stapler in my backpack for emergency in-class paper stapling). As it often happens, uneducated pre-judgment on my part of something I knew nothing about led me to misinformed conclusions.

First, I learned that Sweetest Day is not a recent greeting card company fabrication; a Cleveland man thought of it over 60 years ago. The day is actually not like Valentine’s Day at all. The original purpose was to spread cheer by giving small gifts to the underprivileged and forgotten, like orphans and shut-ins.

The idea of remembering others with kind acts, a sort of national Random Acts of Kindness holiday, is not limited to honoring the sick or orphaned today. Now, it extends to friends, family and everybody else you appreciate having in your life.

All of a sudden, turning 22 and one year closer to impending senior citizenship didn’t seem so awful. A day dedicated to making other people happy seemed almost as fun as a day dedicated to using your real license for the first time to get into Boat Club. How many people in our lives are underappreciated and unrewarded 364 days of the year?

A lot. The dining hall card swipers who smile at you and tell you to have a nice day, the housekeepers who clean up after the slovenly college kids in your dorm and even your best friend who lets you wear her new clothes before she gets a chance to wear them, and then doesn’t get mad when you spill beer on yourself at the bar because you’re a clumsy drunk. Did you remember to thank them all today?

There I was, complaining about my birthday falling on the first Saturday of fall break and nobody being here to celebrate with me, when I should have been grateful that I have friends who like me in the first place (usually). I recommend celebrating Oct. 16 this year by sharing your gratitude with everyone you appreciate having in your life – knowing about rampant acts of kindness will make it an even better birthday for me than 21 was. Almost.