Tuesday is my birthday.
I have always LOVED my birthday. As a kid in a family with a lot of summer birthdays, I sat at many a pool party or bar-b-que thinking my birthday was impossibly far away. “When the leaves begin to change color and fall off the trees", my mother would say, “then your birthday is coming.” Long into my adulthood, my heart has taken a little leap when I see the first colored leaves blowing on the ground. Growing older has done very little to diminish the little knot in my stomach as I anticipate the day.
And it is never just a “day”. My birthday celebration usually extends each year from November 8th, through Thanksgiving, when I’ve finally seen the last friend or relative, lined my mantle with birthday cards (or my Facebook page with good wishes), eaten lots of cake, and been reminded repeatedly of how incredibly fortunate I am.
As I reflected on this coming birthday (my forty-third for those who are dying to know) I’ve spent some time thinking about the life I am so grateful to have – and what may be the most defining factor that has determined the life I lead – that I was a wanted child. My parents were not perfect, and certainly I’ve had my share of challenges and struggles, but I have known, at every moment, that I was loved, and came into this world to a family dedicated to my happiness and success. In my twenty-year career as an educator, I have seen many, many children whose beginnings were less auspicious, often with predictable results. I was born lucky. I know it.
I recently joined the board of my local Planned Parenthood affiliate, so I’ve been especially present to the ways in which reproductive freedom has impacted the life I have now. Planned Parenthood was my one-stop health care provider during the early years of my career when I didn’t have, and couldn’t afford health insurance. It’s also where I received birth control. You see, my life has been distinctly defined by my deliberate choice not to have children. Please don’t misunderstand. I love children. When people ask me if I have any, I sometimes say, “Yes…hundreds”. Many of you reading this may be Whole Village Theatre kids, STAR kids, Albany High Drama kids or Harriet Gibbons High School kids. Knowing and working with you has been my joy – and the best education I could ever have hoped for. My choice to have a career that included working with all of you would not have been possible if I was raising biological children of my own. I have no regrets. Reproductive choice for me has meant choosing YOU.
Reproductive freedom in the United States has been threatened in unprecedented ways over the past year. Opponents of choice have used rampant misinformation and the distractions of national financial crisis to erode hard won freedoms. Abortion rights (which I wholeheartedly support) are just the beginning. Access to birth control and even basic health care has been shrinking, especially for women and men who have the least financial resources.
So on this occasion of gratitude and reflection, I decided I would undertake an experiment. I have all that I need in this life – if fact far more. I’d like to use my birthday to do something positive by marshaling the collective energy of my friends, my greatest resource. I am asking two things of the people reading this blog:
1) In recognition of my birthday today, I’d like to ask you to consider making a donation of $10 to Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood, my local affiliate. Can’t do $10? $5 is ok too– and larger also if you are in a position to do so.
Under “Organization” scroll to “NY” in the drop-down menu and select “Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood”
Be sure to note my name “Jill Rafferty-Weinisch” in the place where it says “I would like to make this gift in honor of”
All donations made in this way are tax deductible of course, and will go toward UHPP’s Capital Campaign. We recently moved into a brand new, state-of-the-art and (this is important) secure health facility.
BONUS: Currently, we are in the midst of a challenge grant. All donations to the Capital Campaign before 12/21/11 (up to $60K) are being matched. So your $10 becomes $20! Birthday magic!
2) I’d also like to ask you to spread this message. Would you please consider forwarding this link to your friends (even if giving isn’t something you can do right now), posting it on your Facebook page, Tweeting, or printing it out for those who are “less technical”?
The goal is less about the quantity of funds raised (although that’s always important) but about testing the limits of this idea. Can we define a new way to celebrate our annual milestones that speaks to who we are and what we value?
Thank you so much for considering this request. I’m grateful for your time and attention.