Giving Up 26

I’m about to turn 26 in a couple of weeks, 14 days to be exact. I don’t remember how I got here. It feels like a blink of an eye and suddenly my pits are hairy and my jeans are tight. (Wait, they’ve always been tight. At least it’s fashionable now.)

For some odd reason, I still remember my 10th birthday. I recall having six friends over at our house in Alhambra to play Mortal Kombat II. We had no lives outside of sports and video games. I relished that Super Nintendo like it was my first girlfriend. Which was nice, until I played one too many games and she decided to break on me.

Throughout the past 25 years I’ve celebrated my birthdays with elaborate dinners and parties. I’ve received a fair share of presents and red envelopes. Every passing year meant much more ado about Martin. One too many celebrations and you start thinking you’re God’s gift to the world.

I was on the brink of making this another huge affair. Blow up my spot. Milk my 15 minutes for all its worth. Until…it occurred to me.

My birthday is not really about me.


It started with a post on my Facebook. Last year, I threw a pretty stuntastic house party for my 25th (not to toot my own horn or anything), figuring it was pretty much going to be downhill from there. I wasn’t planning on making it a big deal this year, but as the days neared, I couldn’t resist. So this year, I asked my friends on Facebook for ideas on what I should do.

My sister suggested that I use my birthday to raise awareness for a cause. She sent me an article that talked about a sixteen-year-old who did just that, using her birthday to bring attention and raise funds for a microloans organization called Kiva. I thought this was a nice change from all the Super Sweet Sixteen trash I saw on television.

That very same day, a friend on Facebook sent me an invitation to celebrate his 27th by donating money to charity: water, a non-profit that aims to bring clean and safe drinking water to third-world nations. He said that every year he would mindlessly plan parties and ask for gifts he didn’t even really want, not cognizant that people out there were hungry and thirsty and dying. He said he wanted this year to be different. He simply asked that his friends learn about the cause for clean water and donate $27 to the charity in honor of his birthday.

I knew it then. I couldn’t celebrate my birthday any other way.


I’m giving up my 26th birthday. I mean, I think I’ll still do something. I’ll probably host another party, though more low-key. But I want to use the occasion and event mainly to bring attention to Not For Sale.

NFS is an organization whose vision is to fight against human trafficking and slavery. According to statistics, as recent as 2007, over 27 million people around the world are victims of slavery. Women and children are peddled around from countries all over the world to perform forced labor, many of them often involved in sexual exploitation. It is ghastly to think that in this day and age slavery does not only exist but is happening, to our own ignorance, before our very eyes.

I don’t want any gifts this year. My wish is simply that we might all get involved. Some way, some how. Whether it is for this cause or another, I would like to challenge you to do something for the world around you. Whether you feel compelled to donate money or make films or write poetry or sing songs about it, I challenge you to LEND YOUR VOICE TO THE VOICELESS.

I think God has given each of us a platform to be used to move for His kingdom and benefit the greater good of our fellow brothers and sisters. Let us not waste it.

I will be highlighting some other causes and organizations in the following days, but in the meantime, would you not seriously consider joining me in this great endeavor? You’ll receive a lot more than you give, I promise.


You don’t have to know a lot of things for your life to make a lasting difference in the world. But you do have to know the few great things that matter, perhaps just one, and then be willing to live for them and die for them. The people that make a durable difference in the world are not the people who have mastered many things, but who have been mastered by one great thing. If you want your life to count, if you want the ripple effect of the pebbles you drop to become waves that reach the ends of the earth and roll on into eternity, you don’t need to have a high IQ. You don’t have to have good looks or riches or come from a fine family or a fine school. Instead you have to know a few great, majestic, unchanging, obvious, simple, glorious things–or one great all-embracing thing–and be set on fire by them.

– John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life