Bev Flynn was almost asleep on a return flight home when her six-year-old son Gabriel tapped her arm.
“I’m not having a birthday this year,” he told her.
‘You’re turning seven,’ she said. ‘It’s not like you’re in your forties and we just don’t talk about birthdays anymore.’
“What do you mean you’re not having a birthday?” She asked.
“I absolutely need nothing,” he said.
Gabriel told his mom there are other boys and girls that don’t have stuff, so he wasn’t having a birthday.
Bev explained that they could still celebrate his birthday, but they could also do something good for somebody else.
The conversation led to Gabriel, now seven, asking his friends and family to donate money for the Ronald McDonald House in St. John’s instead of giving him birthday presents.
“He had spent time at the Janeway this summer while the Ronald McDonald House was going up. There were a lot of questions about the house and the sick kids. I told him sometimes the kids have to spend a lot of time there.”
Gabriel now has $520 to give to the Ronald McDonald House instead of buying his own Lego’s or dinosaur toys.
“He said for his birthday this year he didn’t want anything because he had enough toys and he wanted other kids to have stuff,” Bev said. “He wanted to make it more like home for them.”
Gabriel nodded in agreement.
“They couldn’t bring any toys to the Ronald McDonald House, so that’s why I wanted to send my money there,” he said.
Gabriel said the kids could use a teddy bear or some games to play with.
“Then they’ll spend the time in the Ronald McDonald house not just lying down. They’ll get to play with something.”
Bev said she didn’t expect him to receive that much money for his birthday.
“People were very generous. I was overjoyed; some of them still brought gifts to him for his generosity and made it even more special for him. He thought that was such a special thing for them to do, to give him something and them something.”
Bev taught Gabriel from a young age that he’s lucky to live here.
“I want him to grow up realizing this is a very rich community and kids have everything, but that's not everywhere. The kids around here are fortunate. We've sponsored a child for a long time, and he'd ask me about the picture and I'd tell him our money helps them get clean water and for her to go to school.”
Gabriel isn’t finished giving gifts away yet.
“I only want one or two things for Christmas, because I already have enough toys. You know the people who don't have food and dirty water and stuff? I was going to buy stuff for them.”
Bev wasn’t surprised that he would want to give up his Christmas gifts too.
“Ever since he was small for as long as I remember, especially at Christmas time, he would ask me for wrapping paper. He goes into the kitchen and wrapped food, he wrapped toys. Ever since he's been able to do stuff he's had a big heart. I just hope it keeps up, and I'm sure it will.”
The giving spirit has already inspired other children, she said.
“A mom of one of his friends told me that's what her son was thinking about doing for his birthday. He thought it was a nice idea. I hope it will catch on and more kids will do it.”
Gabriel is nonchalant about his generous heart, and just wants to see other kids as happy as he is.
“I was just thinking it would be good to do something for the people who don't have any food and people who is sick and stuff. It's nice for them, and for the people who are sick.”
Like a young visionary for social justice, Gabriel is also looking past Christmas to see what else he can do next year.
“On my next birthday I'll send to people who have dirty water.”