Marty's Message

Making Your "Big Day" All About Someone Else

My friend collected donations for charity at his birthday party. Made me wish I had done the same. Maybe you too?


When you have parties at your house, you know, Christmas, New Year's, adult parties: do folks bring booze?

I just turned sixty. Had a party (that's me with the family at the party, above). Folks brought booze - a lot of booze - expensive booze. One friend brought a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue. It's some sort of expensive scotch whiskey. I've never had scotch -never. Another guy brought a bottle of Dom Perignon. It's covered in some sort of copper gizmo. I'm told it's really expensive. It has documents with it. What kind of booze comes with instructions?

I didn't drink booze, but I did eat cake (thanks Oakmont Bakery)!

Dom and Johnny and Ernest and Julio - a bunch of others are gathering dust somewhere in the basement. I don't drink. I love my friends. I truly do. I'm not trying to sound ungrateful. I had an amazing party. But I guess I should have been more explicit when I told them not to bring booze or gifts. I now have thirty to fifty bottles of booze in the basement. Stop by. I'll give you a bottle. Maybe the bottle you gave me.

Julian Gray had a different idea for his birthday.

Julian is a really good lawyer. He's also a good friend. So, he was turning fifty. He was having a big blowout at his Murrysville house (that's him with wife Laura, below). A couple bands, a couple hundred people, a couple hundred bottles of booze given as birthday gifts- right? Julian called his guests before the party- asked for donations rather than booze. He placed a "donation bucket" at the big bash and promised all of the cash would go to a worthy cause. Cool deal right?

It gets better. He called me. He asked me to pick a charity. Turns out, folks donated more than four-thousand in cash for charity at his party- bucks over booze! I picked a church - The Faithbridge Community Church in Mckees Rocks, Pa., "The Rocks" as we like to call it. The pastor - a veteran, a family man, a true man of God - James Hogan.

His congregation literally fights for survival. "I've buried several members. Shot in the streets, drug overdoses. You name it. But I love 'em. We all love God."

We surprised Pastor Hogan the other day. He was in the sanctuary of the church when we dropped by. He was shocked:

Previous story: Pittsburgh Attorney Gives Local Church $4,000 Surprise Donation

The church building is old. He struggles to heat it in the winter, cool it in the summer. His members are poor when it comes to money, but rich in spirit, with a deep deep faith in God. Julian Gray reached into his pocket and handed Pastor Hogan a four-thousand dollar check. He calls it "keep the doors open" money.

Julian Gray, Rev. James Hogan and me.

Pastor Hogan was blown away by the donation, and the money had immediate impact. He sent us this this text just after we left. "About two minutes after you left, a lady came in the front of the church building asking for prayer. Her car was on the other side of the building with its tires shot out. She said she was dropping someone off late last night, and someone shot holes in her tires." Hogan was able to help her immediately thanks to Julian Gray's donation.

It was Pastor Chip Ingram who said, "The greatest way to learn the genius of generosity is to practice it in real-time with others."

In "real time", Julian Gray's kindness had an impact. It's amazing to watch.

I'm taking action. Next time we have a party, it's "bucks over booze". Why not? We will take the money folks would spend on booze and pick a charity.

Next time you have a party, will you give this a shot too? (pun intended)

It's what we're all about here at Sparkt.

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