Our friends Thayne and Marie like to treat us to a special dinner on our birthdays. In the days before our birthday arrives, we will get a phone call, text, or email asking us if we know where we would like to go for dinner to celebrate our birthday. Sometimes this communication includes suggestions for places that we might enjoy. Over the last several years, we have had birthday dinners at a variety of different restaurants. A few examples include a delightful Asian restaurant, Happy Sumo, a Hungarian restaurant called Budapest Bistro (if you should happen to be in Denver in the summer and dine there, try the cucumber soup, it's delightful), and even a buffet in one of our mountain gambling towns' casinos. This year, Trent chose Bonefish Grill, which has delectable seafood, and it was a great meal.
As my birthday got closer, hints were dropped that I probably would like to go to the casino buffet, because I really like to eat crab legs, and they are on the menu every night. A few days before my birthday, which fell on a Saturday this July, I was asked where I wanted to go for my special birthday dinner. And then I broke with convention. I said I didn't want to go out for a special dinner. I'd be happy with something from one of the many area fast-food restaurants, or even a meal in their home. There was something else I wanted, something I had wanted for years, in fact. I wanted Thayne and Marie to take the difference in cost between a casual meal and a fancy restaurant meal and do something very special with it. I wanted the money used to buy malaria nets.
According to the World Health Organization, there were approximately 219 million cases of malaria in 2012, resulting in an estimated 660,000 deaths. 90 percent of malaria deaths occur in Africa. One of the most basic ways to prevent malaria is to have nets that surround beds, keeping the mosquitoes from spreading disease. No, it doesn't solve the problem, but it certainly can help. I wanted to be able to make a difference in the life of at least one poor child in Africa whose family couldn't get nets.
Instead of planning a dinner, we drove up to the mountains and saw some ghost-town relics. We drove over a stream that had no bridge, and stopped in the middle so Marie could stick her feet right out of the car door into the water, and I could take pictures of the water rushing below us. We had a picnic lunch, and drove through a tremendous thunderstorm on the way back toward home. After we got closer to home, we went to a little neighborhood restaurant not far from where Trent grew up, and had breakfast for dinner. It was a fun and satisfying day.
This week I got an email from Thayne saying that he was embarrassed to admit that he had forgotten to donate for the malaria nets in July. What made him remember was that the company he works for announced that they were having a malaria net drive. Here's where the really cool part comes into play. If Thayne had remembered to donate for the nets in July, the total number of nets would have been about five. But because of his company's net drive and their partnership with a charitable organization, the amount of nets donated jumped up to thirty! The slip of memory ended up having a very bountiful ending, and I got a wonderful feeling from this "late" birthday gift. Soon, thirty families will have some of their worries eased. Their children will have a greater chance to grow up and experience a life they might never have known. It doesn't have to be extraordinary, but it might. I'll never know, but I can always dream. And I hope that when they sleep, surrounded by their protective nets, they can dream happily, too.
Note: If you are interested, this is a link to the WHO 2012 World Malaria Report Fact Sheet.