During my many adventures as a young adult, I think my guardian angel must have won a merit award – and gotten an ulcer.

On April 27, 1972, during a several-month journey in Europe, seeking to find the meaning of life, I was walking alone through the tourist area of an old Italian city and thinking, “Wow! I am 24-years-old! That’s almost a quarter of a century!”

A friendly shopkeeper called out to me, “How are you today, Bella?”

“It’s my birthday!” I told him cheerfully.

“Buon compleanno!” he said exuberantly. “I have a little present for you.”

“Oh, thank you so much!” I laughed, thinking how perfect it was to get a birthday gift, even though I was so far away from everyone I knew.

When I followed this nice man into his shop, he kindly handed me a pretty little vase and said, “For YOU!”

Watch Irene and Duck discuss her 75th birthday!

Then he added, “Let me congratulate you!” and suddenly put his arms around me and gave me a huge kiss on the lips.

Astonished, I said, ‘NO, THANK YOU!’ and indignantly left the shop, the man, and my vase behind.

Fortunately, most of my experiences during that time gave me the gift of meeting countless people who were truly kind – including a dear man from the Netherlands named Ed van der Zande (but that’s another story.)

AND, perhaps it is no accident that my journey to search for the meaning of life was part of the foundation that has led to our journey with Kidpower!

In Kidpower, we teach people to ask for what they want clearly and respectfully, rather than just wishing and hoping that the other person will know. We understand that the other person might not be willing or able to do what you want. However, other people cannot read our minds so if we don’t ASK, the answer will almost always be “No.”

So, as I explain in my conversation with Duck, here are my 3 wishes for my birthday.

My first wish is that each and every one of you are and will be safe and happy and well.

My second wish is for lots of stories because I LOVE stories – and we are collecting a ‘digital bouquet” of stories for all to enjoy on our website!

If you would like to participate, learn more about how to share your own short personal story about some way Kidpower has been helpful to you or someone you know. This can be an informal video, photo, drawing, or something written.

And, my third wish is that you will give Kidpower a donation in any amount that works for you so that people in need can benefit from Kidpower regardless of their ability to pay. With your support, we will keep these essential programs growing and going across the world.

Finally, THANK YOU for being with me and all of us on our Kidpower journey!


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Published: April 11, 2023   |   Last Updated: April 11, 2023

Kidpower Founder and Executive Irene van der Zande is a master at teaching safety through stories and practices and at inspiring others to do the same. Her child protection and personal safety expertise has been featured by USA Today, CNN, Today Moms, the LA Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Publications include: cartoon-illustrated Kidpower Safety Comics and Kidpower Teaching Books curriculum; Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe; the Relationship Safety Skills Handbook for Teens and Adults; Earliest Teachable Moment: Personal Safety for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers; The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People, and the Amazon Best Seller Doing Right by Our Kids: Protecting Child Safety at All Levels.