Have you ever thought about what it must be like to be a homeless child? I mean REALLY thought about it? It's almost too frightening to contemplate, even for a few minutes.
You never see them begging on the streets. That's too dangerous. Instead, they spend each day hiding from scary people and trying to survive until the next day.
It's a heartbreaking situation and a real blot on our democracy, and we should be pressuring the politicians to do something about it. But until they do, what can you and I do to bring a little joy into their lives, at least for a moment?
That's what Gina Moreland, the director of the Habitot Children's Museum in Berkeley asked herself. And the answer hit her: Homeless children don't have birthday parties. When you're spending all your time and energy just trying to make it through another day, a birthday party is a luxury so out of reach, you don't even dare dream about it.
So she decided to give it to them. Last year, 15 homeless children had free birthday parties at Habitot, and Moreland pulled out all the stops – total run of the Museum for the kids and up to 75 family members and friends, pizzas, drinks, a personalized birthday cake (donated by Cakes For Kids), decorations, music, art supplies, Habitot staff on hand to guide the activities, transportation to the Museum if needed, a special present for the birthday child and party favors for all the guests.
"The party favors may seem silly, but they're more for the parents than anything because when you're homeless you can't provide things for your kids that other people can," says Moreland. "That makes you feel bad as a parent, so by providing party favors it makes the parents feel really good. They can be the kind of parents they want to be, so it's a gift to the whole family."
As I mentioned, Habitot threw 15 parties last year. Moreland would love to increase that total this year, but that will be possible only if she can find the money to pay for them.
So Habitot has launched an IndieGoGo campaign to raise the funds. If you'd like to help, please visit tinyurl.com/HabitotIndieGoGo and make a tax-deductible contribution. The campaign ends on November 16th at 12:59 a.m.
I know a birthday party doesn't sound like much. But it can mean all the world to a child who has never had one.
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Finally, a fond farewell to Yogi Berra, the greatest catcher in Major League history (but not baseball history; that distinction goes to Josh Gibson, who played in the Negro Leagues).
Yogi was the best clutch hitter I ever saw, but his true greatness lay in the gracious forbearance with which he confronted the constant insults about his appearance. (Opposing teams used to hop around on all fours, scratch themselves like caged monkeys, toss peeled bananas at him and yell, "Hey, Berra! What tree did they pull you out of?")
Yogi ignored them all, letting his bat do the talking. As the late Jim Murray wrote, "His own dignity at first silenced and then made ashamed his ridiculers."
He was a true gentleman. Baseball could use more like him. So could we all.