What Kids Can Do: A Christmas Carol Tale

A Letter from Audience Member Derek McCulloch to Artistic Director Carey Perloff

Holiday cards created by Pearl McCulloch and her classmates from Peralta Elementary School in Oakland as part of Cards from Kids Who Care.
Hi Ms. Perloff—

I really want you to know about something remarkable that happened as a result of my family seeing your most recent production of A Christmas Carol. Two weekends ago, my wife, Tara, and I took our daughter, Pearl, to a matinee of A Christmas Carol. It was her first grown-up theater experience and she enjoyed it very much. Thank you!

On the way out of the theater, Pearl saw a man with a cup out for spare change and she asked me if she could give him something. I handed her some quarters and she put them in the cup, getting a warm smile and a "Merry Christmas" in return. As we walked along Geary Street on our way to dinner, we past more panhandlers and, at one point, a man sleeping on the bare sidewalk without so much as a piece of cardboard to lie on. I could see Pearl taking this all in, and as we turned on Powell we started talking about it. She said it was really sad that a person should have to sleep out on the street like that and she wanted to do something to help. We told her that we give money to different services, but she said she wanted to do something herself, something a kid could do.

As we walked to the restaurant and then on through dinner we brainstormed about things a kid could do, and Pearl came up with the idea of making Christmas cards to sell and then give the money to the homeless. She was very excited by the idea, and over the course of a couple of days we refined it further: she would invite her friends from Peralta Elementary School in Oakland to make cards with her, and we would all ask friends and family to "sponsor" a card apiece. The cards would be given to a shelter to distribute to residents and the money would go to pay for services. I contacted the Berkeley Food and Housing Project, and they very enthusiastically agreed to be the shelter we'd work for.

We called the project "Cards from Kids Who Care."

This past Sunday afternoon our kitchen table was a card factory. For four hours, five eight-year-old girls labored with paper and glue and sequins and scissors and crayons and markers and seemingly several tons of glitter to make the best holiday cards anyone would ever want to receive. They made 42 cards for donations totaling more than $600. After they were done, orders continued to come in, and Pearl continues to make another couple of cards every night. Our total contributions are over $750 now, and it seems possible they'll top $800 by the time we make the delivery of cards and cash.

The eagerness with which these five girls took to the project was inspirational. We'll be proposing to the BFHP that we make this an annual tradition. We only had a week to plan things this year, but we hope that next year with more time we'll be able to make a larger effort and bring even more hope and help to the homeless.

We don't really know how much direct impact the play had on Pearl's thinking, but I couldn't help thinking that she'd really absorbed what Charles Dickens had to say on the subject of civic responsibility:

"But you were always a good man of business, Jacob," faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"

Best regards and thank you for an inspirational day at the theater,

Derek McCulloch

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