Living in the housing project
August 31, 2009
by Jim O'Leary

My friend in the housing project had, had some very good luck.

She and her daughter had run for their lives from her abusive husband and got into a women’s shelter where the counselors were terrific. Some of the counselors had been through it themselves.

While she was still living at the women’s shelter, she managed to get a job in a convenience store which paid her enough to become independent.

Then she was able to get a two bedroom apartment in a public housing project. But it seemed some bad days were ahead. Because her daughter was living in a housing project, she couldn’t get any friends from school to visit her so she didn’t have any playmates or play dates.

Both she and her mother were afraid of their rough looking neighbors in the housing project. They were mostly African American and Mexican American. The two of them were about the only Anglos in the housing project.

The little girl’s eighth birthday was coming up and she hadn’t heard a thing from her daddy who had promised to call her every day. Her mother had wanted to throw a big birthday party for her and nearly went broke buying party hats, ice cream, cake, balloons and all the paraphernalia she could think of to make it a special day.

Then she sent off invitations to the entire third grade at her school. By the day of her birthday, a Saturday, they hadn’t gotten one response to their invitations.

As it got closer and closer to two in the afternoon, when the party was to begin, Mom started to panic. Nobody had come or called. All of the food would go to waste and her daughter, holding back tears, would be hurt beyond all telling.

Then she had an idea. She told her daughter to stay home and she would be right back. What she did was to go door to door in the projects and invite perfect strangers to the party. Door after door. Some of the people who answered the door didn’t have very good English but almost every house had some little kids. It only took her half an hour.

Then she went back home to wait. Almost immediately, one after another, her unknown neighbors came pouring into their little apartment, most of them bringing hastily wrapped presents.

They laughed, they sang, they played games and ate cake and ice cream. After they had all left and the place got cleaned up, it was time for bed. After she tucked her little girl into bed, they said their night prayers.

Then the little girl turned over and hugged her mom. She said “Mommy, I had the happiest time I ever had in my whole life.”