Have You Given Your Money Away Yet Today?

I opened my iPad to an interesting column in today’s New York Times, titled “Why You Should Give Your Money Away Today.” It talked about what motivates charitable giving, and how the research shows that “givers are happier and healthier and have a greater sense of purpose in life.”

Well, I for one could do with being a little happier and having a greater sense of purpose. Could you? Well, you’re in luck. Today is Giving Tuesday, and I have the perfect charitable cause for you.

It Started with a Highway Exit Sign

If you’re new to Joburg Expat, you may not have heard of Alexandra Baseball, so here is a quick recap for you: When I arrived with my family in South Africa in 2010 and we were winding our way home from O.R Tambo to the new house we were to live in for the next three years, our driver pointed to an exit sign off the highway and said, rather ominously: Don’t ever go there, it’s very dangerous. The name on the sign was rather pretty, I thought: Alexandra. Then I promptly forgot about it until a few months later. I was busy looking into sports teams for my kids, as the typical American mother sets out to do upon arrival in a new place. I found none anywhere near where we lived, but Alexandra Baseball caught my name. I wanted to know more about this “dangerous” place that also had a baseball team.

From that day on, my story in South Africa became intertwined with the story of Alex Baseball. I teamed up with a nonprofit called “Pitch in For Baseball” that had free equipment for us if only we could get it to South Africa. We somehow managed to scrape together the money for the shipment, and I still remember the day I unloaded the entire stash on a pavement in Alexandra while everyone stared at the blond woman in a big car who had no business showing up in an African township. But whatever feelings of discomfort I might have had soon turned into delight as I watched the first pitch being thrown, right there in the middle of the potholed street.

Alexandra Baseball team members opening a shipment of used equipment from the United States

Transport is a Privilege

That Alexandra Baseball has survived all these years is a small miracle. It continues to give a sizable group of kids from Alexandra a place to gather after school and experience the joys of working together to achieve big things. Some of these kids have become players on the South African National Team. Some have become coaches in their own right. But mostly, it makes me happy that Alexandra Baseball has continued to be a place of community and friendship where both are not that easy to come by.

The daily challenges for the club are huge. And the biggest one of them is transport. Any random American baseball team will take for granted that the kids are brought to their practices and games by their parents, and the coaches can happily focus on the business of coaching. Not so in Alexandra. The kids walk through the entire township to get to their practices, but Johannesburg is a sprawling metropolis and the baseball league is spread out all over the city. What’s more, not many teams are willing to come to Alexandra to play, so most of the games are away games. The only way to get the kids to their games is to hire a minibus taxi every single week.

If you have kids who’ve been active on a variety of sports teams like mine, I know your suburban American routine very well: You spend most of your afternoons in your car, crisscrossing town to and fro and back again on various trips to ever-recurring practices and games. And at some point or other, you’ve probably been tempted to howl at the heavens: Why am I the perpetual chauffeur? What those years driving in and out of Alexandra have taught me is that driving your own car is a huge privilege. It would suck to have to walk everywhere, or to stuff yourself into an overfilled minibus taxi reeking with perspiration, or to simple not be able to go anywhere at all.

This Giving Tuesday we are hoping to collect $2500 to fund transport costs and league fees for the next season of Alexandra Baseball. If we reach that goal, the Milwaukee Brewers will match our amount.

I hope that you will consider helping out this great cause. It doesn’t have to be much, but the power is in the numbers of people who contribute. To read more about how your gift will be used to help the club, and to make a donation, please click here.

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