The striking aspect of the resort at Half Moon Bay near San Francisco was not the drama of cliffs or the picturesque view of the Pacific Ocean. Nor was it the sunset, the fire pits, the championship golf course or the fresh, organic, locally harvested foods served in the upscale restaurants, with bars fully stocked with fine wines, local beers and crafted cocktails.
It was the sight of so many children enjoying the luxury and natural beauty of that grand estate.
Children riding bikes, tossing balls and strolling hand in hand. Babies strapped to the chests of their dads.
Children laughing their heads off as they rolled down grassy hills. Children roasting marshmallows over a fire pit.
Children, seemingly, without a care in the world, although as a grandfather of seven, I know that kids, even the little ones, occasionally have things on their minds to fret about.
My wife, Gwen, and I were at Half Moon Bay to speak at a business conference. The children were there because their moms and dads had the desire and means to take them along.
Those images of happy children overshadowed the spectacular California surroundings. Their cavorting at Half Moon Bay stood in sharp relief to the lives of the many children in our District of Columbia, where we returned mid-week.
We returned to a hometown where kids, as The Post’s John Woodrow Cox described so movingly last Sunday, hear “gunfire outside their homes . . . boys and girls learn to navigate peril before they learn to read . . . the unrelenting threat of violence shapes almost every aspect of their lives . . . the streets they walk down, the parks they visit, the pictures they draw, the nightmares they have, the number of parents they come home to.”
I had a few of those nightmares as a youngster growing up in my Foggy Bottom neighborhood.
The District hosts more than high-crime neighborhoods. About 4,600 children and parents have roofs over their heads courtesy of the D.C. government.
They are housed at the dilapidated and soon-to-be-closed shelter at the former D.C. General Hospital, and in one-room motels with no kitchens, and in crisis shelters and transitional housing. These children who, were it not for taxpayers, would be living on the streets, under bridges, in abandoned cars or in some homes where their moms are used as punching bags.
Children traumatized by neighborhood violence, or living as nomads with no fixed address, didn’t ask to be born. They did nothing to get to where they are today.
Just as the kids enjoying the delights of Half Moon Bay were not responsible for their comfort.
If past experience is any guide, reader reaction is on the way with responses that go something like this: “King, you bleeding heart, the problems of D.C. children in shelters or in violence-torn neighborhoods trace back to their parents — unskilled girls who get pregnant by high school dropouts who won’t accept fatherhood. They, King, are nothing like the responsible parents in strong marriages who take their kids to the splendid grounds and walking paths at Half Moon Bay.”
Of course, there’s more to it than that. The reasons some parents are not on their feet and unable to satisfactorily provide for their children vary. The causes are not as clear-cut as judges of desperate families love to proclaim.
But the tragic truth is that some children, as in parts of this city — and in Syria and northern Nigeria — are born into soul-crushing conditions, and others kids — cavorting at Half Moon Bay or in Chevy Chase and upper Northwest — are to the good life born.
I know I’m howling at the half moon when I say this, but it’s just not fair.
So it falls to us, if we really care, to help out.
This weekend in the District, folks working under the banner of “Bright Beginnings” are raising funds to help provide, as they say, “educational, therapeutic, health, and family services free of charge to homeless infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and their families.” God bless them for their good works.
Finger-pointing and playing the blame game do little to improve the quality of life for children living in homelessness.
Demanding greater police presence, strict law enforcement, more competent adjudication and rehabilitation of offenders will help provide relief. Give special attention to the children traumatized by the brutality and violence that surround them.
And people in this city with clout — the ones who manage to get from the government generous paid-family-leave policies, police-protected downtown marathons, free streetcar rides and dedicated bike lanes — could lend their voices and political muscle on behalf of children too afraid to leave the house.
Maybe we can’t create Half Moon Bays, but surely in this comely city we can end this hell on Earth for our children.
Read more from Colbert King’s archive.
Read more on this topic:
John Woodrow Cox: ‘Did your father die?’: For a second-grader, gunfire, school lockdowns, then the worst violence of all
Letters to the Editor: Is D.C. housing too many homeless?
Deneen L. Brown: A hidden world: Desperation for hundreds of homeless families in D.C. motels
Ankoor Shah: D.C.’s coming homelessness crisis