Facing eviction and the prospect of not being able to give her children the Christmas she felt they deserved, Tyshika Britten took to Craigslist hoping for a miracle.
“I am a mother of six, 5 boys and 1 baby girl,” she wrote on Craigslist. The 35-year-old hair stylist worried her children would wake up on Christmas morning to disappointment. "I’m trying my best. I pray every day and now I’m begging for help. I know it’s not about the gifts, but they are kids! I’m such a failure right now. … Please help me."
Help came in the form of Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder.
On Dec. 20, the Washington Post featured Britten’s story as part of a wider-ranging article on the struggles facing poor and working-class families around the country. That same day, Vedder and his bandmates were named to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s class of 2017 alongside the likes of Joan Baez, Journey, and Electric Light Orchestra.
After hearing about what Britten was going through, Vedder decided to send a check for $10,000 to her family. Others joined in, as well, sending the family a Playstation 4 and a tablet, among other things.
Eddie Vedder at a baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates in 2015. Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images.
In Britten’s plea for help, Vedder saw echoes of his own childhood.
"I was just so moved by the story and what this mother did for her children," Vedder told the Washington Post, recalling Christmases in which he received used and sometimes broken toys as a child. "I thought those kids must be so proud of their mother for reaching out. That takes a lot of courage."
Working families shouldn’t have to struggle to afford the basics, especially over the holidays, and yet more than 1 in 3 children are growing up in low-income households.
Eddie Vedder saved the day for Tyshika Britten, but the problem goes much deeper than one family’s Christmas. Vedder himself referred to the gift as a "tourniquet" to help one family through what is hopefully a short-lived rough patch, but poverty is a complex, wide-ranging issue affecting the lives of millions nationwide.
Photo by Samir Hussein/Getty Images.
Last year, rapper 2 Chainz engaged in a similar act of generosity, bringing Christmas to one family by paying their rent for an entire year. These acts of good faith and charity are heartwarming, but they’re also just temporary.
We may not all be rock stars, but there are surely things we can do to help out those less fortunate this holiday season.
There are thousands of families in need. Why would Vedder choose this family? Because they reminded him of his own family’s struggles years ago, their story moved him powerfully to act.
It’s easy to turn off stories of poverty when they feel far away from our lives — but when we can see ourselves in the shoes of those who are less fortunate, it’s easy to do something. Our similarities may not always be glaringly obvious, but if we look hard enough, those stories aren’t so far away from our own.