For pretty much her entire life, Alexandra Christ has been serious about playing soccer. Still, she's never kicked a soccer ball with as much purpose as she does these days.
"I want something that is tough and durable," Christ said, squeezing one of the dozens of balls that are strewn about her Burlingame apartment.
Christ is testing the soccer balls to see which one is the best fit for her ultimate goal: donating them to refugees, mainly from Syria, living in camps in Greece.
"I'm one person with an idea and I took action and the action has snowballed into a beautiful project," Christ said.
Christ's project began, of all places, at the Thanksgiving dinner table with her family a few years ago. The plight of Syrian refugees, risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea in often overcrowded boats, had been in the news a lot at the time.
What seemed like a crisis half-a-world away, though, was quickly put into perspective by Christ's mother. She reminded Christ that her grandfather had emigrated to the United States from a portion of the Middle East that then belonged to Syria.
"Mom said, 'If your grandfather didn't come to this country as a small child we could all be Syrian refugees,'" Christ said.
Suddenly, those refugees on tv weren't from a distant land. And they needed help. Christ was determined to do something but struggled to decide just what was the best fit for her talents and passions.
"What is the thing I could do? Then soccer hit my consciousness. I'm going to bring soccer balls!" Christ said.
Christ has been playing soccer ever since she was a little girl, growing up in San Franciso. When she traveled around the world a few years ago, she always tried to have a soccer ball with her. Christ found it a great way to break down barriers with strangers and spark joy in those around her.
Christ started her own non-profit, Peace Joy Soccer, and began collecting donations. She eventually raised enough to have 750 soccer balls manufactured in Pakistan, then shipped to Greece. She then traveled there, collected the balls, and headed out to the camps.
When Christ handed out the first balls, she knew she had done the right thing.
"We just started playing together for the next hour, playing and laughing and it was great," Christ said.
Christ doesn't kid herself that soccer balls are necessary for a refugees survival but feels strongly that they are essential to a better life. "It's important you have fun," Christ said. "It feeds the soul."
Christ is already planning her next visit and her next donation. Just as soon as the finds the perfect balls to do the greatest good.