So an Indian priest, a retired cop and a Thai saleswoman walk into a coffee shop.
No, it's not a joke. Quite the contrary, in fact.
It's three friends coming together at a special event to help some of the most put-upon children on earth.
The Indian priest is Fr. Angelos Sebastian, born in Kerala, India, in 1975. He left his home at age 14 to join the Minor Seminary in the mission Diocese of Ajmer and was ordained a priest in 2001. Fr. Angelos has been with Saint Bonaventure in Huntington Beach since 2007.
The retired cop is Edward Giardina, a parishioner and maintenance man at Saint Bonaventure who was once a highway patrol officer serving in Watts.
And the Thai saleswoman is Angeli Poonsaengsathit, who owns (with her daughter) Monkey House Café at 18862 Beach Blvd.
I had dinner there last week (an excellent chicken sandwich on freshly baked bread) on a night when Poonsaengsathit was holding a fundraiser to support a cause Fr. Angelos began spearheading just over a year ago: the idea of building an orphanage in India, where UNICEF has reported that more than 25 million children live on the streets.
Poonsaengsathit and Giardina have become board members (along with about a dozen other people) to support Fr. Angelos' vision, which came to him at an early age.
"I grew up seeing children on the streets begging for food," he told me. "People would chase them away, mistreat them, abuse them — it always caused a pain in my heart to see so many children with no parents to love them and no food, education or future. They spend all day and night on the street, subject to every form of abuse you can imagine."
So he decided to do something about it, and in January 2012, he will be taking the board members to visit a site in India that he thinks may be just right for the orphanage: an existing facility that they can renovate.
Giardina plans on making the trip with his friend.
"We're buddies, me and Father," he smiled. "We go out to lunch together. And I get to hear his plans firsthand. There's no way I would not be involved after hearing about the struggles over there."
Everyone on the board donates their time and there's minimal administrative overhead, so just about all of the collected donations — 97%, in fact — go directly into the project, called Orphan Children of India.
Poonsaengsathit and her daughter opened the charming Monkey House Café four years ago. A combination coffeehouse/lunch counter/gift shop, it features many affordable and exotic items from all over the world.
"I came to Huntington Beach from Thailand 30 years ago," she told me. "This is a true family-owned business. I decorate it, my daughter does the baking; it's all us. And when I heard Fr. Angelos speak at the church, I knew I had to help. I worked with orphans in Thailand, so I have a sense of how bad it is around the world.
Poonsaengsathit doesn't discount the problems we have right here at home, but she stresses the differences.
"Like many places, our store gives away lots of food each week to help the hungry," she said. "But over there, there are not even scraps to fight for. Kids are completely on their own. It is much more desperate and unimaginable."
And so on this cool, breezy night, dozens gathered in a warm little shop to help support a cause that may seem Herculean, but not to a certain local priest and his supporters. They see it in his eyes, they hear it in his words and, most importantly, they feel it from his heart — they will make a positive difference so that at least some of those 25 million kids might have a bed, food and some nurturing.
To sponsor a child or to help in any other way, visit orphanchildrenofindia.net.
I'd also like to report the passing of a special former Huntington Beach resident. Flint H. Morrison Jr. died Oct. 30 while in hospice care in Prescott, Ariz. He had served in the United States Air Force four years during the Korean War and was employed by the Anaheim Union High School District for 29 years.
He made a huge difference in Huntington Beach.
He volunteered for decades as personnel commissioner for the Ocean View School District, he was a classified commissioner on the Huntington Beach Personnel Commission from 1996 to 2003, and many probably remember him (and his deep, mellifluous voice) as master of ceremonies at the Miss Huntington Beach Scholarship Pageant.
Morrison also created and hosted local shows on HBTV3, hosted many municipal and sporting events, and announced the 4th of July Parade and Huntington Harbour Boat Parade.
I got to know Flint after being interviewed by him on one of his shows when my first Huntington Beach book come out. Then I learned we were neighbors, and so I often saw him on walks. He was a gracious gentleman who made a great difference here, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.
Donations may be made in Flint's name to the Bolsa Chica Conservancy's building fund at bolsachica.org.
On this Thanksgiving, my family and I would also like to wish everyone a most peaceful, reflective holiday.
CHRIS EPTING is the author of 18 books, including the new "Hello, It's Me: Dispatches from a Pop Culture Junkie." You can write him at email@example.com.