February 20, 2009

I am so blind.


And so blessed.

Watching a show with a dear friend of mine tonight, I became aware of a certain horror that I've been oblivious to up until this time. We were watching Law and Order: SVU tonight, and the episode was very harsh and difficult to see. I can't tell you what the title was. I didn't really notice. But the story line revolved around a "family" in the city (New York? Is that where the show is "located"?) underground. The family consisted of various street kids that united together under a set of leaders - The Father and The Mother - to form a tight knit group of people who look out for each other.

The story itself was of no real consequence, just much of the same when dealing with these types of programs. It was the family that really caught my attention. I've known that there existed "shanty towns" and cardboard neighborhoods. This is not a concept that has escaped my notice. I know that kids run away from home for many reasons - some legitimate and some just petty issues from bratty kids - and many of those kids end up on the streets with nowhere to go wither by necessity or by choice. This isn't something that I was blindly unaware of. I guess I just didn't realize what happens underneath the knowing; what the reality of their lives became after they took to the streets. Yes, I have some understanding of the horrors that street youth find themselves enduring just to have a bit of food to eat, but only just some. It isn't concrete or tangible for me because I'm not a part of that world.

I came home wondering what could be done for such a horrible, heart breaking ordeal. Really, what could I ever do to make any difference in the lives of those children who bound themselves to a family such as this? The enormity of the situation, when I think of how many of these families must surely exist, is more than the human mind can comprehend.

Consider that there is at least one of these families living in every large city across the country. Many cities probably have more than one family, though, when you consider that major cities are often very large in both population and acreage. How many large cities are there in the USA?

Excuse me while I go look that up. I don't happen to know that off the top of my head.

Well, the best I could get was around 250 large cities. That document was from 2005, and I have no way of guaranteeing the accuracy of the information. But it sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

(If my husband was awake, I could ask him. He could probably tell me right off the top of his head because he is the owner of vast quantities of useless information.)

So I'll figure for arguments sake that there are 250 large cities where these families take up residence. That gives me 250 families, right? No. Of course not. Many cities - I would say at least 50 of them - are large enough to accommodate more than one of these families. This is particularly true in the largest cities that are so well known for being able to get lost if you want to become unseen. So in Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, and I'm sure there are many more, it would be safe to figure that there are 2 or 3 of these families. Each family houses multiple children, probably at least ten children in the family and possibly even as many as fifty. That's such a mind altering number when you consider the mathematical magnitude of all those nameless, faceless souls that are left wandering the streets in some hopeful attempt to eek out a life for themselves.

I happen to live fairly close to one of those large cities. I've no doubt that there are more than one street families among the homeless of the city streets. Yet I find myself still wondering what, if anything, could I possibly do to make their lives better. I suppose if I even knew where to find their concrete and cardboard homes that I could take blankets or food and leave it on their doorsteps for them to find and make use of. (That is, if I were even brave enough to wander into the perimeter of their world...and I'm not really sure that I am that brave.) I could take clothes, shoes, other such necessities... all the things that I - as one of the fortunate ones - take for granted.

But really, is it enough to do these things?

Doesn't it just scratch the surface of what these children really need in their lives?

Where does their help come from if there is no way to rescue them from these streets that are filled with codes and rules and laws that have nothing remotely resembling the traces of the society that they find themselves to be cast out of?

Where does one begin when trying to save a world that does not see that it needs to be saved?

For more information, visit this link.