Invisible Child

She called her living arrangement “the house,” even after her family was moved into one cramped room. She choreographed her own privacy, taking turns with her siblings to undress while the others looked away. They maneuvered around the shelter’s rules as well. Residents were banned from bringing in bleach, yet the janitors refused to clean the bathrooms. So the children swiped the janitors’ bleach and scrubbed the floors themselves. On the outside, Dasani seemed steady. She kept a poker face when the staff scolded her thirty-three-year-old mother as if Chanel were a cheeky adolescent. Yet these episodes left their mark. “Sometimes it feels like, ‘Why you guys messin’ with my mom?'” To mess with Chanel was to mess with Dasani. There was no separating mother from daughter. They felt the same anger, the same humiliation. Feelings passed between them like oxygen.

Still, Channel tried to shield Dasani from the worst things… Smaller degradations were part of daily life.

—  Andrea Elliott, Invisible Child Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City (Random House, October 5, 2021)


One of the Ten Best Books of the Year by New York Times Book Review: “Dasani Showed Us What It’s Like to Grow Up Homeless. She’s Still Struggling.”

Walking. With Georgia.

It was Sunday morning. 4:50 a.m. 68° F. Morning Walk @ Cove Island Park. 432 consecutive days, like in a row.

My “observations” from my Sunday walk led to yesterday’s Monday Morning Wake-Up Call post — a quote from Janwillem van de Wetering, about being proud of his awareness, proud of his awareness of his pride, being clever to know that he is stupid, etc. etc.

The quote landed. My cup of awareness (I thought) runneth over, and I have a vice grip on all that I don’t know.  But this observation seemed to bottom out.

This spring, with the increase in seasonal park traffic, garbage cans were planted throughout the Park — electric pink — surely colored to encourage patrons to dump their sh*t in the can. I did notice the green cans, but they seemed fewer in number. And for 100 straight days, I walked by these cans, tossed trash in these same cans, and zero light bulbs turned on.

Until Sunday morning.

They were wearing headlamps, lights bobbing up and down as they approached.

Her head was down, averting contact.

His head turned to me in response to my “Good Morning”.

“Good Morning, Sir” in a Spanish accent. There we go again. Another human being calling me ‘Sir.’  Respect? Or do they see a Retiree? Either way, de-stabilizing.

They kept walking. I took a few steps in the opposite direction, stopped, and turned to look back. [Read more…]

Thanksgiving?

starvation

Saleh Hassan al-Faqeh holds the hand of his four-month-old daughter, Hajar, who died of malnutrition at the al-Sabeen hospital in Sanaa, Yemen, Nov. 15, 2018.  “She was like skin on bones, her body was emaciated,” he said.  Hajar was one of thousands of Yemeni children suffering from malnutrition in a country that has been pushed to the brink of famine by more than three years of war.  (Source: Father mourns baby who died of starvation in Yemen, ABC News, November 15, 2018)


Who can imagine hunger who has never experienced it, even for one day?

~ May Sarton, The House by the Sea: A Journal

Thanksgiving?


A student in her uniform balances on stones over sewage water on her way to class in the Cite Soleil slum of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.


Notes:

  • Thanksgiving is a not a statutory declared holiday in Haiti.
  • Photo by Dieu Nalio Chery, AP. wsj.com, Nov 21, 2017

It’s been a long day (Right)

Rohingya refugee children from Myanmar’s Rakhine state rest at a refugee camp near Teknaf, Bangladesh. Nearly 125,000 mostly Rohingya refugees have entered Bangladesh since a fresh surge of violence in Myanmar began in late August. Photo by: K. M. Asad, Agence France-Presse, Getty Images. (wsj.com, September 5, 2017)


Related Posts: It’s been a long day

 

A sense of shame has never entirely departed

“If you grew up very self-conscious, feeling that you’re not as good as other people, I think that it defines you,” she said.

A sense of shame has never entirely departed. “Owning it, I don’t know if that’s a bad thing,” Ms. Walls said. “It’s important to tap into it and be in touch with it. For me, it’s part of process of storytelling.”

With the writing of her memoir, she let go of trying to bury the fact that she slept in a rope bed, defecated in a ditch and lived in ramshackle quarters whose ceilings and floorboards threatened to crumble at any hour.

“Somebody told me the secret to happiness is low expectations,” she said. “I still can’t believe that I have flush toilets, that I can go to a grocery store and buy whatever I want, which will never fail to amaze me.” […]

Nothing doing for Ms. Walls. “I wanted a place where I could go broke and still grow vegetables, bail water out of the creek and shoot deer,” she said. “If worse comes to worst, I’ll survive.”

~ Ruth La Ferla, excerpts from Jeannette Walls Settles Down Far From the Noise of New York, (The New York Times, August 5, 2017)


Notes: Jeannette Walls is the author of the best selling (and must read) memoir: The Glass Castle: A Memoir

Walking Across Town. Blinded By the Light.

Isabel Miramontes, Come On

Mid July in Manhattan.

I step out of the Metro North car onto the platform, and walk down the tunnel in Grand Central. There’s zero transition from the air cooled train car @ 69° F to This. The body is swallowed by dampness, cool to not cool, Bam. The softness of the pressed shirt turns to less soft, to not soft, to moist, to sticking to the chest. Feet, are choking from their leather wraps, swollen from weight gain (6.3 lbs in less than 30 days) – chafing is coming, oh, it’s coming, by days end, or sooner. There will be blood.

I exhale little puppy breaths to pass the heat, trying to keep cool. Fail.

It’s 6:28 a.m. Tourists mingle in midtown, coalesce around the network TV studios and their Morning Shows – holding their cups of coffee, hoping to spot a celebrity, or better yet, get a cameo for the folks back home. Hi, Jane from Iowa! [Read more…]

Walking Cross-Town. Or, on the Highway to Hell?

It’s late evening, the sun is setting, the end of a long day. I’m sitting in a Metro North train car on my commute home reflecting on the day. Cool air streams down from the overhead vents.

Summer has arrived in Manhattan, and despite this 23 square mile piece of land being surrounded on all sides by water, the Island can be 10-20° F hotter than it is at home in the suburbs – billions of tons of concrete, steel and asphalt broiling under the late day Sun.

I had read his essay the prior week, and it was still rooting its way into my core, into the marrow of my bones.  I flip open my e-reader to re-read the passages that I have highlighted in George Yancy’s “Is Your God Dead?” where he speaks to leaving our God in our places of worship or in our good intentions.  [Read more…]

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

A sewer cleaner cleans road manholes near Jatrabari Dhaka in Bangladesh. For this one-day work, the cleaner gets about $8. (KM Asad, Human Press, wsj.com June 16, 2017)

But what is Hope?

“A Somali girl displaced by drought wears a pair of mock spectacles cut out from a cardboard box as she carries her brother around a camp just outside of Mogadishu. Somalia’s drought is threatening three million lives.”


Notes:

  • Inspired by: “But what is Hope? Nothing but the paint on the face of Existence.” by Lord Byron
  • Photo: Farah Abdi Warsameh, AP, wsj.com, March 28, 2017

There is nothing, and there is not one bloody thing.

mary-louise-parker-aberash-daughter

In September, 2007, Mary-Louise Parker adopted a child from an orphanage in Ethiopia.  The child’s Uncle walked a distance that Parker stated she would complain if she had to travel to in a car. The journey was made with his children, three of which were under 10. The baby was carried on his hip. This excerpt is from a letter written by Parker (“Dear Uncle“) as a tribute to him.  In their first meeting, he said: “I hope that she will be taken care of, go to school and perhaps one day be something, a doctor.”


There are so many reductive adjectives used to describe those materially less fortunate, words the privileged use to anoint them. Words like proud, or graceful…It never rings true. Having seen what I saw when you brought me to the hut where my daughter was born, and introduced me to the people in your village, I felt like I was hovering over every judgment of my reality and yours, unable to land. None of the families I met were intact, everyone had lost children, parents, or a spouse. There was not enough of anything for anyone. The only bounty was in categories of suffering or possible ways to die. I didn’t feel them looking at me with distance, they all smiled and shook my hand.

I hid my embarrassment at how stupid I felt when I entered your hut and was alarmed by the darkness that swallowed me despite it being late morning. Of course I knew there was no electricity, no light would be there except for what might creep in through that ceiling of straw. I knew it, but I couldn’t fathom it until I stood inside with you and stared at an actual nothingness and my eyes adjusted to near black. There is nothing, and there is not one bloody thing. As you pointed at different parts of the hut that were designated for the cows to sleep, or the spot where your family of twelve eats when there is food, or where you slept, I saw spots with absolutely nothing in them. There was an absence of comment on your situation that made you seem twenty feet tall. It’s something I could never know if I hadn’t stood there, with you showing me what life is like on another planet where there is no complaining, or showing disappointment. [Read more…]

Breakfast

child-food-hunger

A boy eats a free meal, part of a program by outreach group World Mission Community Care, at a slum area in Tondo city, metro Manila.  (Photo: Romeo Ranoco / Reuters)


Hunger.

food-hunger-children

If my life weren’t complicated, I wouldn’t be me.
This is triggered by the tail end of the book title by E. Lockhart:

If my life weren’t complicated, I wouldn’t be Ruby Oliver.

Ruby goes on to say:

I can’t forget things, or ignore them–bad things that happen. I’m a lay-it-all-out person, a dwell-on-it person, an obsess-about-it person. If I hold things in and try to forget or pretend, I become a madman and have panic attacks. I have to talk.

Travis Bickle (De Niro/Taxi Driver/1976) pops in: “You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talking… you talking to me? Well I’m the only one here.”

I can’t forget things, or ignore them? Most certainly Yes.
Not so many bad things happen, and I’m (very) grateful for that.
I’m certainly a lay-it-all-out person (often to much regret),
and boy, can I obsess. Master class here.
As to a madman,
that depends from which side of the desk you are sitting on in evaluation.
And, as to having to talk, not so much.

It’s Tuesday morning.
It’s overcast. It’s drizzling and traffic is snarled.
I’m running late to a 9 am start at a volunteer event at a Food Bank.

There’s a logistics snag.
The Food Bank manager wasn’t expecting us for 3 hours.
There’s frustration etched in her face, but she puts on her game face and scrambles to coordinate activities for two corporate groups, in a space designed for one.

She proceeds with her introduction: [Read more…]

Reading. Writing.

reading, poor,education

“A girl writes in a notebook she collected from a garbage dump in Lahore, Pakistan. Thousands of children pick recyclable items from waste dumping points to earn a living for their families.”


K.M. Chaudary, Associated Press. Photos of the Day, April 1, 2015 wsj.com

 

It is an issue of private shame

Hungry-Child

James Harrison, New Statesman: The Foodbank Dilemma:

“…A young clean-shaven man leads an older, grey-haired, battered-by-life-version-of-himself to where Tony stands. Tony greets them kindly and asks the younger man who referred them to the food bank. There’s a moment of startled silence. Then the younger man says gruffly, “It’s not for me, it’s for my dad”, and looks down at the floor. The colour flushing his face makes clear his embarrassment…”

“…School holidays are the hardest time because you have to feed your children three times a day. That’s why I am coming here now…”

“…Normally I eat porridge in the morning to fill myself up and then often I don’t eat at all myself in the evenings. But today is the start of the kids’ holidays and so they don’t get the school meals, they have to eat all their food at home and I just can’t manage…”

“…Not having enough food is a very private issue…It is an issue of private shame. People eat mostly within the home, and so what people eat, and the ways in which it is inadequate, people keep to themselves. And it is an issue of private suffering. If you are not getting enough food, or the right kind of food, you absorb the misery yourself. The cost is embodied by you. It is your body that becomes unhealthy…”

“…people turned to food aid as “a strategy of last resort”, when they have exhausted all other possibilities, including cutting back on food and turning to family and friends. No one I met used a foodbank lightly. Louise had been skipping dinners for months before she went to Coventry Foodbank. She finally attended so she could feed her children during the school holiday…”

“…I saw a young woman break down into floods of tears when the food was brought out. She was overwhelmed by the idea that she could feed her family properly that night…”

“…Another man, too shy to talk to me, told the volunteers he had walked miles across the city to get a referral and then a few miles more for his food that afternoon. He didn’t have enough money for the bus fare. He sat, exhausted, cradling a cup of tea, rocking backwards and forwards, before making the same trip home again. This time laden down with his bags of food…”

“…I am down to the last pound or so on my electricity card and I am really starting to worry about that. And so I have been going to bed really hungry for a week or so. It’s my second trip. I was really worried about coming the first time. I was ashamed, but everyone has made me feel so welcome, and told me not to worry. This time I feel more comfortable. I hope my benefit issues will get sorted out soon so I don’t have to come again…”

Read full article here: The Foodbank Dilemma:


Image Credit: shescribes.com

 

Driving. To Exit 9.

man-face-mask-art

It’s Wednesday evening.
I’m on my commute home from work.
Traffic is flowing on I-95 North.
A school of fish gliding down a rapid current.

He drips into consciousness at Exit 5.
There are three words on a piece of tattered cardboard, written with a thick, black, felt pen.
The words are stacked.

Homeless.
Hungry.
Help.

My thoughts shift to a Netflix movie. I’m replaying scenes from 13 Conversations About One Thing as I’m chewing up highway. John Turturro: Life of predictability. Fullness of routine.

He stands at the same Exit. Exit 9. My Exit.
There’s a stop light at the end of the long exit ramp.
You can’t avoid him, unless you are at the back of the line in rush hour.
And then you pass him at 15 mph as you negotiate the corner.

White male. 35-40 years old. Clean shaven. Average weight and height. A coat a bit heavy and oversized for the season, but not unusually so. His eyes, those eyes, emit distress.

Addict? Alcohol? Prescription Drugs? Coke? Meth? 
Unemployed? Unemployable? Record?
Bad decisions? Bad luck?  
He doesn’t give much away.
[Read more…]

Running. With AAA.

photography,black and white,tire,flat tire,
Yahoo Weather Update:
57º F. Humidity 97%. Visibility 4 miles. Areas of dense morning fog. Mist.

Mist. And Ambivalence rains. Mind says yes. Body says rest.

I gear up.
Red and Black shoes. Black running pants. Red top.
Red. Rhino. Run.
I’m out the door.

The Mind whirrs back to Wednesday.  We’re in the car on our bi-annual trek to pick up Eric at College.  It’s a 10 to 14 hour drive and we’re standing in wall-to-wall traffic on the GW Bridge. We’re tracking to the wrong end of the range and the horse has just left the barn.

We clear the bridge and I’m barreling down the NJ turnpike.  72 mph. OK, 78 mph. Making up time.

The Warning light flashes on dash. “LOW TIRE PRESSURE.”  Followed by a PHSSSSSST. And then, a WUMP. WUMP. WUMP. WUMP. (Blood rushes to head. Why is it so hot in the car? Tension fills the cabin. Co-Pilot has seen the Captain manage the unexpected. It’s not pretty.)

I pull the car over to the shoulder. (I come from a long lineage of handymen. DNA somehow skipped me. My fix-it depth consists of bangin’ on the Alt-CTL-DEL key.)

Susan calls AAA. ETA is 30 minutes. (30 minutes to show up. 15-20 minutes to put on the provisional. 90 minutes to 3 hours to find a service station to replace tire. Estimated 2.5 – 4 hour delay. Mood darkens. Migraine thundering on queue.)

AAA arrives. I get out of the car to car to greet him. He gives me a hand signal to stay off the highway. His lips mouthing “too dangerous.” A Semi passes by and kicks up a wind gust. Diesel exhaust fills my lungs.

[Read more…]

The Dream Dealer


Good Friday or Christmas Day, this message rings in the season.  In this clip, the film producers spent the day talking with people who were going to spend their Christmas on the streets.  You can find more on The Dream Dealer here.


White T-Shirts

photography

We wait for the phone to ring.
Every Sunday.
For the obligatory college briefing call.
(As long as you feed from the trough, you’ll call home on Sunday. Non-negotiable.)
Rachel jabbering. Eric tight lipped…leaking information on a need-to-know basis.
Not last night.
Big day for me on Tuesday Dad.
I forgot it’s his 20th birthday.
You forgot right?
Of course not.
Of course you did.
You know that I’m leaving for El Salvador on Saturday.
I’ll be taking vitals…blood pressure, temperature…and recording it.
Dad, I’ve been told there will be thousands, all waiting for medical care.
We’ll be readying patients for the doctors and dentists.
And then feeding homeless at night.

I’m dressing for work this morning.
I check the weather app. -5° F with wind chill.
How many children are huddled and shivering in the cold? Hungry. A soda can and not much else in the fridge for breakfast. Not in El Salvador. Here. Right here.
I shudder.
I reach for a t-shirt. Folded. Stacked. Clean. White.
I’m drawn to the label. I squint to read the small print.

XL 100% Pima Cotton. Machine wash warm with like colors. Only non-chlorine bleach if needed. Tumble Dry Low. Warm Iron if needed. Made in Bangladesh.

Made in Bangladesh.


Image Credit

Lie to me

lunch seaside

It’s lunch. It’s a small informal gathering. Light conversation.

Discussion turns to summer vacations. And rolls around the table clockwise. One is going to the Far East with family. Another to the Cape. A third to Montreal.

The must see art exibits. The lazy days at the beach. Late afternoon cappucinos at the outdoor cafes on the cobblestone streets. Evenings spent people watching from the hotel veranda. The concerts on the grass.

I feign a glance at my watch and look right. I can sense the uneasiness. She’s shifting uncomfortably. Rubbing her hands. Her forehead is glistening. (Dr. Cal Lighman, Lie to Me, flashes up.)

It’s her turn. Everyone’s eyes shift and wait. An uncomfortable silence. A pause in the discussion of the world tours. There’s a surge in my chest. [Read more…]

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