Have you seen the face of poverty?

5 years ago

http://dirtandnoise.com

A left leaning mom's blog about her boys, politics, and other musings 

It strikes me that there isn't more hullabahoo about poverty in this country. People tend to think poverty means diaper clad babies with distended bellies and flies swirling about the air inside a mud hut. Poverty ails many Americans. We just don't like to talk about it. Or worse, we don't realize it's real. Both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have been clear about their stance on battling poverty in America. Their supporters cry out rhetoric about "entitlement" and "boot straps" and such. In reality, I wonder how many of those people have seen poverty with their very own eyes. How many have held the hands of poverty? What really breaks my heart are the people who feel no empathy for the children, victims of the roll of familial dice. I write often about poverty and education and how we should rally as a nation to help the disenfranchised. I get a lot of hate mail for my views.

Hate mail for writing about how to help poor children who don't have a fighting shot in life without advocates to lead them and support them and love them.

I have seen these kids. I have read them stories and tied their shoes and held their hands. I cannot imagine unleashing political vitriol about these innocent faces that have seen too much already. I wonder how many people casually toss around their holier-than-thou opinions but have never come face to face with a child living in poverty, never known a family whose paradigm is different and poised for failure as a sad but real birthright.

I know these children. They haunt me. Let me tell you about little boy who stole my heart and drives my crusade.

He had vacant eyes. When any emotion crossed them it was in flickers of fear, rage, and shame. He didn't smile for a full four months. He never let anyone touch him and had no concept of the power of a simple, pure hug. His fits of rage came in bursts like a camera clicking on the speed setting. Hitting. Punching. Kicking. Screaming. No one should taste the words that spewed from his small pink mouth. He ended in a clump of fitful sleep and deep breathing. He was always too tense to be truly spent and lived his life on edge. His face was chiseled and sweet with deep set eyes that had already seen too much. Those eyes followed you with a stern, untrusting focus. His sense of observation was acute, and his pulse was keen to what he perceived might threaten him. His short sentences came out as grunts and garbled words. He had seen the hand of violence so many times that the scars would imprint his very soul. He knew hunger and dread and fear and filth. He knew what it was to have nothing and he knew what it felt like to sleep in the crevices of rock bottom. His clothes were ill-fitting with a shoestring as a belt, meaning his own shoes were always missing a lace. His coat was tattered and dirty, and he often had no socks. His winter coat was threadbare, and he never knew the warmth of gloves. He never knew the warmth of flannel sheets in bed, a marshmallowy mug of hot cocoa, or the embrace and nuzzle of a father. His eyes told his story. One look made you want to look away and pretend the horror that unfolded before his eyes never intersected your life. He was filled with a rage and fear so large that it more than consumed his tiny frame. He knew what it meant to be alone. It was said he lived in a hovel. It was said he never sat down to a meal at the table. It was said that he didn't have his own bed or one single book. It was said his mother never tucked him in.

He was five years old.

This little boy touched my heart in a way no child ever has. I faced his wrath and inhaled his pain. I watched him learn basic social skills that children in safe, stable homes learn from day one. I watched him blossom and shine. He expressed himself through art. His drawings were detailed and colorful. Oh, the boy loved color. After many, many months he finally sat on my lap for a story. I read him book after book after book, and I could feel his heart singing against my chest. And then, he smiled. He giggled. He started to laugh.

And the very last time I saw him, he hugged me, and I didn't want to let go.

 

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