I don’t live anywhere, we live outside.

image001
December 31, 2015

Lauri posted this at the www.crowdrise.com/nochildoutside site, shared here with permission.

Hey folks – the below is about an experience I had the last time I chaperoned a field trip at Oscar’s school. Homelessness is not theoretical or distant in my community; it is present, immediate, and heartbreakingly human. If you have the time/bandwidth/resources, please read, share if you like, and donate if you are able to do so – thank you!

The bus ride home from the field trip is long; the kids laugh and chat and hang out of their seats and point at the lights-flashing police car. As we come back into the city:

“Hey, I’m right down that street!” “See that brick wall, behind the corner store? That’s where I live!”

The boy in front of me turns to speak to just me:

“I don’t live anywhere. We live outside.”

And I want to ask him if he’s joking, trying to pull one over on the gullible adult as kids so love to do – then I notice that his pants are far too short and the corduroy is almost worn through.

Damn.

I am thirty-nine years old.

I know thousands of words.

But I am lost at what to tell this child –

<oh God I’m so sorry>
<it’s going to be okay>
<is it?>
<I love you>
<This should not be happening to you>

All I can do is focus on being present. On not looking away. On holding my own discomfort to one side. On fully being with him, here, witnessing.

It feels like far too little.

It feels too close to nothing at all.

I smile at him, hope my eyes are shouting

<I love you>
<it’s going to be okay>

He smiles back.

“My mom tells me to have faith in God – help is on the way.”

And before he can see the worry in my eyes – I have no such faith – he turns back in his seat, to his friend pointing at the store we’re passing.

I wrap my arm around my own son, happy next to me on that long ride home. I squeeze him close and he has no idea why.

The distance between them is . . . paper thin, is tissue, is nothing at all.

I feel so lucky that it hurts, an ache in my chest and eyes as we pass our street, just blocks from home – our cozy, warm, safe home, full of food and toys and books. A pet fish and a balcony garden – such riches it is almost unbearable.

The distance between us is . . . sheer luck.

I look at the seat in front of me.

Nothing very very good or very very bad ever lasts for very very long – right?

Please?

His mom, I think, is stronger than he knows

now she’s got me praying too.