Saturday, August 14, 2010

Can't Help but Wonder...

Five years is a long time. I know I've changed in the past 5 years. I also know I couldn't have imagined my life as it is now 5 years ago.

For the past 5 years, I've been trekking on mostly backroads of America trying my best to do the HEAR US mission, "give voice and visibility to homeless children and youth." That may sound obscure to the unknowing, but for me it means a quest to figure out how to prick America's conscience about the rapidly increasing numbers of homeless kids on our streets.

Lest you think it's about numbers, think again. One deliberate tool I have is a picture each of the kids I interviewed in my first year traveling. I spoke with 75 kids from little towns, rural areas, resort communities and ordinary cities. The one thing these kids had in common was they experienced homelessness. Some were still homeless.

I filmed these interviews, compiling them on a DVD called "My Own Four Walls," I've shown this film hundreds of times to thousands of people since then. We've sold thousands of copies. The one thing I know for sure, no matter who is in the audience, they can't help but be blown away by what these kids say.

I didn't spend much time with each kid. I haven't kept in contact with all of them. But they continue to travel with me--ensconced on a "class picture" type poster on Tillie's back window, with a (hopefully) shocking message that over 1.5 million kids are homeless. We're finding that this guesstimate is probably way low, since schools have identified almost a million homeless children and youth (2008-09 data).

Seeing pix of these kids, listening to their wisdom in MOFW, hearing from some of them on my HEAR US Facebook page, or keeping in touch by occasional phone calls and emails, I continue to wonder how they are doing. Are things improving? Did they fall deeper into the ever-expanding abyss of homelessness? Do people in power care about them? Are people around them doing all they can to improve these courageous kids' opportunities for success?

Here's a simple act you can do to help make sure homeless kids get an education:
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This fascinating site shows celebrities who experienced homelessness. Besides their own bootstraps, they likely had people that helped them along the way. I wonder where they would have been without that? I wonder how much they are willing to lend a hand now?

Seems to me that we pay far too much attention to today's celebrities and far too little attention to those who matter most--the hope of our future. The stars of My Own Four Walls, wherever they are, are my inspiration to continue my quest.

Picture credit: Julianna Martinez