Once again I have trouble believing how fast it’s gone, the holidays all the more disarming in California for the arrant summer that asserts herself into months reserved for the cold. The year draws to a close, swift like winter night. Beneath the din, the festivities heighten the loneliness for many. It’s the dissonance between the merriment in the air and their private song; the expectations of the season that descend on their Christmas, their New Year’s in a great anticlimax. It’s what I grew up with.
The less you have, the greater the pressure you feel. To spend and to have loved ones to spend the holiday with in a special way. But these burdens are a luxury for people who’ll be grateful just to quiet the growling in their stomach. This time of year is especially hard on those bedridden in poverty. In last year’s New York Times article The Invisible Child, we see a bright girl named Dasani (now 12) struggling against forces beyond her control: “parents who cannot provide, agencies that fall short, a metropolis rived by inequality and indifference. Dasani’s circumstances are largely the outcome of parental dysfunction…her mother and father are unemployed, have a history of arrests and are battling drug addiction.
The Auburn Family Residence [is] a decrepit city-run shelter for the homeless. Dasani [the last several years was] among 280 children at the shelter. Beyond its walls, she belong[ed] to a vast and invisible tribe of more than 22,000 homeless children in New York, the highest number since the Great Depression.“
Sexual predators, spoiled food, filthy communal bathrooms, vermin, and exposure to asbestos and lead were the norm for Dasani and her six siblings. They would wait in line for their prepackaged food in the cafeteria before sliding into another impossible line for access to the two microwaves that hundreds of residents share.
What breaks my heart is that the children “are bystanders in this discourse, no more to blame for their homelessness than for their existence. To be homeless it to be powerless.
Dasani was on the cusp of becoming something more, something she could feel but not yet see, if only the right things happened and the right people came along. In the absence of a stable home or a reliable parent, public institutions have an outsize influence on the destiny of children like Dasani. Whether she can transcend her circumstances rests greatly on the role, however big or small, that society opts to play in her life. School [like hers] can also provide a bridge to the wider world…Few [kids] have both the depth of Dasani’s troubles and the height of her promise. There is not much [her principal] can do about life outside school. She knows this is a child who needs a sponsor, who ‘needs’ to see The Nutcracker, who ‘needs’ her own computer. There are many such children. One in five American children is now living in poverty, giving the United States the highest child poverty rate of any developed nation except for Romania.”
What of these kids caught between the rock of their parents’ failures and the hard place of walls adorned with graffiti and mold? The hand of angels can reach in.
Though we may not be able to rescue everyone from cold, hunger, sickness, or loneliness, we can make a profound difference in so many ways. I name the stories you are about to hear the Candlelight Series after Eleanor Roosevelt who sought “to light candles rather than curse the darkness.” We’ll catch a glimpse of the hands that have lit the way for those frozen in the dark. Of people who chose to see the suffering and meet it with love, who decided they would be the right person to come along. People like the teachers and principal Dasani so desperately needs. We pay homage to those who helped us survive the night by candlelight.
75 thoughts on “We Survive the Night by Candlelight”
Sure not their parents failures but a failure of the society the came to join and show they inequality of our faith … Perhaps their pointing the way will guide us to the truth about ourselves?
Certainly the fault of the parents, though not theirs alone. That’s a series unto itself. I couldn’t elaborate, as I had to focus on the introduction of the new series. I am not dismissing the hardships and habits the parents inherited from their parents and the ghetto. But Dasani’s father chose not to work many seasons when he could’ve provided for his family. A very difficult situation. I appreciate your closing hope.
=) Thanks, buddy.
Diana, This is powerful, indeed. I find myself looking forward, and dreading the series. So important to give voice. Thank you.
No need for the dread. Well, compassion welcome. Remember, I am out to explore beauty and truth. =)
*Oh here, I can’t help hug you*
I look forward to the timely posts that focus us on the spirit of Christmas… to care about and love our fellow man. Starting with the people in our sphere of influence and then rippling outwards. May we grasp a candle and recognize that our little light collaboratively with others, can change the world for the better!
You are the second person to equate, or talk about loneliness during the holiday season
Because I remember and because it is prevalent.
Stories of Dasani break the heart, and your statistics make me cringe. I love Elinore Roosevelt and am glad you are featuring her series in a new way.
Break and cringe are right, Cindy. Eleanor made it a point to light candles for the downtrodden in war time. She knew loneliness from the sorrows of childhood. Thanks so much for being here.
A powerful message about making a difference!
Thanks, my friend. Hopefully we can share in a wonderful, thoughtful week.
“We pay homage to those who helped us survive the night by candlelight.”
I get goose bumps every time I read this phrase. Beautiful! xo
Thanks, M. (Guess whose writing I’m looking at this moment. ^^)
You are certainly adhering to your mantra, “I’ll rest when I’m dead!”
And you call ME busy! xo
LOL I slept….three hours?
*Brows furrowed, stern* I always keep my word.
You’re so cute with your furrowed brow 🙂
You reminded me. I need to work on that – it’s wearing a groove.
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Possibly, your most important series, D, and beautifully said. Thanks, –Curt
Now THAT makes me smile…and wonder. Huh. (I love how you make your few words count for a lot). =)
So appreciate the ongoing support, C.
You make it easy.
Didn’t have to go givin’ me credit for THAT.
I’m at a loss for words on this one. It has its beauty and ugliness in a manner of fact. While the stats are affected by the U.S.’s definition of poverty, it still appears a big, never-ending problem, with uneasy solutions.
If only more love was shared in the world… properly. (Predators.)
Right. And what the predators do isn’t love so yes, if only, AJ.
Profound post thank you .. we can all light candles in the darkness and shine a little light and see that we who are more fortunate can help in some way …
I appreciate your taking a moment, Susan.
You really do write the loveliest things 😉
I love your idea to bring stories of candles of light to ease the pain of others. Thanks for adding to the light Diana. This topic is poignant for me this year with my financial and emotional challenges.
I try to remember my blessings of home, food and shelter. Thanks. 🙂
I appreciate hearing how this post and series speak to you, Brad. Yes, I thought the metaphor appropriate in a season where we literally light candles.
Love and respect,
This was a beautiful piece. And I am never so grateful than at Christmas time.
Thanks for the good word and for the idea on the metaphor, John. =)
You are welcome.
I worked with foster kids and yes, Christmas is a difficult time for children whose parents for whatever reason are unable to fulfill all of the expectations we put on this season. It’s so sad. Your post is a powerful reminder of the hidden children.
Thanks, Jan. I hope you are blessed to read of the ways we can choose to bring healing to invisible pain, in this series. Just wonderful of you to have worked with foster kids.
I have to admit it was staggering to me to think that in the “land of plenty” there are so many who are left wanting. I knew that there are a lot of poor in America, but I never realized how much so. Thanks for sharing!
Yeah, wanted to get the word out with the numbers. The ritzy, wealthiest spots in NYC are right next to the projects. I know, crazy. Thanks for letting me know how this struck you.
Reblogged this on S.O.U.L. S-P-A-C-E.
If each of us, who are capable, can make a difference in just one life. The statistics you quote can deminish to a great extent. Christmas is a season that should encourage the charity in all. ?Not for a day; but, as a long term commitment.
Right, not just for a season. Thanks for keeping up and encouraging us all, Alan.
Posts like this break my heart.
Always better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
So true so sad. Yet we can make a difference. I teach special education students most of which are poor. The saddest thing is to see the light drain from their eyes. We need to keep the light burning. Lovely writing. I look forward to reading more.
“saddest thing is to see the light drain from their eyes.”
“Though we may not be able to rescue everyone from cold, hunger, sickness, or loneliness, we can make a profound difference in so many ways.”
Yes we can but not in the way you mean. This is a beautiful post which touches the heart and calls out to all of us to light the way for these children. Unfortunately we are not the problem. There are far more people wanting to adopt children than there are children available. in 2008 almost 600,000 women in the US were actively trying to adopt and most of them said they were willing to adopt older children, minorities or sibling groups, the very children in foster care that need families and are considered “hard to place.” What stops these women adopting are the obstacles placed in their way. It is far easier for an American family to adopt a child from across the world than to adopt a foster child across a state line. In 2010 Americans adopted 11,058 children from other countries but only 527 children from other states. Incentives matter.
If the laws were different Dasini would be allowed to leave her parents and find herself some decent foster parents. Unfortunately children have been deprived of most of their basic rights and so, if they run away from home they are treated like runaway slaves in former times and illegal immigrants today, forced to live in fear, at the fringes of society.
I actually didn’t spell out what it is I meant, MG, wanting to stick with the introduction of the series. One, bc what I meant is so open-ended and the point is we can make a difference in so many ways. Even the way the woman in the other car did when she saw – really saw – you behind the wheel and smiled sympathy – to reference an old post. Second, bc to elaborate would be to open the Pandora’s Box you did =). I don’t believe the onus falls as heavily on anyone as it does on the parents. The Times article slanted it against the city and the Mayoral administration that did indeed play a tragic hand against those mired in poverty. And I can go on about the bureaucracy that sets up tripping stones for stepping stones in so many areas of service (esp in that city) – as in education. But Dasani’s stepfather chose not to work some seasons when he had the opportunity. This failure to provide isn’t a blanket invitation for judgmt or censure bc we now get into the psyche, the grooves of thought habits and self-talk worn by decades of struggles he inherited from his own addict parents. But there’s no getting around it. D’s parents did not have to blow their welfare chk the first half of the month (a common habit among the poor, from the different accounts I’ve read), leaving themselves with nothing the rest. Reading their story, you know Dasani’s only chance of making it is to leave her family. But they love one another and have a bond strangers notice. It’s almost an impossible situation, which makes for an impossible discussion. But I wanted to at a basic level raise awareness and then simply share stories of the ways we can reach out and meet differing needs.
This is brilliantly written. I’ve seen so much poverty in my travels and its like a knife in the soul. Makes one careful about spending on oneself when there is so much need to support those less fortunate. Christmas is a good time to reflect on the greatest gift of all to a sad and suffering world.
Thanks, Ian. I appreciate your bringing your travels into this. Too familiar, huh? We ARE limited in what we can do, but hopefully we can inspire one another to the smallest gesture of compassion this wk.
Reblogged this on Amazing Fine Art.
Lovely piece, my friend. As Dicken’s said through Marley in a Christmas Carol (paraphrasing a little) “My business? Mankind was my business! The common welfare of others, my business.” And later through the businessmen seeking funds for the poor, “It is at this time of year, especially, that want is felt so deeply.”
Thanks for leaving this here for us. -)
It is heart wrenching to read this about Dasani, a fellow innocent human being that deserves none of this. It is so difficult to see the disparity of wealth in the United states, and also in Canada where I live.
Thank you for sharing this Diana to bring awareness. ( I did not know the statistics were that high)
Appreciate your input, Carl. Little we can do for the Dasanis but we have to start with the awareness.
Thanks for lighting your candle of hope and shining it into the darkness of Invisible Children – and our own dark places..
Yes, it was the dark places we all carry visible or not, I was referring to. I hear you and appreciate your keeping up.
Diana, this is such a beautiful ~ heartfelt post. The timing on reading this is incredible as well, as just finished a trip with Save the Children-HK to Tacloban, Philippines and while so much has been done to give children hope and dreams in this area, it also made me think how many more will never see opportunities they deserve… The small things (opportunities) that many of us can take for granted are things so many others will never see.
The words: “Dasani was on the cusp of becoming something more” ~ ring true for so many, as they not only have dreams but also the pain of seeing the impossibility of their situation. They just wait for one speck of opportunity to succeed. I do believe people, and children in particular, who have been through trials tend to latch onto an opportunity when (if) it presents itself. Their difficult paths spur them to succeed in areas many of us could never imagine. Beautiful post.
I’ve read of both cases, Randall:
1) Some will take no gesture of kindness, open door of possibility for granted the way we do everyday blessings.
2) Others remain frozen in defeating self-talk and keep themselves imprisoned no matter how hard the gov’t, friends, strangers try to pull them out. More the older people in this category.
I can only imagine what you saw and felt, and the ways you lit candles among those children, R. Wow. I am grateful you make it a point to keep up with the Holistic Journey on the busy trail. I’m so glad I got feature your work in this piece. =) Thx for getting on that so promptly.
Both cases ~ so real, and sad. A Holistic Journey indeed, and well done.
Such perfect use of the photo ~ a happy, proud smile in my heart 🙂
So important to not see ourselves as separate from the plight of others for sure. Even though we can’t save everyone, sometimes doing a little something can reverberate in ways that we don’t even know. Such a great reminder during the holidays-esp. when it can be easy to get lost in the gift giving and the money stress and the holiday family drama. (Still catching up on posts, so will definitely be back to read/comment more.) xo
Great point, Diahann, how we can lose sight of PEOPLE in all the activities and gifts! Thanks for trying to keep up. I always understand you’re tied up.
It was like I was reading about my country. Sometimes I think the only reason my people survive every time is that someone with a candle light comes along, at the right time, in the right place. This series is a remarkable way to end this year. I am excited to read what’s in store. You are an inspiration D. Much love.
Wow. I would not have thought of your country in quite this way, Nida. And you with your words of light for me…
Very moving and very fitting for this time of year when — amidst the shopping frenzy — we should remember the child in a manger.
I appreciate the lovely feedback, Anna.
great…….piece of work
Thank you. =) And I appreciate the follow.