The Children in Cookie Cutter Houses

Her mother abandoned her with her four brothers and sisters and took off to Mexico.

She was fragile without a whole lot to give anyway. So, she ushered the children from one house to another; to this child’s father, then to that child’s father. Living on the streets at times, the dark-haired gem had no one truly to lean on except the Christians who held church nearby in an old seed and feed building.

She’s not a story of Childhelp, but she certainly could be.

In the heart of central Phoenix resides full blown poverty. Children of undocumented immigrants, children of drug addicts, children of the working poor who help out as much as their maturity can allow as their parents struggle to survive. These are children who all too often collide with tumultuous relationships, survive fits of rage from drug- and depression-induced stupors, and somehow, by some grace, go on to graduate and make something of their lives.

These kinds of stories make me reflect back on the few years that I spent as an education reporter in the East Valley suburbs just outside of metropolitan Phoenix. In the neighborhoods lined with cookie cutter houses with three-car garages, you would never think that anything’s amiss. Children make it to school. They’re clothed and bathed. They have backpacks and seemingly, the things they need.

But they’re still poor. Their parents just hide it well.

These are the kids of the free and reduced federal lunch program. Educators used to tell me how only meals these children would likely receive would be the ones they ate at school. It’s the reason for the before-school breakfast program and the summertime lunch program. No child should go without a meal. No child should feel unsafe.

No child should, but it happens every day.

So I reflect on the stories of poverty I hear and I think “what can be done?”

  • I can keep my eyes open and offer to bring a meal to a family I know.
  • I can donate items to local food, clothing and back-to-school drives.
  • I can donate to Childhelp to assist kids who are being neglected.
  • I can voice my thoughts and beliefs when I vote.

All too often it’s easy to get caught up in our daily lives and simply forget. So what can we do? I don’t have the answers, but all of this undulates in my head and makes me uncomfortable. In a good way.

What will you do?


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