It’s 9:41 pm and a typical Monday night. My laptop is open and i’m slowly getting through emails and to-do’s left undone. Tonight I recline in the dark with a little body curled up to mine, who has fallen asleep half sitting up, his head resting against the sofa. he is under a soft blanket he shares with me and breathes heavy and content. The little 4 year old tyrant was like a hostage negotiation about an hour ago; demanding all sorts of ridiculousness in order to go to bed and stay in bed. I lost the negotiation, hence he is curled up beside me. They’re so much easier to love when they’re sleeping. It’s amazing that you can go form anger to adoration within 2 minutes of your child falling asleep.
Adoration set in. I look at his innocent face, and thank God that I am able to cover him with a blanket and a roof and a soft, safe, and familiar place to sleep. He will be carried upstairs like a baby and placed in his bed. And probably at 2 am he will sleepwalk down the hall and crawl into his moms’ bed. The kid’s got options. And in these moments of stark acknowledgment of the extravagant blessing of being able to provide for your kids, my heart breaks for the hundreds of moms and dads who simply cannot. I wonder how many kids within a 20 mile radius of my safe and warm home are propped up against far less cozy places. Kids that might not be under a bridge but are on a dirty couch at a parents friends’ house; with loud and unfamiliar noises and people passing through. Others settle into cheap hotel rooms that are bathed in the smell of stale cigarettes because management long ago gave up the battle. They eat fast food and take out. Their clothes are hung to dry over the bathtub after their mom washed them with the provided bar of hotel hand soap in the bathroom sink. Some sleep in cars, under as many blankets as their parents can find, while their parents shiver in the dark; wishing they could sacrifice more to make their kid safe and comfortable.
I know these kids are out there because i’ve met them. I’ve walked in those hotel rooms and met with the moms, and seen the cars they sleep in. And on nights like this, where i gaze at my own child my heart breaks for all the children who aren’t being gazed at. The children who are not warm and safe and comfortable. The kids whose parents left them in seedy hotel rooms to work the streets, or to work midnight shifts to try an make ends meet so they had enough money to pay for another night of shelter. The parents aren’t bad. Let’s not vilify to assuage our discomfort or our guilt of disparity. These moms and dads are trying as hard as they possibly can with the tools they have to work with.
If you’ve been blessed with a tool box of education and family support and socioeconomic status, then it is up to us to share those tools so that maybe one more kid is tucked in safe and warm and comfortable.
Let’s not pretend there are no homeless children in Washtenaw County. Let’s face it. Share our resources; give, coach, mentor, give rides, and comfort; even if it’s outside of our comfort zone. Maybe especially if it’s outside of our comfort zone. Because in getting out of ours, we can get some kids into their own. Maybe even for the first time.