Every school day, for a couple of hours, I see them. They are the castoffs from an affluent society and they are more numerous than you think. Their lives are immeasurably tougher than you can imagine.
There is Pleasant Grove and then there is deep Pleasant Grove. I see both. The former is bad enough to be intolerable. The latter has to be seen, smelled, and heard to be believed. Deep Pleasant Grove is awash in the detritus of what had been a middle class area in the 1950's. The Main Street of deep P.G. is South Buckner Boulevard, a thoroughly ugly artery that has a new check-cashing store added each week. I counted 28 used-car dealers between Lake June Rd. and Elam Rd, a distance of less than two miles.
It's the people that alternately touch me and disgust me. I've seen a certain woman three times now on the peculiarly named "Antoinette" St. She is an elderly white woman whose gait and mannerisms fairly shout mental illness. She appears to weigh 80 pounds at the most. She is always carrying something in a plastic bag. My guess is that she is returning from a trip to the convenience store up the street and that the bag contains the bare essentials of her food supply. It breaks my heart.
I see welfare mommas entering the campus of Frederick Douglass Elementary. Since this is my fourth year to run this route, I've come to recognize many of them. They are perpetually pregnant. More often than not, they are also hand-in-hand with two toddlers...and they're arriving at the school to pick up the child(ren) in kindergarten. Their faces bear the marks of struggle...not necessarily physical marks, but displaying defeat, remorse, and anger. They don't know life, they know survival. They are ill-equipped to reverse or even slow down the cycle of poverty, children, and transient boyfriends.
I am as far away from a solution to all this as east is from the west. Where would you start? I mean, what is the first thing that needs to be done? Should we be more concerned with their physical plight or their souls? I haven't even a whimper of a clue. I do know how good it feels to get in my car and return to the land of plenty. And how bad it makes me feel.