Things I read this week, 2/23

I have more time for reading now that I am a public transportation traveler, and I find myself more inclined to read an article or blog post than catch up on fiction while I’m on the train. My Instapaper queue is pretty robust right now (with help from Longreads), but I only have one thing to link to this week:

Invisible Child: Dasani’s Homeless Life by Andrea Elliott for The New York Times

Dasani works to keep her homelessness hidden. She has spent years of her childhood in the punishing confines of the Auburn shelter in Brooklyn, where to be homeless is to be powerless. She and her seven siblings are at the mercy of forces beyond their control: parents who cannot provide, agencies that fall short, a metropolis rived by inequality and indifference.

The experience has left Dasani internally adrift, for the losses of the homeless child only begin with the home itself. She has had to part with privacy and space — the kind of quiet that nurtures the mind. She has lost the dignity that comes with living free of vermin and chronic illness. She has fallen behind in school, despite her crackling intelligence.

This five-part longform piece was published back in December, a couple months before I moved into the same borough as Dasani and her family. There’s already been a lot written in response to “Invisible Child,” so I won’t summarize it (and, really, you should read it) or attempt to add to the many excellent response pieces out there. I will say, though, that it cause me to do a little introspection about my own place in this world, and in particular, this city, and what I can contribute. I’m thinking that I wasn’t the only person who looked inward after reading this article.

I admit that all too often I think and reflect without acting. NYC Service and New York Cares are two volunteer organizations that I spent some time investigating this afternoon. The value of service was heavily emphasized in my upbringing, and yet it has been years since I can say I truly donated my time and effort to causes like the ones I see on those sites. I need to change that. I will soon.

“Invisible Child” is heartbreaking and frustrating, with shades of both despair and hope. If all it does is inspire a few people like me to give back to the community, then I’d call it’s a successful piece. But I think – I hope – it will do more.


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