July 16 • 07:31 PM

Book offers a different view

June 11, 2008
Every time I run across a Covenant House book, I read it. So, when I found Children of Eve at the Ruth Hughes Library book sale right before our Iowa trip, I bought it to take along. The collection of books, meant to raise public awareness, is a running story of America's homeless kids as seen through the eyes of some very caring people who try to throw out lifelines, and who chart for the readers the fallout from our shifting culture.

Throughout this particular book, author/Covenant House van driver/sandwich dispenser/counselor Kevin Casey immerses us in the lives of Lisa, who has given herself the street name Stray, and members of the only family with whom she feels safe. This composite of quotes provide a window into her soul.

Lisa walked more briskly than usual...mostly to conceal the fact that today she had nowhere to go...She didn't have a dime in her pocket. Freshly exiled from her father's house, she needed something to do. A mission. Something to busy herself, to hold off the panic that threatened to overwhelm her if she stopped, if she slowed down, if she started to think...running out of pride and energy...watched..."I can survive against this screwed up, evil world.'' She was drawn to it...Didn't know 'til sucked into it that underneath cool masks they were feeling exactly what she felt friends all had street names. She liked the anonymity, the freedom from the past, the control over the future, over one's destiny, that was suggested by the act of renaming herself...Said, "I'm Stray.''

The lie. The name. They afforded her only a modicum of protection and power. But it was enough...image alone went a long way in influencing the people around her and bolstering her fears...Before long, she would be hard-core herself. The cool mask would serve her so well she would rarely feel safe enough to take it off. And the longer it stayed one, the more fights she skirted, the more dumpsters she scavenged, the more of her values she overlooked to survive, the tighter the mask would become.

Soon the very parts of Stray the mask was designed to protect, the parts of her that fell in love, that trusted, that she had put away for safekeeping, would no longer be available even to Stray herself. She would become thickly mired in her own misery, loneliness and desperation—all beneath a cool, unconcerned mask.

"If you ever got out of here, what job would you take if you could do any-thing you wanted?'' I asked..."I'd like a job working with animals.''... Of course she would, I thought, smiling. She could love them and they would never let her down. Even if they did, say by getting run over, it wouldn't be their fault. They were innocent. They were victims, like her. Then it dawned on me. Stray, her street name. It was perfect.

Someone should write a prayer for our kids...some combination of words and images that express their young innocence, the des-perate sadness and longing for love that wails almost inaudibly behind the anger and sarcasm, the thick "coolness'' that suggests everything is fine and they'd rather be left alone.

Thought that view through a different window was worth passing on.

Castle Creek
Napco Pipe
07 - 16 - 19
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