Sunday Reflection: On Living in Limbo
I’m moving. At least I think I am. The truck came and packed up all of my remaining earthly possessions and drove off to parts unknown. The only time I hear from the moving company is when they need money.
I’m selling my house. I have a wonderful realtor who is doing almost all of the work for me and I am so, so grateful.
I’ve found an apartment, moved in temporarily with my sister’s family (until the moving truck arrives), and have an almost unparalleled emotional, physical, and financial support system. And I am still a total wreck. My anxiety rears its ugly head on a daily basis. I’m having trouble sleeping. The highlight of my day was a 10 minute conversation with a shopkeeper about his grandchildren pictured behind the register. Everything else is a dizzying blur of the unfamiliar, the uncomfortable, or the extremely unwelcome.
I cannot begin to comprehend what it must feel like to be a teen or tween living in limbo.
My first job as a professional librarian was at an elementary school where around 95% of the students lived in abject poverty in the midst of one of the most wealthy, highly educated regions of the country. When I asked them where they lived, they would give me the name of the section of the city in which the school was located – B…town. No, I would say, where is your house? What street do you live on? They would stare at me with a blank expression until their teacher, more familiar with the area than I by far, would say, “Baby, she means where do you stay?” Dawning comprehension, “Oh, I stay at my grandma’s house.” Or my cousins’ house. Or my uncle’s house. Uncle never really meant uncle.
These were the children I grew up knowing as the ones my girl scout troop bought Christmas presents for every year. Or groceries to make Thanksgiving dinner. My Mom did the best she could to expose us to the realities of other people’s lives, but she could never have imagined this level of financial insecurity. Most of these families at least had a secure spot in government funded housing. While it wasn’t great, they usually knew where their next meal was coming from, and that when they got home from school they would still be living in the same place.
I have a number of friends who take in foster children. One couple lives in a cheerful, bright purple house. Their most recent placement included a 3-year-old who exclaimed, “You mean I get to live here?” when the social worker brought him to them. It’s his third placement. His little sister isn’t even familiar with their mother. His childish excitement makes me wonder, how many foster care placements will he have? Even if they are all as warm, loving, and wonderful as this couple, how will this impact his social, emotional, and intellectual development. What does it mean to a child, a tween, or a teen, to live with that kind of uncertainty. It’s a miracle they can function at all. I can barely function under the temporary strain of my really quite easy (in perspective) move.
Just like the tweens and teens with whom we work, though, we can gain insight and empathy into other’s lives through well written portrayals of their circumstances. My first suggestion is Todd Strasser’s Can’t Get There From Here. This excellent novel explores the lives of teens who have chosen to live on the streets rather than live with the abuse, of one kind or another, with which they are faced at home.
I’d also recommend reading the following:
- Begging for Change by Sharon Flake
- Runaway by Wendelin Van Draanen
- Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick
- Tyrell by Coe Booth
- No Place by Todd Strasser
Filed under: Sunday Reflections
About Robin Willis
After working in middle school libraries for over 20 years, Robin Willis now works in a public library system in Maryland.
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