My grief comes in waves. Recently I’ve been in a trough, although there are thousand little peaks and lows between every crest. Every hour is not gloomy, but I can recognize the trough from the sheer quantity of lows. It’s been a lot.

The other night I watched a 1984 documentary, Streetwise, about the lives of street kids in Seattle at the time. It’s an amazing piece of art, intensely honest and tragic and beautiful. The kids were all running from something even more grim than life on the streets. It’s grim all the same. Boys peddle, thieve, and pull tricks to scrape by. Girls sell the only product that they can. Everyone finds escape somehow, usually chemical.


Rat, photo by Mary Ellen Mark 1983

My dad reminded me strongly of one of the main children the documentary followed, Rat. They grew up similarly; no dad, absent mom, combative, savvy, and proud. He pulled tricks and sold things and I grew up hearing the glory stories as if it were a fairy tale. We all know how he ended up.

There are between 100 and 150 million children living in the streets around the world RIGHT NOW. 250,000 die EVERY WEEK from diseases and malnutrition. 2 million children are objects of sexual abuse. Child pornography and demand for child prostitutes continues to increase globally.

And the ripples caused by each tragedy are felt for generations.

3 thoughts on “Rat

  1. Its not just the kids that choose to live on the streets that suffer. Some kids, people try to save. Unfortunately for most of them, the damage inflicted in their years of trauma, all too frequently, are unsurmountable to recover from … regardless of the love, support and benefits bestowed upon them. It is imbedded in their chemistry … from their parents and their parents’ traumas; then compounded by their own experiences. Recently they have even determined that humans actually pass “it” on biologically to their offspring; not just the biological chemical imbalances, but also their “traumas” which chemically alter them.

    Is all hope lost? No. What is needed to overcome these human and biological issues? Still more love, compassion and opportunity … simply hope. Hope and understanding gives more to damaged souls then anyone can comprehend, if only they are able and willing to accept it. If truly thought about … acceptance is simply the hardest of all tasks that a soul must undertake. Once acceptance is realize, only then can healing begin. Once there is acceptance then hope is achieved. Even the most damaged soul can try to alter the path on which their life was set if they can accept from where they came and what needs to change. They can truly believe in “normalcy” and do everything in their power to try to achieve that for themselves and their families. I have personally witnessed this in more than one person in my life … including your dad.

    I can’t imagine the grief at your loss. I can’t imagine your grief for what was lost to your father. I can’t possibly imagine the heart ache and soul searching that people from your and similar circumstances must bare (including my own husband). Embrace acceptance as it will lead to hope. Where there is hope … that is where healing of a soul exists … where love exists … and only then there can be peace.

    Your journey is not an easy one, but knowing the strong individual that you are … knowing the compassion in your heart … these life experiences and tragedies, will grow that same compassion and your heart. This will lead to acceptance … to hope … to life.

    God Bless,

  2. I lived Rat’s life. Never had a father and Mom had a borderline personality. I hit the streets at 14 to escape pedophilic grandfather. The streets are hard and raw bu it was my first Father. WE learn to deal with the pain of the loss of childhood and if lucky we find someone to make us whole. Rat and I had another thing in common, intelligence. Pray for those who were too feeble or injured to help themselves. I would remind all Americans that this great nation has no concern for these children, NONE. So it is up to you to care.

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