Invisible Children

A mom recently told me about a fundraiser that her daughter and several friends participated in to support “Invisible Children” in Uganda.  The kids slept without blankets or sleeping bags in a church, a small taste of discomfort to deepen their empathy for what fellow kids faced in far-off lands where being abducted is a daily concern, and huddling together to stay warm at night a necessary survival strategy.

This is a very worthy cause (if this stirs your interest, visit:, but it also got me thinking about a friend who went to India and spontaneously tagged along with an Italian doctor into the slums of Calcutta, helping mothers and children in dire poverty.  This friend also visited Mother Theresa’s facility and bore witness to the dying… and then he ended up gravely ill in a hospital, further witnessing dying children in the arms of malnourished mothers.

This friend ended up back in LA, sitting across from me at lunch where there was a tinge of Heart of Darkness horror in his formerly white-light luminescent eyes.  This is not to say that he did not find India magical, nor to negate several friends who are quite in love with it, but it does mark a contrast with the friend who found exuberant joys in the sewers of Mumbai (for that see:  One of my friend’s conclusions was that he didn’t necessarily need to go all the way to India to help, that this was not always good for us, and that there are plenty of people closer to home who also could use whatever extra help we have to offer.

The notion of “invisible children” also got me thinking about the group home kids I worked with, those years offering a window into situations and systems of which I had little previous awareness—the notorious (and now closed) Maclaren Hall, Youth Authority, a young kid who’d been in gunfight on the street, cowering behind a mailbox, never knowing if he’d actually shot someone, only that the shooting on the other side of the street stopped and then he ran away.

While there are kids who need, and deserve help, all over our planet; sometimes we forget that hardly any of us (if we’re fortunate enough to be living above the poverty line) couldn’t travel a couple of miles from our homes to find those who are living in deprivation or danger.  Often we need travel a lot less than that.

Parents too, especially those who struggle alone, in economic hardship, trying to make the holidays nice, or at least not emblems of deprivation for our kids who may or may not understand the bigger picture, may also feel rather invisible, and so whatever love and recognition we can muster in places like this blog can be dedicated to aiding them in the unseen and thankless task of being their best Selves on a potentially tough Christmas.

Finally, I think of our own children—the ones who become “invisible” when I’m immersed in writing a blog (meaning to help others while leaving my own kid hanging), or on a call to someone who needs a little extra even though my own kid might need a little extra too.  I say this to “out” myself for sometimes running out of energy because I “gave at the office,”  and, hopefully, as a post-it to myself to finish up this blog right about now (at the office, in the afternoon) and remember to stay engaged this evening, at home.  I suspect that many of my fellow parents know exactly what I mean.

So, let’s dedicate today to actually seeing whatever kids come across our paths—those in peril and poverty around the globe (and I do believe that sending love, although not enough to change things without action, is at least better than indifference and the furtherance of denial), as well as those kids closer to home, walking to empty homes and empty cupboards who we see out of the corner of our eye as we drive our kids to our homes, and finally our own children who can sometimes disappear into their rooms, their games, their texts… as we tell ourselves that they’re more into their friends now… when in fact they really do want a little time with us.

Namaste, Bruce

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2 Responses to “Invisible Children”

  1. Cathy Says:

    According to a new study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one in six Americans currently go hungry, or have insufficient food. In other words there are impoverished and “invisible” children right here in the “land of plenty.”

    No better reason to take care of our own who are in need.

    Also Bruce, thanks for the guilt! There has been more than one occasion where my boys disappeared into their rooms because mom was working. Time lost, love wasted!

  2. Kristen Says:

    I’ve often thought about the first part of the dilemma you outline in wondering how to allocate my charitable giving. I think I have a bias of giving to the poor in the developing world – as though there is a certain nobility about their poverty that is lacking among the poor in our “land of plenty.” Your post helped me not only to see the shortsightedness of that view, but also to consider the ways in which charity really does begin in our own homes, in the requests of our own children – for attention, mostly, for affection.

    As always, thanks for making me think today.

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