Myths Over Miami
I’m currently getting ready to sit down and watch the The Two Towers Extended Version with some friends tonight. However, earlier today, I read an article about a different kind of a fairy tale, the kind told by children trying to cope with a hellish existence I can’t even begin to comprehend.
This article (originally written back in 1997) chronicles the rise of a mythology among the street children of Miami. As an attempt to make sense of being kicked out their homes, fending off abusive parents, dodging drive-by shootings, these children have created their own fables and stories. They read like a combination of movie plots and half-remembered Sunday school stories, and seem to span across cultures and centuries. And in some ways, they probably say more about the desperate straits of these kids than any statistic or “official” report.
Research by Harvard’s Robert Coles indicates that children in crisis — with a deathly ill parent or living in poverty — often view God as a kind, empyrean doctor too swamped with emergencies to help. But homeless children are in straits so dire they see God as having simply disappeared. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam embrace the premise that good will triumph over evil in the end; in that respect, shelter tales are more bleakly sophisticated. ‘One thing I don’t believe,’ says a seven-year-old who attends shelter chapels regularly, ‘is Judgment Day.’ Not one child could imagine a God with the strength to force evildoers to face some final reckoning. Yet even though they feel that wickedness may prevail, they want to be on the side of the angels.
That last sentence just blows me away and humbles me. It’s an incredibly fascinating and intriguing article, but also one that’s very sobering and riveting.