I am a product of an abusive upbringing, and I have many complicated emotions that I deal with everyday, but, in addition to that abuse, I had a lot of love, and that promise of a unicorn at the end of my challenges was enough.
My heart always goes out to these students when I read their journals, hear about the abuse they experienced, and then I look for the love, and I don't find any. A child will have a harder time growing up and having mature feelings when they don't know love early. They need to know love early. When they don't know love early, and then continue to not find it in their childhood, they will seek it out in other forms: teenage pregnancy, drugs, and, yes, even suicide (because the love they are seeking there, is the possibility that someone will care after they die, and they know that memory will last...selfish...but effective).
I teach many at-risk-youth, and I see the hunger in their eyes, and I know it's too late to feed them what they want. I try to give them tools that will build up some self-knowledge that might circumnavigate some of the pitfalls they could easily find themselves in, but...it's still too late. Bill Richardson, former governor of New Mexico, believed that the panacea for child poverty was education and starting that education in preschools. I worked as a theater artist in the Americorps program at some of these preschools, and I know, first hand, that he is right. 2-year-olds know when they are not being fed the right foods, and they know when they are not happy with their home life (often this manifests in lack of speech). 3-year-olds recognize the behavior they see in their households and they begin to emulate it and take their frustration out on other children because they don't have enough language to find another way of dealing with those emotions. I watched a homeless 3-year-old pinch her 2-year-old sister until she bled, and I asked her why she did it, and she said, "That's how mommy gets her to shut up."
My true conflicting feelings here are that I am just a theater artist, and I can't be everywhere at once, and I can't make plays with preschoolers in lead roles...but, I want that voice heard. The insidious class-systems of the United States of America is what is killing the United States of America. (And, no one wants to talk about the fact that we have any caste systems or class systems). Our complacency to ignore the ills of the world and our sense of entitlement that as an "independent" nation, we don't have to care.
It is theater's job to help bring about change in the minds and hearts of human beings. It was its ritualistic job: to purge the bad with rituals through teaching people those rituals to ward off the bad that may come in the future. Education is key, and early. I will put my money and energy into this because my heart is broken from a girl who has no future now because she had no sense of self-worth and allowed a man to give her that worth, and once he gave it to another woman, that woman needed to pay, and did, with her life - a life that was 11 years younger than the one that took it, and had just graduated high school - the girl who was murdered was robbed of any immortality, any progeny...it was too soon for her. And, now, there are four children by the alleged murderer who will pay even more. Who will love them? Because clearly the father is out of the picture, the mother is out of the picture, and that mother didn't have a foundation in the first place. That cycle will continue, and I have no solution for it.