Ever wonder what it would be like to be invisible? You could go around and nobody would see you. Nobody would know you existed. Do you remember playing hide and seek? Wow. If you were invisible, you could always win the game because no one would be able to find you.
What a game. It was great being invisible until you discovered that if no one cared to find you, you really did not win.
Regrettably, there is a similar game being played in the Gulf Coast.
Our children appear to be invisible. But it is no game — it is a situation of life and death. And right before our eyes we are witnessing the most devastating reality of what it means to be invisible in the richest country in the world. Right before our eyes we are losing our children.
We are literally losing our children due to the lack of adequate health care, public education and housing.
There are over 125,000 displaced families in the Gulf Coast. In a Red Cross shelter north of Birmingham, Ala., there are over 2,000 children who have lost their parents. In a FEMA trailer park outside of Baton Rouge, La., 700 of the 1,670 residents are children.
In the richest nation in the world one-fifth to one-fourth of our children are growing up in poverty. Of the $1.9 trillion of tax cuts — which will give the richest 1 percent of taxpayers an additional $57 billion each year — we could instead provide health care for all 9 million uninsured children and end child poverty in America.
Centuries ago Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do nothing to hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Matthew 19:14). Maybe we missed Jesus' request.
Sometimes I wonder where our priorities are. A wise man once said: "Where your heart is there also is your treasure." Are our children our treasure? It is extremely painful to note that one in three sheltered children in the Gulf Coast region has some type of chronic illness.
Are our children our treasure?
In the Gulf Coast region, half of the children who had some level of health coverage do not have any now.
Are our children our treasure? Did the need for health care coverage just disappear? I guess invisible people don't need health care.
The Children's Defense Fund recently released a "Call to Action for Katrina's Children." It calls in part for: immediate emergency mental health and health services for children and their families; quality public education and after-school and summer education; as much attention focused on constructing levees of support for strong health care, family and public education for the construction of the physical levies that will hold back the water in future storms; and prayer for Katrina children and families and for leaders who work for justice. Prayer and action will make a difference. Our children must be made visible.
Maybe, just maybe, if we lift our voices to make their needs known, our children will not disappear right before our eyes. Maybe, just maybe, we will find our treasure. The invisible can be made visible.
Carl Wallace is an executive associate with the United Church of Christ's Witness and Justice Ministries.