Since I come in contact with, literally, hundreds of kids a week now, I am exposed to a whole different set of variables. From pathogens to young geniuses (I can think of three kids right of the bat who I know are pretty wicked damn smart) to teachers looking more forward to retirement than tomorrow's lesson plan to kids who are little more than an afterthought in their parent's lives to worse.

I've known about abuse and neglect and just plain old ignoring for my whole life, an offshoot of a mother in social work dealing with lives derailed by violence, abuse and illness (mental and physical). I can vividly remember a movie I saw about child abuse cases in Baltimore County when I couldn't have been more than 8. A little girl living in a closet, forced to eat her own damned blanket and pillow because her parents forgot or didn't want to feed her.

Anyway, I've heard stories, seen some family dynamics in action, watched the life drain out of happy little kids when they see their father or mother coming to pick them up. Its actually pretty heart rending to think about.

One story I've heard was about a girl in the third or fourth grade that'd finally gotten a bed to sleep in as she'd always been sleeping on the couch. Another teacher asked if that was the girl who's mother drove the new Mercedes and yeah, it was. Enough money to buy a fancy, fancy car but not enough to have a bed for your child? Sad. And harmful in ways that are impossible to fathom. Talk about using self esteem like a doormat.

Another little girl has a working father who's gone all the time and a mother who's too busy cleaning, cooking and caring for the rest of the family to give her the time of day much less a little mothering.

And the worst part is that even knowing these stories I know there are worse that haven't been told, that haven't been exposed, that some of the kids in my schools live horrible lives of fear and sadness. It sucks to think about really.