It is with some regret that I am able to announce that a book of mine first published almost twenty years ago is once more available for purchase. This is not false modesty on my part, though looking over the manuscript in preparation for its reprint, I can see some things I would change if I was starting all over again.
No, the real disappointment is that though it may be a little dated, there’s still much regrettable relevance to Street Children: The Tragedy and Challenge of the World’s Millions of Modern-Day Oliver Twists. Since the book first came out in 1996, we’ve worked out how to share cute videos of cats with people on the other side of the globe, but we haven’t figured out what to do about or with a generation of abused, abandoned, and runaway kids.
Some of the statistics have changed since I researched and traveled, from Manila, the Philippines to Belo Horizonte, Brazil and Los Angeles—but not for the better. And there are newer, equally disturbing stories to tell. But the heart of the matter has not changed much; that there’s something very wrong with a world that cares so little about those Jesus called its “little ones.”
If there’s one positive development in the past few years, and even that casts shadows, it’s the growing awareness of and concern about human trafficking. The dark side of the sex industry is inextricably linked with teens and children, for whom homelessness creates fertile hunting grounds for predators.
Kids end up on the streets, fending for themselves, for many reasons, of course. Some go there to try to support their families. Some run away from abuse or neglect. Some are lured by the bright lights. And some, hard as it may be to believe in an ordered, safe, Western way of life, just get lost along the way, like Saroo Brierley.
Watching his story made me wonder about some of the youngsters I met in my travels. I doubt that they enjoyed similarly happy endings. Where are they now? Did they find hope away from the streets? Are they still there? Are they even still alive?
Remarkably, some of those I met who were seeking to help the runaways and throwaways to be found in every urban center are still there, caring and continuing to offer help and hope. My initial admiration for their unstinting efforts is all the greater.
Though I’m rather disappointed Street Children is available again (in print and e-formats, in-store and online), I’m encouraged to believe it continues to have some relevance and value by an email that came from out of the blue just a few days ago.
Someone had just come across a copy of the original 1996 edition in a used book collection at a public library in Siloam Springs, Ark. She wrote to say thanks for the “wonderful (though sad) book,” and ask whether I’m still advocating for the disadvantaged.
So I hope that you will consider buying a copy of Street Children. In doing so, I trust you may be informed a little more about a still-compelling issue, and inspired to play some part in addressing it. As with the first edition, and the revised one that came out in 2003, all author-proceeds will go to support street children organizations and endeavors.