09/05/2008 08:45 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011


With the Democratic National Convention last week and the Republican National Convention this week, we've been focused on the big issues facing our country. The economy. The war. The environment. Health care. Race. Gender.

We've forgotten the little things. A pencil. A notebook. A folder. School books. Clothes. Lunch money. Looking at the big issues through the eyes of children might change our perspective on the American Dream.

We worry about the election and what our votes will bring for tomorrow. But many children still have to tackle the problems of today.


By IKnowRight

As a little girl, I remember seeing the homeless and unemployed people standing on the sides of highways and street corners with their cardboard signs reading "Homeless...will work for food" or something else along those lines. Most of the time I ignored them. After all, I was little and I didn't fully understand what they were doing. I saw them, but I didn't see them.

Sometimes my mother would roll down the window and give them some loose change from inside of our car. However, the majority of the time, she just drove on by. We just moved on, never really thinking about them again.

As I grew older I started wondering more about these people. I wondered if they really were homeless and if they really were hungry. I wondered if they were addicted to drugs and just looking for an income to support their habit. I wondered how they ended up on the side of the road begging for assistance from complete strangers. I thought about them for the amount of time they were in my sight, but when I couldn't see them anymore, they vanished from my mind.

What I saw yesterday, though, will never vanish from my mind. It will stick with my for the rest of my life. And everytime I complain, belittle someone or take what I have for granted, I will think of what I saw yesterday and I will feel ashamed.

Yesterday, as I was riding in the car with my mom and brother, I saw the saddest thing I will probably ever see. It was a boy, standing across the street from Wal-Greens on the side of the road. He looked about 13- or 14-years-old. His clothes were clean and his hair was cut, but something was missing in his face. His eyes were empty, barren. He had no dignity and no pride. He stood bare, right down the street from my house with a cardboard sign that read:

Please help. My mom cannot afford to buy school supplies for me and my brothers and sisters. There are five of us. Thanks.

My mom leaned out of the window and gave him twenty dollars, I gave him five. And we drove off. But his face stuck.

"Damn," my mom said.

I cried after seeing that boy on the side of the street. If he was lying about his situation, then God will deal with him. But in my heart, I believed that he wasn't because his face was empty. Something so simple, like school supplies. It just was so heartbreaking to see.

I can't tell people not to complain. But I know that after seeing that boy yesterday, I'm going to try a little harder not to.

Share your community stories with us on Tokoni, America's virtual front porch.