The crowd began to gather at dusk. On the far end of the city park. The local community had been doing this, once a week, for over a year now. Ever Friday evening, various individuals and families would show up, quietly holding lit candles to remind them of someone they had lost to inner city violence so widespread on the city streets today.
This evening was no different and as it became darker the crowd grew larger, each person carrying a lit candle. There was a small stage with a platform set up in the back. One by one they’d walk up to the stage, turn and face the crowd, reverently mention the name of his or her “lost” relative or friend, turn and place their candle on the platform with the other candles and then leave the stage to make room for the next person.
As the sky darkened overhead, the amber glow from the stage increased. Those in the large crowd still holding candles waited patiently for their turn, while the ones who had placed their candles on the platform stood nearby towards the back, heads bowed.
At the very edge of the crowd there appeared a single candle glow, much brighter than the others, and all those standing and waiting, turned to view this candle being held by a young girl, weaving very slowly between the people in the crowd. They began to part, clearing a pathway for her as she made her way, candle held in both hands, to the the front of the stage.
She was given a helping hand up onto the stage steps and then she walked to the center and turned to face the gathered crowd. She spoke not a word just lifted the candle high in front of her. An adult walked over to her and said, “Would you like to say who this candle is for my child?”
She nodded, still holding the candle strongly out in front of her. The candle glowed more brightly than ever. Softly but clearly she spoke.
“I live around the corner, in a small house. It is just my mother and myself. My mother works long hours so I spend a lot of time alone. When you started your candle light tribute a year ago I began to watch and I’d come and listen to each person speak of those they had lost. And then the other day I realized someone had been forgotten so I am here tonight for that one.”
She paused at this point, still looking out at the silent and spell bound audience. They, enchanted by this young girl standing there so solemn, her candle flickering slightly in the evening breeze.
The adult leaned over again and asked her, “And who might this candle be for my child?”
The little girl’s answer was quietly spoken yet heard all the way to the back of the gathering.
“I hold this candle for the one no one remembered. The one who had no one who cared. Who came and went alone in life. For this person then do I hold the candle.
So none be forgotten, this candle is for that one.”
Millions of children, in the United States alone runaway each year. Many are never found. Many many more millions of children around the planet are homeless and all too often also end up being alone. It is a sadness beyond belief that on our (civilized?) planet today so many children suffer and die needlessly and alone.
Penny L Howe, 2013