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Lions Roar : January 2015
Who Will Get to Them First? By adaM BucKo it’s niGht-tiMe. I am walking outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal, that depressing brick behemoth on 42nd Street and Eight Avenue that is the main hub for buses arriving to and departing from New York City. I am looking for homeless kids, trying to spot new arrivals that might still be hanging out, unsure of where to go. I keep my gaze active, scanning the out- side and the various crevices of the building. Tonight, like every night, there are about 4,000 kids in New York City who will spend the night on the street. While most of us will be comfortably resting in our beds, many of these 4,000 will sleep on the subway, in an abandoned building, or with a person with whom they will have to compromise their dignity in exchange for a place to sleep. I want to reach them to offer help before they disappear into the Manhattan sinkhole. But I am not the only one looking for them. As soon as they step off the bus, there is a chain of pimps waiting for them, ready to promise them the future that they dream of. Ready to mesmer- ize their minds, stab their souls, and imprison their consciences. In 2004, Taz Tagore and I co-founded the Reciprocity Foun- dation, an organization that offers street youth support and helps them build healthy and successful lives. Our job is to catch the kids before they become victims of this never-ending cycle of horror, abuse, and prostitution. It is just a question of who gets to them first. A long time ago, I learned that if I want to be effective in my work, I have to walk the streets with certainty. I have to act and feel as if these streets are an extension of my living room. This aura of ease confuses all the pimps and the other sketchy characters here that are used to seeing fear in everyone around them. They are not sure what to make of me. They don’t know who I know or who I run with, and so they leave me alone. I walk into the station to see if I can find any newcomers. Kids come here from all around the country for various reasons. Some come because they were asked to leave by their parents. Some because their families were too poor to take care of them. Some because they aged out of the foster care system. Upon turning seventeen or eighteen, they were simply dropped off at the Grey- hound bus station and told to follow their dreams. Some come here because they have suffered abuse by a family member, and the only way to escape that—other than suicide—is to run away. Some kids come to New York City because they are gay, and they have been kicked out by religious parents who believe that the harsh reality of the street will convince them to “change their ways.” Over the years, I have met thousands of homeless kids. Some I was able to help, and some I lost. So, here I am today walking these streets, knowing that each time I see a kid, it might be the last time. Knowing this changes everything. Knowing this lends urgency to my work. Vandana Shiva Saving Sacred Seeds in the late 1960s, the Green Revolution hit India full force. A new disease-resistant, high-yield variety of rice was intro- duced, along with synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and more intensive irrigation and management techniques. Almost over- night, the skyrocketing Indian population was no longer on the brink of famine. In 1966, India imported eleven million tons of grain; today the country produces more than two hundred mil- lion tons of rice and is actually a net exporter. We profile four spiritually-inspired activists featured at Naropa University’s 40th anniversary Radical Compassion Symposium.