I started thumbing through the March ’06 issue of Vogue while heating up my lunch downstairs. I marveled at all the sassy ads and particularly admired 2 purses. (Michael Kors Drawstring Satchel and Kate Spade Palma Jocelyn) Certainly there is no chance I can afford either of these items, but it’s fun to dream.

I headed back upstairs to my office, pondering the delicious cheesy goodness in my hands-a Michelina Lean Gourmet Five Cheese Lasagna. Here, my mind took an odd turn, as it often does. I started thinking about moldy cheese. I sat down at my desk and took a bite of my melty Italian goodness. I decided to Google “moldy cheese” and found a few surprises. First of all, October 9th is Moldy Cheese day. Mark your calendars.

I also stumbled upon Mary Ellen Mark’s Web site. She’s a photographer, boasting quite an impressive portfolio. She shot a pictorial for LIFE called “A Week In The Life of a Homeless Family.” The words “moldy cheese” appear in her observations, which accompany the photos. The pictures are haunting, disheartening and humbling. They tell the story of the Damm family. Linda and Dean married a few years ago, having both survived rocky, abusive relationships. Dean welcomed Linda’s children, Crissy and Jesse, into his life. A series of hateful twists led to the family living in their car with their Pit Bull Terrier named Runtley.

Details of the Damm’s heart-wrenching story tell of pride, anger and determination. For example, Linda didn’t want any children to pick on Crissy, so she wouldn’t let her attend school until she was enrolled in the lunch program. That way no other kids would see that she had no lunch of her own to bring to school.

As the photos progress, the family received some funding to stay in a hotel for a few days. Overwhelmed with a moment’s warmth and safety, Crissy fell asleep in the fetal position in the shower.

Soon after, the Damms had no place to stay again. Linda comforted the children, saying, “We’re going camping. We’ll hunt for froggies and toast marshmallows. It’s going to be real fun.” She didn’t mention that she had just sold the family’s tent for $10.

Mark’s story ends after the Damms managed to secure a run-down apartment with a toilet, but no refrigerator. Between them, they have $6.62 to last until the next welfare check.

I’m rushing to write this entry, so I can finish up the day’s work and leave in time to see the Project Runway finale tonight. I have experienced some difficulties in my life, but I also enjoy luxuries like convenient frozen lunches and free time to dream about purses.

Today, I’m especially mindful of my blessings, as I try to find the answer to the question, “What can I do to help?”


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