“Guess what? It’s getting worse.”
Last March, 60 Minutes reporter Scott Pelley and his producers shot one of the most moving and compelling—and deeply, deeply sad—stories I have ever seen on television. They took their cameras to central Florida’s Seminole County and looked into the lives of some homeless families with young children, forced by circumstances to live in their cars. For an update of that segment that aired this past Sunday, they returned to see what was happening with these families.
These harrowing 14-minutes should be required viewing for everyone in this entire country. Especially people who watch Fox News and Newt Gingrich (who’d probably tell these kids to take a shower and get a Dickensian-era job).
The emotions that will well up in you as you watch this will be a mixture of deep sorrow and intense anger. Be prepared to be completely and absolutely stunned by what you’re going to see.
As big of a bummer as this story is—and if I haven’t gotten across how sad this is yet: If you’re at work, you are pretty much 100% guaranteed to be sobbing by the end—it’s not a total downer either.
You’ll be very impressed by some of the people you’ll meet in the piece, like Beth Davalos, who runs an organization called Families in Transition that helps Seminole County families in crisis. And strong, brave D’Angelo and Victoria Coates who seem like incredible people, too, and appear on track to have their family in a new home by Christmas.
But the character here who will stay with you long after you watch it, is a frankly astonishing little girl named Arielle Metzger (no relation). In a web segment about how they found the families in the story, 60 Minutes producer Nicole Young says of her:
“I remember when I was a freshman in high school. I remember how important it was to feel like a girl and thought of as a beautiful, young lady. The fact that I saw this young lady get up every day and fight this fight and try to go to school with a normal face, I felt for her. And I give the girl credit because most adults couldn’t handle that.”
Young Arielle Metzger shows so much grit, poise, self-awareness, and empathy for her fellow man that she reminded me of a pint-sized version of Elizabeth Warren. You’ll watch this kid and you’ll know that she and her younger brother Austin are going to be all right, but she could be a lot better than all right, with just a little help. This kid could be a force for good and change the lives of others. Could be? Will be.
It seems to me that someone out there watching this segment might be in a position to arrange for this extraordinary young person to get a college scholarship. Talk about a gift that would keep giving…
From the transcript:
Pelley: I wonder what education means to you two?
Austin Metzger: It’s everything.
Arielle Metzger: It is everything to us. I plan to be a child defense lawyer. If I focus on my studies, I have that opportunity.
The American dream is durable. And there is something about growing up in a truck that makes you believe in it all the more. As we tagged along with the Metzgers they told us they like the truck better than a motel and they wanted to show us something they’ve been doing in the evenings: they’re acting in a community theater, a free and normal thing.
On stage they had a chance to be somebody else, but what struck us most was that they were just as happy in their roles as the Metzgers.
Arielle Metzger: Before the truck I always saw all these homeless people and I would feel so bad for them. And then as soon as we started living in the truck ourselves I’ve seen even more. And I just feel so bad. And even though I’m homeless myself I wanna do as much as I can to help them get up, back on their feet.