The children in this book at times seem wise beyond their years. They are exposed to difficult issues that force them to grow up very quickly. Almost all of the struggles that the children face stem from the root problem of intense poverty. In Mott Haven, the typical family yearly income is about $10,000, "trying to sustain" is how the mothers generally express their situation. Kozol reports "All are very poor; statistics tell us that they are the poorest children in New York." (Kozol 4). The symptoms of the kind of poverty described are apparent in elevated crime rates, the absence of health care and the lack of funding for education.
High crime rates not only put the children at risk as potential victims but also robs them of the male role models that are vital to their development. Most of the fathers of the Mott Haven community are incarcerated in a nearby prison. The children are aware of this fact and often visit the jail. Kozol describes an intimate conversation with a group of children in the sanctuary of St. Ann's in which several of the children reveal that they miss their fathers who are in prison. One of the children, Elio, even fibs about his father coming home the following week. Later he admits that this is not true but will not admit where his father actually is.
During his time in the Mott Haven community, Kozol, at times, served as a father figure for the children who yearn to share what is in their hearts with their own fathers. Kozol eloquently describes his role, "I once told another man I know, who fills a role somewhat like mine among the children, that I felt we were like "gleaners" in the Bible, not in fields of grain but in a field of love that can't be harvested by those to whom the love rightly belongs." (Kozol 130). There are other men living in Mott Haven that also fill that void. Several members of St. Ann's parish offer supervision and support. Other men direct athletic programs giving boys and young men an outlet and alternative to destructive activities. Still, this involvement cannot quench the desire that the children express to be with their own fathers.
Kozol points out that it is the women of the community that play a more consistent role in caring for and nurturing the children. Kozol quotes one of the men as saying " "Women hold up the sky in this neighborhood." " (Kozol 131). Mother Martha is the priest of St. Ann's and one of many women in the community who "hold up the sky" and fill in the gaps when the children need an adult to look to for answers or guidance. Mother Martha also provides an atmosphere that encourages learning and discovery through her after school program. The children are given the opportunity to do homework and study in a structured environment, with help if they need it. This program is a vital supplement to the disgracefully under funded public schools that serve the Mott Haven area.
The inequalities in education are a recurring issue in Ordinary Resurrections. Kozol informs that New York City spends an average of about $8,000 yearly on each student, however, only...