Invisible


ThirImageteen stories below my office window, a man lied on the cold sidewalk. He wasn’t dead, but he also wasn’t really alive. Seemingly invisible to passersby and unbothered by the police, he slept peacefully in every piece of clothing he owned. A discarded cardboard box served as his bed; his left arm his pillow. His dry and cracked lips pursed as he exhaled.

I, too, passed him on my way to the sandwich shop, but he wasn’t invisible to me. After I bought my lunch, I sat down to eat, but I couldn’t get him out of my mind. I wondered about the choices he made that led him to this existence. Were circumstances out of his control? I thought about his family and imagined them trying, time and time again, to help him out of this way of life. Was it drugs? Alcohol? Mental illness? Had they given up on him?

I wondered when he had his last meal, and when he might eat again. We don’t have control over much in the world; often, things happen and we are forced to react. However, I knew I could control one aspect of this poor man’s life: his next meal.

I resolved to buy him a sandwich and something to drink. I would sit down with him while he ate, not to bask in his praise for my good deed, but to sit with him. I wanted him to feel visible, noticed, and cared about . I wanted to listen to him; to hear his story. I desperately wanted to validate his presence on the earth and reassure him that no one is discarded and everyone was important.

As I approached the spot on the sidewalk, his sack lunch in hand, he slept as soundly as before. I stopped and thought about waking him. I didn’t want to startle him. What if he acted defensively and struck out like a cornered animal? I didn’t want to see him hurt or arrested. I just wanted to help him. Society paints the picture of the raving mad street person. Could he be so out his mind that he wouldn’t accept my help? Would I risk my own safety and wake him up?

Like a coward, I set the sack beside him, careful not to touch him. In fear and disappointment of my own generalization, I quickly walked away. I refused to look back until I made it to the corner. The sack remained untouched. I hoped he would wake up soon to find the food. I hoped no one would steal it from him.

Thirteen stories below my office window, a man lied on the cold sidewalk. I couldn’t see him, but I could see a little bit of myself in those who passed him by.

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10 comments

  1. This was a wonderful piece. I found it to be very well written, moving, and insightful.

    1. And, unfortunately, a true story. Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

      1. I was aware that it was a true story. I hope that I did not sound insensitive. I understand the pain of wanting to end your life as I have dealt with severe inner struggles myself. Those days are behind me and I am glad to hear that you have overcome great adversity also! Have a blessed day!

      2. I didn’t think it came off as insensitive. I write fiction, also, so I put in the disclaimer so readers can know the difference. Thanks for subscribing! 🙂

      3. Anonymous · ·

        Okay, blushing profusely. Never answer a post (or write one either) without having your first cup of coffee! I had transposed your story with a different article that I had also read last night. Both articles were very profound, but very different also! I apologize for appearing to be a complete air-brain!

        I didn’t know that your story was a true story, but it did ring of truth throughout. I have a compassion for the homeless and address different other social issues in my own writing. I have also overcome severe depression, which is what that other article was about!

        Thank you for your understanding! (I still feel like a bit of a fool, but I’ve at least enjoyed a nice hot cup of coffee!)

        My sentiment that you have a blessed day stands! Smiles and moving on!

      4. To be honest, I thought you had also read another post of mine http://wp.me/pnPf7-28 where I discuss depression and suicide.

        Living with depression is a struggle that many people just try to shrug off. I’m happy to hear that your troubles are over and I hope it doesn’t return.

        Have an awesome day! 🙂

  2. This is a wonderful piece. You were really living your faith (When you do it for the lest of you, then you do it for Me.) You did a wonderful deed. For just that moment that person was not invisible. If more people did more of this the world would be a far better place!

    I too wonder what brings people to the streets. But whatever it is, It is important to value each life.

    This piece is well written. I brought me to tears! Thank you for writing so well.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting. 🙂

  3. I just finished reading the article that you mentioned at: http://wp.me/pnPf7-28 on depression and suicide. It was also very well written! I left a comment there. I look forward to following your blog! I spotted my picture on the sidebar and was thrilled that you have chosen to follow my newly developed (a work in progress,)wordpress blog. My writing blog is listed on site at wordpress, but the address is http://joyfulnoizministries.blogspot.com/ if you’re interested in reading any of my short blog posts. Each post has a picture and the contents go back for many years. End of commercial, and beginning of friendship! I’m excited to see what the future holds!

    1. 🙂 I’m also thrilled that you are following and tweeting my blog. I will work to promote your new blog as well.

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