Thursday, April 24, 2008

ghosts don't scare me... they make me sad

Dear invisible woman I saw sitting on the street on a freezing winter day,

Yes. I saw you. In fact, I'm pretty sure everyone who passed you saw you, even though we all pretended not to in our rush to get to where we thought we had to be.

You were sitting there, on a small chunk of cardboard, bundled in your scruffy sweaters and coats and scarves. If you were a different person, you might have been very warm, but you weren't someone else, you were you.

Homeless. Invisible. Alone, as you sat among the post-holiday rush passersby, you with steaming tears running in rivers down your weathered cheeks, many of us with gift cards and holiday cash burning in our pockets.

If we had acknowledged you, it would have forced us to consider your plight... perhaps even to have empathy for it. We would have wondered what unfortunate series of events in your life collided so that you to wound up on this particular corner, on this particularly unforgiving day. Maybe we would have wondered how our actions or inactions contributed to that unfortunate series of events.

It is possible that acknowledging you would have made us question the things we have, and why we do not share our things, and why we continue to want more and more things, while you have very close to nothing. It would have made us ponder, for a second, why we have become comfortable with this.

Had we acknowledged you, it would have forced us to stop and help you. If one person had stopped, maybe others would have felt compelled to do the same. But since no one stopped, no one gawked, and no one really even glanced, everyone felt justified in moving past you without a hint of acknowledgment.

Hundreds of people must have walked past you in a matter of moments. No one even looked in your direction, and when one of us had the misfortune to glance your way, we looked through you as if you were a ghost, as if we were suddenly interested in the bank of dirty snow behind you.

I'm sorry I was one of the people who walked by. I just want you to know that.

With great regret,

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