“Life is to be lived, not controlled, and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.” Ralph Ellison
There were times, as a child, when I imagined how thrilling it would be to have the magical power to just vanish into thin air and, hovering somewhere between heaven and earth, change things. Things like poverty and inequality, oppression and repression, the treatment of people without a voice and the elderly, and the abuse of power by those for whom authority is not a responsibility but a show of their ability to subvert the law. Strong words, you might say, but that is not my intention… this is more a reflection on the ways many become invisible either because of circumstances, social dislocation, or through the natural progression of life… and the ire invisibility produces.
Hibernation or the choice to be invisible for a while can be exhilarating, if the time is spent gathering strength, and working on meaningful projects of our choosing. However, it can become enervating if our invisibility is not our choice, but the result of our place in society, and the decisions of those who can help us choosing to ignore us. Have you walked into a room full of people and simply vanished because you were not welcome there? Have you observed an elderly person walk into a store and stand at the counter waiting for service and be ignored?
What about when, as they stood there, some cute young thing came in and the person behind the counter came to life? Or what about those who are invisible because they are deemed different? The disabled? Outsiders? Foreign? Aging women? As sad as this might seem, it happens daily and it is what brings on the ire that I speak of; the anger of not understanding why so many forget that we, all of us, share a common human trait; the need to be valued, heard, and respected. More below!
I am an invisible man. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Ralph Ellison
Every time I see a homeless person at Grand Central Station or a panhandler on the subway or on the street, I try to imagine what got them there… The few times I’ve had a chance to speak with any of them, their stories were as varied as yours and mine. All have not fallen on hard times because of drugs. All are not able to help themselves get the requisite care…
Some had mental issues, abusive relationships or financial hardships, whilst others had suffered a gamut of life events that included, for several of them, drugs. But does that justify the disdain with which some in our society sometimes treat them? This might not come to you as a surprise, but every time I’ve spoken to a homeless person, they have appreciated the contact; the connection to someone who stopped to say hello.
So, the next time we see an elderly person, a homeless family, a panhandler on the street, let’s take a moment to say hello. Even “How are you today?” would do. A little change or a simple blessing will suffice … and you will see the glint of gratitude, the humanity in their eyes. Our simple act of acknowledgment reminds them that not everyone pretends they are invisible… For once, you and I will spare them from that pernicious tornado they hide within … the ire of invisibility. Thank you!
What are your thoughts? Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you felt invisible? Do share. Thank You! 🙂
PS. I remember reading Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” years ago and how gripping the book was. I’ve never forgotten it either. Today marks the 16th anniversary of his death.
Positive Motivation Tip: Hibernation can be a great gift and a time for reflection, but make sure it is of your own volition, not imposed.
- Michael J. McCarthy: Society’s Invisible People (huffingtonpost.com)
- When I discover who I am, I’ll be free. (poetrymessenger.wordpress.com)
- Monday, old woman=invisible… (todayithink.wordpress.com)
- Early Morning Writing and Invisibility (therealsharon.com)
- Invisible People. We ARE Visible. Helping The Homeless. (theobamacrat.com)
- Invisible (lizajls332.wordpress.com)