Sunday, March 1, 2015

Making the Invisible, Visible

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I returned from a trip and at the airport my choice that evening was debating if I should either wait for the never-ending cab line to end or take the train.

Fifteen minutes became half an hour and still the line drew longer. Travelers waiting in the cold winter breeze exhaled and their clouds outlined the air.

I decided the smartest thing was to just take the train. I didn't know I had an attitude that evening as brash as the sands I left behind, but I did. When first-time commuters wanted to know how to get to Forest Park, I was not sure and cockily yet innocently said that was rather a long way. I sat down and brushed it off. Then a gentleman stood in front of me and asked politely, "May I?" and sat down next to me. That small gesture countered my attitude and humbled me instantly.

Dozing off on the long ride home came naturally. I will admit that I was not prepared for the weather and stubbornly decided not to take a coat on my trip. Big mistake.

Click "Read More" Below for the rest of my story:

It was finally time to hop on the last line - the red line - and make it home. I can guarantee the moment I am about to describe has happened to anyone who has ever taken public transportation before: we meet the invisible.

"To find the poor, you must go out of your way. You must look with different eyes, for the poor feel that we do not want them in the normal parts of our lives. So they disguise themselves or absent themselves." - Bishop Untener's reflection.

She sat there with her gray suitcase. We were both on different journeys that night, traveling from different corners of the world. And I know as commuters sometimes the smell of things are unbearable. Many times I have passed by cars faster than a Nascar race. As commuters, we all do the same thing to make things as normal as possible: ignore it or watch secretly.

But that night, I couldn't help but watch her like a movie. I watched with deep concern as she opened her life's luggage when her nose started to get stuffy and she pulled out an old piece of crumbled newspaper to wipe her nose. I watched with a sigh of content when she pulled out her evening meal of soup and a sandwich from Subway and watched her eat it in front of everyone. I know such a move is just aborting all commuter rules and regulations because to the educated citizen, there are health concerns and space concerns (Why would she selfishly take up two chairs! Why would she eat in front of people?).

I watched her like a little child, seeing everything she did and watched how everyone around her reacted. And we've all done it: ignore or watch secretly. But I wanted to show her that night that she didn't have to be absent, that I truly saw her. I waited for the moment when I could sit two seats away from her.

I crossed the cart and sat down. Again, I watched her and waited for the right moment to do something. I didn't want to startle her or have her get mad at me (Have you ever been yelled at by a homeless person? It's the craziest thing).  She was finally finishing her sandwich and my stop was next.

But I was frozen. I didn't know how to handle this situation. In my hand was a bag of Pamper's Wipes that I carry on all my trips. It's a proven weapon for all of life's ills I tell you! She needed to wipe her hands and then I did it. I touched her arm and she was startled. I pushed my little Pamper's bag towards her and smiled.

Aha! She figured out what it was and greeted me with a "Thank You."

I'm not here to boast or hope that anyone says that I'm a great human being. I'm certainly not saying that every time I see a poor person on the train that I will always be as attentive. All I wanted to share is that maybe sometimes on our long commutes home....maybe sometimes we can just see with compassionate eyes and make the invisible, visible every once in a while.

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