Seeing the Invisible People

“The first time you saw me, I was cleaning your bathroom floor! Only you didn’t see me.”

It’s a line from a movie (Maid in Manhattan), but it’s the reality for maids, waiters, and cashiers everywhere. They’re invisible people. Often, we simply don’t see them. In fact, arrests have occurred because criminals were so unaware their waitress or maid was a person that they talked about their crimes openly in front of them.

Who are the invisible people you and I miss? The trash collectors? The school crossing guards? The busboy? Or maybe it’s the ill, the handicapped, or the elderly. They’re in our churches, at the mall, and on the bus. We miss them on our blocks and in our workplace hallways.

My friend Amy loaned me a book a few months ago. The Invisible Girls, a memoir by Sarah Thebarge, delves into the devastation of Sarah’s breast cancer. Feeling abandoned, she moves across the country. A chance meeting on a train with a Somalian woman begins to change her life.

Hadhi has five young daughters she is raising alone in a city where she knows no one and doesn’t speak the language. The family is almost starving, and yet they are invisible to those around them. Sarah finds that by truly seeing Hadhi’s family, by helping them become visible to others, she finds strength for her own life.

Immigrants are invisible people in many of our neighborhoods. They may dress differently and speak a language we don’t understand. Perhaps they eat food we can’t imagine putting in our mouths. It can be more convenient to ignore them, to pretend they’re invisible. Getting involved can be costly. But it can also expand our lives—and our hearts.

Photo by Florian Pérennès on Unsplash

Loneliness is everywhere. It’s as though we are smothered under our own invisibility cloaks, and we cannot fight our way out of them. Try. Reach out a hand. We need each other. See the people around you. Don’t let them be invisible anymore. You’ll both be better off.

My husband, Les, says that he considers anyone making eye contact with him as permission for a conversation. Let’s be that person. But it means looking at people. Put down the phone! (I’m preaching to myself here.) See the people others don’t see. Smile. Don’t be in such a hurry that you don’t have time to talk. (Me, again.) Speak. Ask them their names. Ask how they are—and wait around to hear the answer.

Who are the invisible people you’ve been missing? Look for them this week. Connect. Then drop me a line or leave a comment on the blog or Facebook to let me know who you saw and what happened. And if that invisible person is you, let me know that too. We can connect. No one should be invisible.

6 thoughts on “Seeing the Invisible People”

  1. Yes, that’s good. A smile or a listening ear can work wonders. I recently was on the receiving end. I ran into the grocery store for a small container of hummus. The checkout line was surprisingly short, and as the lady in front of me paid her bill, she looked at my hummus and said, “I’ll buy hers, too.” Whoo! We God blessed each other, and I left the store with a big smile.

  2. Our former (retired) pastor would call making eye contact a “Yes Face.” You have permission to speak. It’s becoming a lost art, one that embarrasses my kids to no end, but one my parents practiced and taught us.


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