I spent a lot of time in Seattle earlier this year. Errands had me returning there again and again, which is outside of my norm. I'm a suburbs girl.
But I ended up making the best of it... doing what I needed to do, throwing it all into a day's outing, walking around town and smiling at as many people as possible. I made it a game with myself.
Pick at least one person on each block... See them. Smile at them. Say "hello." Find something that would make their day just one iota brighter than the moment before I walked into it.
I'm not sure that my mom loved this game. I think she imagines that I'm always in my house, and the idea of me running around "the big city" by myself all day... talking to strangers... I'm sure that gave my overprotective momma fits.
But, looking back, there is one that I missed... and I have regretted missing him ever since.
One of these afternoons, I was walking the mile back to my car, flashing my ever-so-winning smile at anyone I passed. I'd tarried too long at the pier, so of course I was cutting it close on getting back home in time to greet my kids on their return from school. On the way, I passed a man.
I couldn't tell you how old he was, but I want to say young-ish. I couldn't see his face, but there was something about the way he sat that said 20s to me. But who's to say?
He sat crosslegged on the sidewalk, his back against the wall... but hunched over his own lap.
He had a coat draped over his head, and he sat staring at the ground below him. Or napping? I don't even know.
I slowed down to read the piece of cardstock he had sitting beside him on the ground.
"I Feel Invisible."
and I didn't stop.
There are lots of reasons. I was late. I am a girl alone in downtown Seattle. He could have been a deranged lunatic. He could have had a knife or a gun. None of those are unwise reasons.
so I didn't stop.
But I should have. I really should have.
Me, who tries to be deliberate about making it a practice to see people... Someone begged me to see them, and I walked right on by.
I will always wonder what kind of changes could have been made in the truth of his sign if I had looked past my fears and just bothered to stop.