Today at school we got an email that there was a confidential memo in our mailboxes. Such an unusual chain of communication had the staff in a buzz, and it wasn't lessened any by the note from the police officer assigned to our building alerting us to the fact that a somewhat disturbed woman tried to gain access to our school this morning. She insisted that she needed to use the library to watch the children. It was clearly stated that there was never any indication of danger, but the combination of her instability and persistence made it prudent to let us know that she was around. We could recognize her by her Thomas the Train backpack.
Later I was talking to three of my colleagues about the incident. One wondered if it was the woman who lives in her car right down the street from our school. "Who?" I asked, and she described the car and the lady, adding that she had been there since last winter. I drive by that location every day, and I have never noticed either car or woman, but they are there-- I saw them tonight as I left. In my defense, I suppose I could say that my mind is always on the day ahead as I pull into the parking lot and my attention always turned towards home on the return trip. Still, I think there is a larger truth about the invisibility of people who are disadvantaged in our community.
Last Sunday at our local Farmer's Market, I was returning to my car with a bag full of fruit and vegetables. A fellow shopper stood chatting with a friend in the parking lot, and I noticed that her dog was very focused on something in the direction of my car. As I approached the driver's side, a woman was on the sidewalk ahead, and she was talking. I assumed that she was speaking to the dog, and I gave a grin and a nod to a fellow pet lover. "What are you smiling at you f--cking wh-re?" she asked in such a sweet voice that I was literally sitting in the car before I understood her words.
Hey! I thought, and locking the doors, took a closer look at her. The bags that I had assumed were the result of running errands were stuffed with clothes and all sorts of other things that obviously had not been purchased that day. She picked them up and shuffled away from the bus stop where, had I bothered to think about it, I might have imagined that she was waiting for the transportation that would take her on her way to home or work or some place safe where people cared for her. She was talking to herself the whole way down the street.
Could it be that it is time for me to pull my head out of whatever hole it's in and pay a little more attention to the humans around me? Ya think?