The Invisible Ones Around Us

Gray-haired womanA casual remark by a senior citizen pierced my heart and has stuck with me. Out of the blue, this woman noted, “Being an elderly woman is like being invisible. Nobody notices you.”

This woman was not bragging about a super power. Nor was she a Ninja in training. Rather, she was sad. People didn’t notice her. They didn’t give compliments. And sure, younger folks might hold the door if she was ambling out of McDonalds as they were trying to enter, but they didn’t go out of their way to meet her or to strike up conversations as they might have done when she was younger and more physically attractive.

My acquaintance’s remark sparked a memory of a double-decker boat I’d recently been on. While visiting California, a group of us boarded the chartered vessel for an evening cruise along the bay. The passengers included authors, screen writers, doctors, a physician, people involved in non-profit organizations, and others. Fascinating clusters of people stood chatting all over that boat, and I enjoyed meeting and networking, too. Yet, off to the side sat three elderly women. They kept to themselves, and exchanged few words as they watched the crowd around them. Who were they? How had they ended up on this chartered cruise? I had no clue, but I didn’t approach them either as I discussed writing with “more important” contacts. These three gray-haired ladies weren’t literally invisible, but they may as well have been for the lack of attention they received that evening.

May I make a suggestion? When we cross paths with the elderly or “unimportant” people, let’s keep in mind that they are real people with genuine feelings. They deserve respect even if they don’t walk or think as fast as they once did. Offering a smile or a kind remark requires little time, but simple acts of kindness or sixty seconds of conversation can make them feel noticed and appreciated.

Jesus declared that the second greatest commandment concerned the people around us (even the “unimportant” and aged ones): “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Mark 12:31). Being caring and others-centered bucks the trend in this self-centered age. Yet, that’s the path recommended by none other than the Son of God.

I think it’s time we stop letting people around us fade into invisibility. Don’t you?



3 thoughts on “The Invisible Ones Around Us”

  1. I so agree with this and have all my life looked for the elderly in the crowded room or even in a not so crowded room. Its incredible the richness you can get from stories and sometimes just sitting next to them and not saying much canbring joy to them. As I have always had a love of history too I have been interested in their stories. Also its how I got to meet many people from other eras. However its always good to include the ones who seem alone in something even if its a smile or a casual compliment. It can bring such joy to people.

    1. Blessings on you, Rory, for being sensitive in an important area. It’s amazing how a simple “Good morning!” with direct eye contact can make a person light up and smile back. Let’s keeping taking away people’s invisibility!

  2. Having lived in three continents Africa, Europe and North America (currently residing the US), not to mention having traipsed a fair section of the globe on trips also, one of the few things I find common in all places, much like the sky above, is the elderly. My experience is that the attention and respect accorded to the elderly varies in different parts of the world. Same as the sky above is regarded with interest, to the point of awe in certain places and yet a mere physical presence in others, the elderly duly receive prominence and acknowledgement as well as not in different cultures. The later rings closer home in our youth-obssessed western culture where it almost equates to an elevated act of conscious kindness to recognise and involve the elderly in our midst.

    I agree with you. We should be all inclusive in the attention we routinely parcel out daily. Even striving for this without the notion of applying extra efforts to make them feel special. For the fount of wisdom, experience, history that they are, the elderly are an inseparable part of the integral life. Perhaps we should be the one preening to be noticed by them.

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