For those who feel forgotten | Community columns

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As I hop in my truck every afternoon and drive home from work, I pass a lot of people.

Some gather at the Union Mission for their meal for the day, some cross the Million Dollar Bridge towards the Connector, and some like me, sitting in my car, separated from everything that has been controlling my time for a few hours, and now headed to the next place we need to go. I bet this has been my end-of-day story for five years, until two days ago.

Two days ago I walked out of my office on Washington Street and a man was sitting on the doorstep next to my office entrance. As I passed him, he didn’t look up, he didn’t whisper a “good afternoon” or even acknowledge that I was there. So, I said “hello”. He looked at me a little shocked. He stammered through an almost silent “hello” response.

I started to walk by but there was something about her amazement that I told her that touched me. I turned around and said, “Are you okay?” Without looking me in the eye he said, “Yeah, I’m fine.” I continued my attempt to connect with him and said, “You just looked a little surprised when I spoke to you.” And I kind of laughed, like giving him the punchline of a joke.

He said, “People don’t talk to me a lot, that’s all. I know he couldn’t see it on my face because he still hadn’t made eye contact with me, but, to hear that there are people going through life invisible or detached from everyone else was a paradigm shift in my mind I wasn’t ready for. Like I was talking to her, her news that I was the first person in days to speak to her made me jump.

Can you imagine going from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to bed a week later and no one is talking to you? Can you imagine looking at people day in and day out and no one seeing you and saying, “Hey, how are you? Nobody just wants to interact with you. Some of us may joke and say, “I wish I had a week without having to talk to someone.” Corn. I was amazed to think that the sound of my voice just saying “hello” to this man was unexpected and another human’s voice directed at him was so unfamiliar.

I try to use these words every month to direct people to local service providers in our community. But this time, I want to inspire us to be more aware of those who are ignored and feel forgotten. I understand that COVID worries us all about ‘social distancing’, but we can’t be as distant as humans without talking to people. That people fear not only to get sick, but also to be alone.

We have at our disposal the ability to uplift others by simply interacting with them. It takes so little of our time and it would mean so much to them. If in your daily routine you don’t see these chances, you aren’t looking closely enough. Let me give you some suggestions on ways to get connected that won’t put you at risk of contracting COVID, but will let others know that they are important.

Write a note and stick it in your neighbors’ mail book or on their door. Bake cookies or other items and drop them off near a veterans house that lives near you. Call a friend you haven’t heard from in a while.

And when you see people say “hello”. You have no idea how much better recognizing they’re human can make their day.


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