We were in the city, at a cafe before a show. It was a cool evening but, warm enough in our coats, we were sitting at an outside table sipping our coffees and chatting. Vaguely aware of all the others at tables around us simlarly engaged in their lattes and conversations.
Suddenly behind me, there was a bit of a disturbance. I turned to see an elderly man in a shabby coat being hustled back to the street by a waiter. Apparently he’d been begging at nearby tables.
As he vanished into the night, I glanced around and saw folk simply going back to their coffees and conversations as before. Nobody seemed concerned. Nobody else turned to watch him leave. He’d been hurried off like an embarrassment. None of us had talked to him or found out his story. Nothing.
It was as if nothing had happened, as if he hadn’t existed – as if he were invisible. And I wondered … did anyone else feel sad?
A couple of weeks later, we were again in the city for another show. Three of us were drinking coffee at an outside table at the same cafe.
This time a woman approached our table and asked for money. Very thin. Unkempt hair falling over her face. I don’t know how old she was, but she sounded tired.
I looked up at her and said “Would you like something to eat? To drink?”
She said she’d like a cappucino, so I rose and went indoors to get one. When I returned and handed her cup, sugars, spoon and paper serviette, our hands touched briefly. Hers shook a little.
“Thank you. Bless you!”, she said. And was gone.
What? Bless me? But I’d done nothing. I’d not learned her story. I’d not asked her … anything! I’d not helped her. All I’d done was buy her a coffee. It was nothing.
And yet … perhaps at least she’d been visible. And maybe that’s something.