Sunday 2 December 2018

Nerd Church - Seeing People

back of girl in city, facing crowds and cars

"Hang on," I told my work-colleague, then I strode off.

"Where are you...? There's nothing over there! What are you gonna do, get a taxi?"

"No..." I call back over my shoulder; why the hell would he think I was gonna get a taxi? We had like, five minutes to get back from lunch.

I count out pound coins as I walk. 1... 2... 3. I head towards the guy in the red tabard, smiling, "I'll have one!" I call.

He smiles at me, and I wonder how everyone ignores that smile.

How could you?! I've heard of smiles that light up a room, but his lights up the street.

"Thank you darling!" he says, his voice almost a song, "God bless you!"

This is the Big Issue seller who helped me get through at a time when life was darkest.

I don't know his name. But I can honestly tell you he's one of the most beautiful and genuine people I have ever met.

He always asked me how I was, tried to cheer me up, had a smile for me.

He told me about his trouble with housing, and how he could make it on the streets, if needs be, but all he wanted was to keep a roof over his little boy's head. The way he talked about his son was pure love.

I told him to keep warm (my God was it cold out!) Listened when he needed me to. Wished him well. Told him to keep the change. Wished I could do more.

That was all to come.

When I went back to where my work-colleague stood, he was looking at his toes.

"What?" I asked.

"I didn't even see him there," he said.

"...Well now you do."

dividing line

It's too easy to not even see the homeless man on the corner.

To think the single mother in financial trouble is somehow lazy or undeserving.

To assume that the drug addict is somehow lacking morally.

People are people.

You'd think we'd all know that, yeah?

A lot of people don't seem to.

It's easy to make decisions that affect other people's lives if you don't have to be around to see those effects, or if you've dehumanised those people, or convinced yourself that they're just lazy, or undeserving, or any other damn thing you can use to tell yourself that there's no problem.

If you've never seen a woman be harassed, a Black person be dealt with unfairly by the police, a Muslim woman be targeted for her hijab, then it's easier for you to push it out of your mind.

...To ignore it. In some cases even to deny its existence.

'It won't happen to me,' people think, 'because I'm not lazy. I'm not weak. I'm not morally lacking. These people deserve what they get.'

It's a fairy-tale - and not even a good one.

It's a change of reality to protect them from the Big Bad Wolf outside the door.

(And Iesu knows, the media don't help with that.)

If they do fall on hard times?

It must be the fault of those mysterious 'Others' - whether they be immigrants, people of colour, LGBTQ+ people, or any other reason they can latch onto - those 'undeserving' ones who are bringing the 'deserving' down.

And dude, don't blame a group of people you've probably never had any meaningful contact with for your problems.

Blame the people in charge, sure, the government or the heads of corporations, but don't blame people simply because it's the easy thing to do.

If you need a wicked witch for your fairy-tale, look elsewhere.

Instead, remember that amongst the statistics are REAL people.

People who live, laugh, love, and just want to continue to do so.

People who want the best for themselves and their children.

No, they're not perfect.

Are you? (And if you answered 'yes' to that, then you're definitely not.)

Next time you see a homeless person on the street corner, or someone with limited English skills trying to ask the time, or immigrants on TV, or a single mother struggling with her kids, please take a moment.

See the person.

Not their circumstances.

Not some stereotype or meaningless judgement that actually may have nothing to do with the individual in front of you.

See the person.

People are people. People deserve to be seen.

Do you sometimes struggle to 'see' people?
Have you ever felt unseen?
Talk to me! 😊💬

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Last updated: 6th Dec 2018


  1. I think a lot of people don't realize, or maybe don't want to realize, that anyone can become homeless. So many homeless people are not in that position because of laziness, drugs, etc. but rather because of a crappy situation beyond their control. But yeah. People often trash social media, but it's social media that has helped me to see people more.

    1. Social media is a tool - it's not inherently good or bad, it's how you use it! (And how much you use it... using a hammer 24/7 wouldn't be good for you either!)

      I totally agree that the Interwebs in general can be an excellent opportunity to raise awareness! :)

  2. I wish I had more substance to add but I really love the flow and formatting of this piece. And also the content.

  3. Aw I really loved this post, Cee! My sister lives in a big city with a huge homeless population, and even when I go to visit her, I do admit that I never really “see” these people. While it is impossible to help everyone, little changes to make somebody’s day helps.

    1. Thanks Em! And being aware of the problem is a good start! :)

  4. See the person! Wow- well said. Thank you for sharing- we all need to be reminded sometimes I think. Excellent post.

  5. Thank you so much! :) That's so sweet of you! <3

  6. Yes, I'm guilty of choosing not to see I'm afraid. I enthusiastically sign petitions and donate to charity online, but when someone is right in front of me I often find myself intimidated by them and how little difference I can make. So instead of doing a little, I look away. I know it's daft and your post illustrates how seeing everybody as individual people rather than as invisible outcasts is so important.

    1. I think that, sometimes, just *being* seen makes a huge difference to people. If you're not able to do anything in the moment, I find making eye contact and shaking your head or saying 'sorry, I can't' or whatever is a good way of letting people know that they still matter. I get that it can be difficult, but just treating people with dignity and respect goes a long way!


Comments? I love comments! Talk to me nerdlets!