I’ve been thinking about invisibles a lot lately. Thinking about what we can do for girls who are marginalized by fundamentalist cultures. What we can do for minorities in Portland who are far outnumbered by their Caucasian counterparts. What we can do for immigrants and refugees whose suffering goes largely unseen.
Even though I wrote a book about The Invisible Girls, the above issues, to be honest, still seem completely overwhelming to me.
Last week there was an article about me in the Portland Tribune. The article announced that I’d be doing a book reading and signing on May 2nd (last night) at Annie Bloom’s bookstore in SW Portland.
I showed up to the reading last night, and the bookseller who was coordinating the event handed me a hand-addressed envelope. I opened it, and there was a 3-page letter from a man I’ve never met, telling me how much he enjoyed the Tribune story, and apologizing for not being able to make the book signing.
“I am penniless and nearly homeless,” he wrote. “But I wanted to let you know that I see you. So you’re not invisible any more.”
Last night I read the letter again as I was falling asleep. This morning, while I was drinking my coffee, I read it again.
“I see you. So you’re not invisible any more.”
The first page of The Invisible Girls book has a Ralph Ellison quote: “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”
And I realized this morning that solving the problem of invisibility doesn’t require legislation or institutional intervention. It’s simple, and it’s easy, and it’s free. It just takes all of us walking through life with open eyes and softened hearts, taking the risk and the time to tell someone else, “You’re not invisible any more. I care that you exist. I see that you’re suffering. It matters that you’re here.”
How would our world change if every day, each of us told one person — just one — “I see you. So you’re not invisible any more.”