Seeing the Invisible

Today there was a crazy man who came into the bank at the same time as me. I think about how I would tell my daughter “it’s not nice to call people crazy”, but this man, I am almost positive, truly was.  As I was walking into the bank, he was outside speaking to a motorcycle.  I wasn’t sure, at first, what was happening.  I watched for the few moments it took me to walk from my car into the bank and I realized he was, in fact, speaking to the bike. As I entered the bank doors, I clicked my car key fob again until I heard the beep that indicates the doors are locked.  Then he came into the bank behind me.  

He and I filled out our deposit slips at the same time. He was not writing anything that made sense on his form. He was writing in spaces along the edge of the form, in all the white spaces, not on the lines.  I didn’t want to be paying attention to him and what he was doing, but I also couldn’t help but pay attention.

Then we were at the counter at the same time and he was sharing that he needed money, from a settlement from when he left the military and that he hasn’t touched a bank in years and has no ID so he should have great credit and it’s hard to get money because he was in witness protection and so on and so on and so on.  I was nervous being in that space with him, I’ll admit. I also felt, and have continued to feel, so horrible for him. I can’t shake the feelings of sadness and concern for this man, who clearly was delusional, likely homeless, and from the looks of it, not very much older than me. He was so sincere about wanting to “just get a little something to get him started” and it was heartbreaking for me to think how, in some way, independent of anything he has done, the world has failed him.

And I can’t shake it.  I can’t put my feelings aside tonight for this guy, that I have never really met, I will never really know.  I still feel a tug, a pull, an urgency in some way that tells me that I should have done something – anything.  Took out an extra $___ and given it to him.  Gone down the street and bought him some food and brought it back to him.  I’m not even sure he would have accepted either.  I don’t know that he wouldn’t have either.  All I know is that I find myself reeling in the fact that this man is, for all intents and purposes, invisible in this world — his delusion of being in witness protection, having no identity, nobody that can vouch for him (as the bank teller asked), nobody that knows him and can help him — that’s NOT a delusion for this man.  And today, I was one more person who continued to place him in an invisible space.  Today, I was one more person who didn’t see him.  Today, while I maybe didn’t make his life any harder, I certainly didn’t step in, or step up, and make it any better either.  And I feel like I could have.  Maybe?  Perhaps?

I don’t have any solutions to the overwhelming issues of homelessness and mental illness and substance addiction, and maybe none of those things have anything to do with this man.  Maybe all of them do.  I can think of solutions though, to helping another human being in need who is reaching out, in the only fragmented way that he knows how.  I can think of several things that I could have done and I did not do any of them.

And I have to live with that.  And I am ashamed.

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