The Invisible Woman
The woman sits on the side of the pedestrianised high street, leaning against the wall of a charity shop, (ironically perhaps?) in the town I live in. Residents meander up and down on market day, picking up fresh vegetables for dinner, meat from the butchers to celebrate the coming of the weekend, or a Mothers Day gift from one of the local boutiques. I am one of them, it is my morning off today - a treasured few hours spent with my little girl warm and cosy in her pram ‘doggy’ spotting, then reading books at the library and doing jigsaw puzzles before a luxurious moment of quality time over a latte and babycino. The sun is shining, a perfect morning!
I see her again and wonder how many times I have walked past this young lady, occasionally buying a big issue or giving her a quick smile before moving along with my day. I recall seeing her walk from the station this morning to her usual spot, where had she come from? What was in her bag? Was that her main coat? It didn’t look particularly warm. What had brought her here? What made her need to sit on the street the whole day waiting for someone to offer £2.50 for a big issue... and when this was offset against her train fayre, how much if anything was she making? These questions run through my head and I wonder why I had never considered these things before.
The Invisible Woman (or Man); you know they are there, you see them, maybe daily - sometimes in the most terrible conditions, rain and freezing cold. If you’re a nice person you acknowledge them and nicer you buy a magazine or donate. Perhaps though on other days, you hurry past, looking away, not wanting to be confronted by something than upsets you or makes you uncomfortable, a path in your mind you prefer not to explore. What if that was me, sat there I wonder? It is after all, arguably the genetic lottery – where and under what circumstances we were born determines so much and not necessarily including our level of intelligence or disposition.
I know this because I speak to Rosa* today who is bright, warm and switched on and we talk about her kids, aged 2 and 4, about Romania where she is from and how she lives now in Leicester in a shared house with other friends. She tells me I share her sisters’ name and that my little girl is beautiful. I tell her that she is too. We speak for 10 minutes or so and it like speaking to a friend, comparing toddler stories and talking about regular things, the weather, challenges and future hopes for our children. I have no idea why I haven’t stopped to chat to Rosa before, I am sure there is some reason but maybe it’s just the curse of the invisible person, maybe we only see People Like Us?
There are sadly many Rosa’s and millions of people with far less and in a much worse and for some- far more unthinkable situation than the lovely lady who sits on my local high street every week.
In light of International Woman’s Day, it made me think about what this movement actually means in practice and in the reality of day to day life. As much as there are many wonderful people working to this and other causes, how many feel it, say it, share it - but take no action?
I am incredibly proud of the work that we do with Mamabox, sending care kits with valuable and much needed items for mama’s to care for their babies, purchased from the sale of each gift. As we grow, we will be able to give more and more to these strong and amazing women, which is a huge motivation to get out of bed and into the office each day, but still I know I can be better.
So, the day after IWD 2018 and as my newsfeed slowly fades from empowering quotes to desirable images, I endeavour to get out of my incredibly lucky box more often and do a little more where I can. To do more of the little things, even if this means simply making someone invisible feel momentarily visible, someone not legally validated – yet, feel the validity they deserve, feel human.... and in return, feel somewhat validated too.