Have you ever felt invisible? I don’t mean invisible in that magical Harry Potter “cloak of invisibility” type of invisible! I mean invisible in the sense that you have been forgotten, ignored, dismissed, overlooked.
The thought of someone feeling like they are invisible to the world around them has been on my mind lately. I had been listening to a podcast where the guest was a veteran journalist and Mexican immigrant to the United States.
For much of her working life she had endeavoured to tell the story of people whom she believed society had lost sight of. These people regarded themselves as misunderstood, misrepresented, forgotten and invisible. The journalist acknowledged that while she had grown up in a Catholic family, she no longer practised her faith. However, the story of Jesus was still very powerful in her life because it instilled in her the deep desire to respect the humanity of every person. She suggested that if you “grow up feeling invisible it actually has an impact on you”.
This podcast got me thinking about the number of times I’ve heard people say, maybe in different words, that they felt invisible to society or, at a closer, more personal level, to their family and friends.
In Australia we don’t have to look too far to recognise that our Indigenous brothers and sisters have felt this sense of invisibility. We could add people living with a disability or an addiction, migrants and the poor. Through media, film and literature we are starting to hear the stories of these people. Such stories validate them as human beings and build respect and an openness of other people to truly “see them”.
But what about individuals? Maybe you are reading this article and your own mental health has been impacted because you find yourself not part of the “in crowd” or with very little support or company as you live out each day. Maybe you are an older person who has become estranged from your family and your days are filled only with the company of the TV or the occasional smile from someone at the supermarket. Maybe you are a teenager who feels locked out of friendship groups at school or in social media spaces.
The more I thought about this feeling of invisibility, the more people I could think of that fell into this sad reality. I wondered, too, how often feelings of invisibility trigger anxiety and depression. I thought about people who had been forced to work from home because of COVID-19 and whose lives became more insular and lonelier. Did anyone care about these people? Or were we too caught up in our own joy of not having to commute, the comforts of casual dress and not having to worry ourselves about conversing with people we found boring or annoying?
Who are the invisible people in your family, your work, your neighbourhood? Do you have the eyes to see them?
Do you feel invisible? What could others do to validate your life, your story, your humanity? Who could you turn to, or trust, to truly see you?
 Maria Hinojosa, journalist, Mexican immigrant, appeared on the Commonweal Podcast, March 30, 2021, Episode 54, Tell me your story, https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/ep-54-tell-me-your-story/id1436418164?i=1000514428701
Food for the journey
The journalist that I mentioned above spoke of how the story of Jesus had influenced the way she saw and related to people. Jesus, who is God, is our ultimate guide when it comes to seeing people who have become invisible.
Take a look at these characters from the Scriptures. Each one of them found themselves on the outer, with a story no one was interested in. They felt invisible.
- Jesus saw the blind man and cured him (John 9:1-41)
- Jesus saw the woman accused of adultery and showed her compassion (John 8:1-11)
- Jesus saw the poor widow and recognised her generosity (Mark 12:41-44)
- Jesus saw Matthew, the despised tax collector, and asked him to be his friend (Matthew 9:19-13)
Jesus remains the one person who you can trust in this world to truly see you. You might find that hard to believe — many people do. But if you are willing to open your heart to Jesus’ love and mercy, you might be surprised to find just how important your own story is, and how visible you are to God.
In our Going Deeper section this month, we offer you the following prayers that might help you to open a space in your heart to allow God to speak to you. Find a quiet place where you won’t be distracted, allow your breath and mind to still, and then pray. Trust that you are not invisible to God.
O Christ Jesus,
when all is darkness
and we feel our weakness and helplessness,
give us the sense of Your presence,
Your love, and Your strength.
Help us to have perfect trust
in Your protecting love
and strengthening power,
so that nothing may frighten or worry us,
for, living close to You,
we shall see Your hand,
Your purpose, Your will through all things.
By Saint Ignatius of Loyola (Catholic Online: https://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=616)
I feel alone.
Please bring the warmth of relationships into my life.
Please cover my thoughts with hope.
Please send your love into my heart.
I know you are alive in all I experience.
May the birdsong speak to my soul,
may the trees remind me of life,
may the bread I eat nourish my soul with its goodness,
as I connect with the world around me.
I give thanks for all those who love me,
for all those who care.
Help me to receive your hope in my heart,
to embrace your life flowing in mine.
I know I live and breathe as part of your family,
and dwell safely in you.
I know you understand me.
I am not alone. Amen.
(Taken from Lords-prayer-words.com: https://www.lords-prayer-words.com/topics/prayer_for_loneliness.html)
Words: Sharon Brewer
Images: Lightstock, Unsplash