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Image description: A Tim’s card with the words ‘great coffee’ above and ‘cures invisibility’ below. On each side of the care is the word ‘Magic’ surrounded by pink fairy dust

She was sitting in the sun, resting her back on the base of a streetlamp. Her hat was in front of her with a few meagre coins in it. The corner she was sitting on was at one of the wealthier intersections of the city. People, with shopping bags full, swarmed by her, not seeing her, not stopping. I, however, was headed right towards her.

I’ve written here before that I keep 5$ gift cards for Tim Hortons in my wallet to give to people on the street. In winter they can get something hot, in summer something cold. And if you’re not Canadian, you need to know that here in Toronto at least, you are never far from a Tim’s. I have been criticized for giving the cards, not cash, but, it’s what I do and it’s what I’m comfortable with.

Just as I got to her a group of men and women stepped right in front of me. Right into my path, as if I wasn’t there. They stood there at the light, waiting. I was in a bit of a hurry and so I said to the couple who stood between me and the woman, the couple that was part of the group who somehow couldn’t see me, “Excuse me …” They looked back, saw me and stepped over a bit, as if I was jockeying for a place at the curb.

Instead, I leaned down and said to the woman, “Hello!” She looked up and responded, “Hi!” All the while we chatted about the weather, and the crowd waited for the light to change. I pulled my wallet out. I handed over the card to her and explained that it had 5$ on it. She said she was needing something cold and carefully, very carefully, put it in the pocket of her pants.

I didn’t notice, because I was focused on talking to her, that we had made those at the curb very, very, uncomfortable. I know this only because as the light changed she said to me, “Did you see what happened when you spoke to me?” I said that I didn’t, I had been looking at her. “Suddenly people could see us. We were both invisible and then we became really visible. They were so uncomfortable with us both being human and being kind to each other.” I wondered, I said to her, if maybe it’s okay to make people a bit uncomfortable some times.

“Thank you,” she said as I left.

“Enjoy the card,” I said.

She said, “I will, but that’s not what I’m thanking you for. Thanks seeing me. Thanks for making me visible. I felt like I mattered for a few minutes.”

“You do,” I said.

Joe told me that he had seen the same thing. He had stood and watched people react with real discomfort as my act of giving was held in stark relief to their act of not caring. I told him what she had thanked me for and then said, “But the thing is, I was invisible until I spoke to her, it’s like we both, for a moment, became real, flesh and blood, people. I wish I’d thanked her, because, for a few moments, she made me visible too.”