Invisible people exist all over the world. My friend commented on my recent post about older women being invisible by noting this, although this is a different type of invisibility. When I was in Antigua, Guatemala, the narrow streets were lined with beggars, appearing to be either sleeping or motionless, with their bowls waiting for people to drop coins in. I even took pictures, all the while feeling guilty. Everybody would just literally walk over them. But it seemed their assigned “job” in life was “beggar”, and their job description included being as unobtrusive as possible. That is definitely not the case in Manhattan. When I worked there, I encountered the “invisible” every day, in the Port Authority Bus Terminal, the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, the Subway, the street leading up to the bus terminal (40th and 8th). These areas have been “cleaned up” since the last time I was there, but I distinctly remember avoiding the urine soaked stench on one side of the street by moving to the other side. Before the cops cracked down on the homeless, you would be greeted each morning by society’s outcasts, hanging around right outside or even inside Port Authority, begging for money. Sometimes they would come up to you while you were on the line waiting for the bus to arrive, and we would just ignore them, pretending they were invisible. A day never passed that I was not approached in the Subway by a panhandler. Everybody on the train would virtually ignore them, staring right through them as if they were not even there. We all seemed to have an unwritten code that said, “Do not give money to the indigent”, but sometimes my heart would break for someone. I’ll never forget a dirty homeless young man who collapsed to his knees on the subway train, begging anyone to help him, while we all pretended he was not there. I don’t know how other people felt, but I SAW these “throwaway” people and always thought, “There for the grace of God go I” and knew it could happen to anyone, even me. I think the main culprit was drugs, alcohol, mental illness, or most likely, a combination. Where mental illness goes, so does addiction and alcoholism. Not all alcoholics are severely mentally ill, but the majority of homeless are mentally ill and abuse drugs or alcohol as a means of self-medication. I never would have thought that a loved one would fall victim to that exact same fate, but it happened, which shows it can affect anyone even if you feel you are immune. I hope that some of these people came back from the living dead, by getting the help they needed, but I will never know. More resources are needed for the mentally ill, but until we realize that this can and may touch your life, we will continue to see invisible people.