Anne Peterson

I write stories and goosebump poetry

People Feel Invisible: We need to open our eyes

“You look tired,” I said to the young woman scanning my groceries.

I’m not one to just spit out the question, “How are you?”  Maybe because I know people just say what they think you want to hear.

“Oh, I AM tired,” she responded a little surprised. “I haven’t slept in days.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“We’ve had 3 break-ins in the past couple of weeks. I’m afraid to sleep.”

Her words pierced my heart

“How awful.” I replied. “Why don’t you move?”

I knew after I asked this young woman my question, it wasn’t a good one. If she could have moved, she would have.

“I can’t afford to,” she said, confirming my thoughts.

And so I asked, “May I pray for you?”

A big smile covered her face. “I would love that.”

She finished scanning my groceries and we exchanged email addresses.

“I’ll pray,” I promised, as I left with my daughter.

Clutching her email address, which she scribbled on my receipt, I tucked it into my pocket.

I’m so glad I took a minute to talk to her. I’m so glad that I saw her.

Too often, we look at people but we don’t see them. Tweet That. 

One time at a function, someone asked my husband the traditional, “How are you?”

Mike didn’t miss a beat, “Rotten,” he responded.

But the person kept talking without a pause.

No one heard my tiny gasp. Mike grinned at me.

The way things were

I liked it better when people talked to each other.

I’m trying in my own way to bring that back. Like that day with Tequila.

She actually did email me a few days later. I knew it was her, she was the only Tequila I had ever met.

“My mom named me,” she had explained at the store…”everyone always asks me about my name,” she smiled. She had a sparkle in her brown eyes.

Her email warmed my heart:

“I want to thank you so much for talking to me that day. It really encouraged me and gave me hope. I could tell you and your daughter must know God. Thanks again. P.S. Please don’t forget to pray for me.”

And so I wrote Tequila back, asking her a couple questions. Do you have a lease? How big a place do you need?

Maybe the mission I knew in town could help her.

Someone needed to help her

But I didn’t hear back from Tequila.

And weeks turned into months, and those months turned into a year or more.

My husband and I finished watching a mindless sitcom when he asked, 
“Can we please watch the news, just for a few minutes? I need some reality TV.”

“Sure,” I said, biting my tongue. He knew I hated watching the news.

Finally the Anchorman shared one story that caused me to jump off the couch and run to my computer.

It was a name I had not forgotten.

Typing the name into my computer, my stomach tied in knots. Up popped my emails with Tequila.

I trudged into the living room.

It was Tequila. The woman they just found in a dumpster.

I felt like someone kicked me in the stomach.

She stayed on my mind for days. And this is what I’ve come away with.

People feel invisible

See that person in front of you? The one who’s scanning your groceries?

You have no idea what she’s going through. Nor do you know what your neighbor faces each day.

We need to open our eyes and make eye contact. We need to see others around us. To let them know we see them.

Someone may just need to talk.

Someone like Tequila.


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About Anne Peterson

I write words you can feel, sometimes they rhyme. If I'm not writing, I'm telling stories from my head, to little ones who call me grandma.

34 Replies

  1. bonnie

    this was sad, but excellent anne… used to hate those same 3 words… don’t know exactly how and when the Lord changed me, but i do not mind them anymore… but yes, it would be good and godly to really hear people, and not ask what we don’t really want to know… i try not to ever ask how are you, unless i really want to know..

    1. Bonnie,
      Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment. I have to say that God is changing me as far as the degree of hate I have. Now at least I realize it’s just an expected set of responses. I think it’s wise to not ask someone if you don’t want to know, although sometimes we let those words slip off our tongue. I think the tongue is slippery at times. 🙂

      1. Carolyn Mercer

        I’m so glad i read this….i do try to engage people when I’m out and about but far too many times my mind is busy thinking about my to-do list or whatever. This was a dramatic encounter for sure. Thank you for sharing.

        1. Thanks for your comment Carolyn. I think it does have to take a conscious effort on our parts because there are so many other things we can think of when we are out and about. And sometimes it can be scary to just start up a conversation with someone we don’t know. Still, I think it will give the message to others that we care and maybe the fact we reach out will make them curious as to why we are different.

  2. Cathryn

    There are so many words we use, without thinking further than the last word. I work in an aged care home, where I am a personal carer/Chaplain…I think it’s all about MAKING time to really HEAR that person, and not to say something just out of habit.
    I have often thought, when someone asks me, ” How are you?” …..”Have you got the time?”

    1. Cathryn,
      I totally agree about making the time to hear and not answering out of habit. If we just incorporated that into our lives on a daily basis, what a difference that alone would make. I think inside of all of us we long to believe that someone does really want to know how we are inside. Don’t you?

  3. Sue Powell

    That was ‘heart-wrenching’ ,convicting,and painfully true…the need to ‘connect’ and ‘listen’…most people are not equipped (or comfortable?) hearing an honest response to ‘how are you’? With “rotten”! I will not answer that question with the standard and expected; “Fine”…*though I know this is the ‘acceptable and socially correct’ response..*and I have to admit,there are times when I ask that question,and don’t really want to hear anything ‘too deep’ or too personal…and I feel bad about that.Ask forgiveness a lot.

    1. Sue,
      Thanks for reading. I find people surprised when I sincerely ask them questions. I think it’s because it’s happening less and less. We as Christians should be showing others we care, and the darker the world becomes, the more obvious it is when we do something contrary.

    2. Sue,
      I can count on you to respond to my writing. I hope you know how thankful I am for all your encouragement. I also appreciate your honesty about how you sometimes don’t want to hear more involved answers. We would like neat little answers we already know how to respond to, wouldn’t we. Not all the time, but sometimes at least. And I think we’ll find that messiness usually comes when we have little time to give. And of course it’s those times that we are to lean on him, the sovereign one, the one who has all the time in the world.

  4. Ann Witherspoon

    Excellent read Anne … very poignant, appropriate and thought provoking. I tend to ask people ‘How art thou?” … but with the attitude of listening because I feel it is important that we share the ‘Truth’ about where we are as oppose to just rendering a standard answer with the expectation of a standard response. Once we share our ‘Truths’ we tend to have our needs met even if is different from the immediate need that is pending. Prayer and a supportive ear has no monetary value yet are priceless. Thanks for sharing …

    1. Ann,
      As always, thanks for your encouragement. It makes all the difference in the world that when we are asking questions that we are actively involved. Sometimes our words become rote and meaningless otherwise. And you’re right, prayer is priceless, whether we see results or not. It’s something we are instructed to do, and you can bet the enemy of our souls will discourage it with simple whispers like, “How will it look if you say that? They are gonna think you’re a fanatic.”

  5. Pat Youther

    Anne, this is gut-wrenching. We’ve been discussing this very subject in my Sunday School class. I’ve been encouraging them to remember that the people who serve us are real people with lives outside of the work they’re doing.

    1. Pat,
      That’s great that you guys have been discussing this in Sunday School. I hope it’s something that you can revisit and maybe share stories of what happened when you did take time. Keep reminding them Pat. You never know how those reminders may help someone.

  6. Barb

    Great article & so true. We do need to ask & listen. We also need to pray for others & follow through. I happen to trust kids more sometimes when they say I’ll pray about it because they are usually more sincere when they say it. Conversation is a thing of the past. We can change that. Thanks again for your honesty & openness! I love your writing! What a talent God has given you!!!

    1. Barb,
      Thanks for reading Barb. The thing is, listening is something we all can do. Yes, there are times we may have less moments, but even a little bit of time can mean so much to someone. If she were able, I would have prayed for her right there because sometimes we’ll say we’ll pray and we sometimes forget. I’d just rather do it right then. You’re very encouraging about my writing Barb. That means a lot.

  7. Wow Anne – trying to wrap my head around what that must have felt like. I work with those in need every day and so often I can tell they are lonely and beaten down and just need an ear to hear. Even when I can’t help, I offer to pray and I believe that little bit of time, that little piece of hope can make a difference.

    1. Toni,
      I think the fact that you offer to pray does give someone hope. And we have no idea how badly someone may need hope that very day.

  8. wow, you brought me to tears. So sad. Thank you for sharing, Anne. It is a hard question to get. When I visited America, everyone and strangers asked me how I was, and they expected me to reply with “I’m good, how are you?” In Denmark, strangers don’t ask each other “how are you”, but family and friends and colleagues and neighbors ask the question. Do we dare to be honest, and do we dare as you do and not close our eyes to the truth and do something. I’m glad you prayed for her, I hope she knew Christ…

    1. Mariane,
      That’s interesting how they don’t do that in Denmark. I don’t think it’s the practice in Germany either to ask “How are you?” I think we all need people in our lives we can be honest with. People we can just be ourselves with. I believe Tequila did know Christ.

  9. Diane Mills

    This is so tragic! You are right, it is so important to listen and talk to our neighbours, or people around us, as you never know what they might be going through, we must take time out to care! Hope you don’t mind but I have shared your post xxx

    1. Diane,

      I’m glad you shared the post. We can all use a reminder to be more aware of those we interact with each day.

  10. Hey Anne. This piece touched my soul and helped me recognize how important every conversation is in life. I don’t love interacting with fellow humans so I needed to hear this. Thank you. 😉

    1. David,
      Thank you for taking the time to comment. A lot of people don’t enjoy interaction. For them, it’s more of a struggle, but one that can be really worth it, because you never know what someone is going through.

  11. You never know what a difference that time makes – although this was a tragic story in the end, your time must have made such a difference to her.

  12. Corena

    Unfortunately I think “Christians” are the biggest offenders. We are quick to expect ourselves and others to say we are okay when we are not. Somehow translating sadness and happiness 2 emotions God made us with is confused with Joy from the Lord. I have been exposed to this so often I am very conscious of it now. They are exclusive of each other. My joy from the Lord is His gift and I treasure it guard it but as a human I can have emotion of sadness or happiness because of life happening.

    1. Corena,
      I believe you’re right. I think we can tell if someone is genuinely interested pretty quickly, but unfortunately that may have been the day we really needed someone to empathize with us. Our joy is from the Lord. Sometimes I wish people would just be okay with others being transparent. Some are. And they are a treasure to know and you can bet they are open. Those who are open will find others are drawn to them. We all need that safe place to fall.

  13. barbarb

    Sorry to say but I ‘m the one who at times feels rotten” yet says “fine”. Will now be more honest depending on who is asking. Thank you.

    1. I was guilty of saying “fine” for years Barb. I’m writing about that in a book I’m working on.

  14. Assu

    Thanks Anne for sharing your article….. we truly need to give a listening ear and pray for the people who need us.. I have always been telling people I will pray for them, BUT most of the time I forget to pray for them in my personal prayer…… NOW I decided,after reading your article, I will pray for them then and there. Thanks once again for a thought provoking article.

    1. Assu,

      Thank you for your comment. I’ve learned it’s too easy to forget. Besides that, I want my word to be trusted. If I say I’ll pray, I want to pray. but I know it’s easy to forget as well. This way works better for me.

  15. jophie

    i really am touched of your article anne. sometimes, we are not consistent and sensitive enough of what others feel, what they are going through, that without us noticing it, they are already in danger… if at the moment, there is something concrete we can do to get somebody out of danger, we should, before we be sorry later. tequila’s case needed an urgent action, but who would know she will end a tragic death thereafter… sometimes, we’re slow in making decision, but that precious moment you had to converse with her made an impact in her that she asked you then not to forget praying for her…

    1. Thank you Jophie for your comment. I’m sorry I am getting back so late. My granddaughter went to be with Jesus March 11th, 2016 and this is a difficult time for all of us.

  16. Wow! This touched my heart deeply in multiple ways. Thanks. I will be sharing it.

    1. Danielle,
      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. Glad you were touched.

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