Mel Schwartz, LCSW

#110 The Inhumanity of Being Invisible

The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz episode 110 features a recent experience that inspired me to speak to you about connection, compassion, and other aspects of being human we sometimes lose sight of.

Listen to learn what happened… and once you’ve listened, let me know what you think! Have you had a similar experience? Be sure to leave a comment!

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Transcript of The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz #110

Hello everybody and welcome to The Possibility Podcast. I’m your host, Mel Schwartz. I practice psychotherapy, marriage counseling, and I am the author of the book, The Possibility Principle, the companion to this podcast. I hope to be your thought provocateur and I’ll be introducing you to new ways of thinking and a new game plan for life.

Well hello and welcome to today’s very mini episode. In fact, I wasn’t thinking of recording an episode today, but let me tell you what happened. I’m spending the summer in the little town of Amagansett, Long Island, just east of the famous Hamptons. You know, the place where the celebrities, the rich and famous, the very affluent mingle and spend summers at just a magical topography, an incredible ocean. So I’m in the little town of Amagansett. I went out this morning to a spot called Amber Waves, local farm stand to serve some food, kind of a community place.

I’m standing on line, a very long line to check out, and a man walks in who catches my eye because he stands out from everyone else. He looks like he has a second-degree sunburn. I noticed that his pants are tied with a rope. He looks disheveled. Clearly, he looks out of place in this location. He looks out of place in most locations. So I’m curious. While I’m standing in the line, I watch him meander through the grocery, looking at the food in all different sections, opening up refrigerated drawers and peering in.

I think to myself, am I certain that this poor man is homeless? I shouldn’t call him poor man, but I’m having compassion and empathy for him. Clearly, something is off. It’s not just his attire. It’s not just his sunburn. It’s how he’s navigating through the grocery. After a while, I conclude he probably is homeless. He certainly is unwell psychologically, just from his habits.

But then I become curious about something else. Am I the only person noticing him, paying any attention to him? And as I scan the dozens of people, I can’t catch anyone, even remotely, looking at him, acknowledging his presence as though he were invisible. And indeed, I assume, perhaps incorrectly, he was invisible to everyone that was there.

I thought perhaps I should get out of line, offer him some money so that he might have a decent meal. But then I thought, I don’t know what harm that would do him if he’d feel offended. I can’t be so presumptuous as to know how he would receive my offer of generosity. So I demurred and chose to do nothing. Still watching, scanning everyone, nobody looked at him. When he left, I did notice that he had his belongings packed in a shopping cart, you know, a supermarket wagon, and he pushed it down the street.

Clearly, he was homeless. More importantly, well, it’s not important that he was homeless, but the important thing to me was how we inure ourselves and desensitize ourselves. We don’t even glimpse someone else’s plight.

As a kid, I remember the expression, there but for the grace of God go I. Compassion, empathy, it seems in such short supply. I recall when I was in Greenwich Village once when my sons were quite young, and my oldest son, Jesse, I’m going to guess maybe he was eight. He said, Dad, could I have a dollar? I don’t know if it was a dollar or 50 cents. Absentmindedly, I said, sure, and handed him the money. We were online outside of a takeout pizza place. I kept my eye on him, of course, we were in the city in Manhattan. He goes about 50 feet down the street, and there is a homeless person, not begging for money but camped out on a blanket with a cup. And Jesse put the money in his cup.

It’s shocking. It’s just shocking how we tune out. We complain about homelessness. We may say something needs to be done. Of course, NIMBY, “not in my backyard,” becomes prevalent. But I’m speaking here about simply compassion, not what do we do about the problem, but empathy. This person today was an adorable baby just like we all were. Hopefully cared for and loved by one or two parents, maybe not. He was born as a baby, a human being, the same as all of us. And I’m afraid that we’ve become so calloused and desensitized to the plight of others who are less fortunate than we are.

So my musings today and my sharing today is about slowing down, seeing the humanity in every one of us, trying to reach for something to connect with instead of just passing each other by in this terribly transactional way that we do. And I know there are exceptions to the rule that I’m stipulating right now, and to those of you who are the exceptions, bravo, great for you. But for those of you who are just anesthetized once again by the pace of life and the not caring, just take a moment and tune in. And sometimes if you have the opportunity to reach out and touch somebody’s soul, their heart, their being, not only will it be good for them, but it will restore a sense of humanity, a kindred spirit to you and to all of us.

So this was brief. That’s all I had in mind. I look forward to talking with you again soon, in which case, no doubt, I’ll be going into much greater length about something that remains to be seen. Bye for now, and stay connected.

I hope you enjoyed this episode of The Possibility Podcast. I welcome your feedback on this and any episode. Please send me an email at or leave a comment in the show notes for this episode at If you like what you’re hearing, please take a moment to rate and review the show at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Your reviews really help boost the visibility for the show, and it’s a great way for you to show your support. Finally, please make sure to subscribe to the Possibility Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts, and that way you’ll never miss an episode. Thanks again, and please remember to always welcome uncertainty into your life and embrace new possibilities.

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