As I sat there on the cold and dirty Melbourne pavement, I felt like I had entered a completely different universe, one where I was invisible. However this feeling of being invisible wasn’t fun or interesting like we see in Harry Potter when he hides under the invisibility cloak; no, it was scary, heart-breaking and just plain sad.
On Monday we headed into Melbourne’s CBD to conduct an experiment on our humanity and gage just how we treat those less fortunate than ourselves. The first stage of the experiment required us to attempt fund raising for the homeless. We walked around the city with a mirror that read ‘ARE YOU WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD?’ and held this up to people who walked past us. We were dressed in everyday, casual attire, and held collection tins for monetary donations. Most people smiled at us, made eye contact, and some even gave us their spare change.
Stage two, required a very different approach. I took off my jewellery and makeup, got changed into some old clothes and dirty shoes and positioned myself on the ground outside a very busy area in the city. I was clearly attempting to look like a homeless person, in order to gage community reaction to this problem, first hand. I had a black bag next to me, my legs were pulled up to my chest because of the freezing weather and I wore a beanie and had my head against my knees. I looked from side to side and purposely tried to make eye contact with those walking past me.
What happened made me cry.
People did absolutely everything they could to avoid my eye contact. Even if they were walking in my direction they would force their head so far to the side just to avoid seeing or focusing on me. Most of them looked straight ahead as though I wasn’t even there and many walked over me, knocked me with their bags and generally just didn’t acknowledge my existence.
One woman stopped and gave me some change, but was it the change I needed? She stopped, looked me in the eyes, handed me about $3 and then kept walking. As generous as her $3 was, there was no conversation, no acknowledgement of me as a human being, and generally no desire to connect. Nobody wanted to know how this young girl, sitting on the freezing ground in the middle of winter, got there or where she was going to sleep. Nobody asked my name, or showed any interest in me. I was invisible and at the very most, a nuisance to them.
As a community, this situation seems far too scary for us and most of the time we think it’s not our responsibility. But as people, as humans don’t we owe something to one another? Where is our sense of community, of connectedness, or kindness? If we live our life with the belief that you look after yourself and no one else, what kind of future does that leave us?
I thoroughly believe that we all have an obligation to each other and to our world. If all of us stopped, just once and started a conversation with someone less fortunate than us maybe, just maybe it may be the catalyst for change. Or if all of us gave $1 to someone we would normally walk past, that individual would have enough to find accommodation for the night and maybe even more.
Hundreds and hundreds of people walked past me on Monday. I wonder what would have happened if someone provided me with the opportunity of change.
*The $8 we raised is going to be put aside until we raise more money and then will be donated to a charity addressing homelessness.