Standing in my usual place in the back row of Step Class, I realized that after my year’s absence everything was exactly the same. It was as if I stepped into a time machine and went back one year into the past. The same instructor was teaching the same class with the same music and several of the students were the same ones that had been taking the class with me for ten years.
As I entered the class, some looked at me as if they knew I’d been absent, but weren’t sure for how long. Some acknowledged that it had been awhile, and asked where I’d been. I attended that class most weeks for ten years. How is it possible that I was gone for a year and they either hadn’t noticed or didn’t care or were simply oblivious. Since I’m usually the only African American in the class, you’d think they’d notice my absence or my return. Even if they weren’t sure how long I’d been gone, you’d think they’d at least be curious and ask where I had been. Like Ellison’s book… am I the Invisible Woman.
Then I realized that I’m part of the problem. After all those years attending class with the same core group of women, we never reached out to get to know one another. We knew one another by sight and we knew not to encroach on each other’s favorite spot in class, but that’s all we knew.
I had a similar realization in the grocery store where I’ve shopped for fifteen years. I’ve seen the same workers in that store for years, yet I’ve never even spoken to them unless I needed something. So, I’ve taken the first step… I spoke to the guy in the produce department at the local Giant. He looked surprised that I said hello without asking for something, but he smiled and acknowledged my greeting.
From now on… I will make an effort to get to know the people that I interact with on a regular basis. Like Cheers… I want everybody to know my name.