That's what she was doing.
Sitting on the front steps of St. John's Cathedral at East Ninth and Superior.
And it wasn't crying.
It was wailing.
Plaintiff, forlorn, and loud.
Wailing has a slower tempo than crying.
It requires deep breaths between the extended notes held long so the sadness of the tone can envelop you.
And yet the world ignored her.
I was heading west on Rockwell when I encountered the scene.
The Cathedral porch was a beehive of activity.
Runners from the annual Rite-Aid Marathon, like ants at a picnic, were everywhere.
Churchgoers went in and out the front door.
In essence, humanity all about.
But weirdly, no one seemed to notice.
They absorbed themselves in their own objectives.
They acted like they didn't hear the wailing.
The truth is though, it was impossible not to hear.
What makes us ignore those obviously in distress?
Is it fear?
Maybe she was psychotic.
Perhaps even dangerous.
But I don't think that's it.
I think we don't like getting involved.
We prefer to help those in need clean style.
We like to write a check or drop cash into a basket that circulates around the room.
You don't get your hands dirty that way.
People in need are complicated.
Frequently, bad hygiene.
Ignore them and let organizations do our work.
Ebeneezer once asked, "Don't we have debtors prisons?"
Now, folks, I was at the Cathedral to meet my daughter, the athlete marathoner.
But, fool that I am, I asked Madame Wail what troubled her.
First, I had to calm her down.
Deep, slow breaths.
Finally, the mournful moans subsided.
And then out tumbled the story.
She'd had a seizure in the rear pews of the church and a confused policeman had ejected her from the historic structure.
The politician in me took over as I negotiated for her reentry into the beautiful house of worship.
A friend was called to give her a lift home.
The crisis was over.
I gave her my card and told her to call if I could be of further service.
She thanked me, tears in her eyes.
I think those tears represented aloneness.
She obviously suffered from maladies mostly mental.
Drug addiction wouldn't surprise me either.
But in the heart of the busiest corner of a major American metropolis in broad daylight, no one heard her cries.
Her vocal SOS that pierced the morning air.
God help the invisible people.
And God help those who refuse to see them.
Or hear them.
Jump into a mess.
Take a risk and involve yourself in someone else's drama, for a change.
The modern mind has walled off the inclinations of the human heart.
But within you, your heart beats to the slow, melancholy pace of a wail.
Satisfy your heart, not your logic.
And follow that wail.
It will lead to your opportunity to help a suffering soul.
And maybe save yours in the bargain.