This New Year, Stop Looking Away

When I was still very little, my mother told me not to look at the homeless people on the streets. She never told me exactly why. But I learned from a young age that I should look away. Pretend that they were not there.

That’s how society acts. My mom didn’t teach me that because she was cruel. She taught me that because her mother had taught her. I bet you, too, were told to not look at the suffering. Not to stare at disabled people. Not to look at the poor. To turn your head and shut your eyes.

As I grew up, I maintained that old habit of looking away, until I was old enough to ask myself why. And because couldn’t find a real answer, I decided to stop doing that.

Do you know what happened? I was met with smiles. Yes, the homeless people smiled at me when they noticed I was looking. Even when I didn’t give them a single coin. They smiled because I had seen them. Recognized their existence. In a world that was constantly pretending they were invisible, that was perhaps more valuable than money.

Of course, I’m not saying all of them smiled at me. If they frowned or seemed upset, I’d, of course, look away. But it was the smiles that made it into my memory.

That little experience gave me a lot to think about. I started asking myself in what other situations I was looking away. Literally or metaphorically. Sometimes, we don’t need to move our heads in order to “look away”. We just need to keep scrolling. Or to not to do anything. Not to kneel down to get that pen that fell from our classmate’s desk. Not to stand up when we see an elderly who couldn’t sit on the bus.

As a mental health advocate, I know that a big part of the problem is our habit of looking away from the suffering. Most mental illnesses, though deemed “invisible”, have noticeable signs. If you know how to look, you can spot a depressed person by the way they talk. You can notice it when someone’s struggling with anxiety by their body language. If you choose to look, you will see.

People die because we continue to look away. Every year, 44,965 Americans die by suicide. All those people had their suffering ignored or at least underestimated. Could a closer look have saved them?

We are a couple of weeks into January. By this time, most people will have given up on their New Year resolutions. But I’d like to invite you to make a new one by now.

Let’s make 2018 the year we stop looking away.

If your coworker seems to be down lately, try asking if they’re ok. If a classmate is too nervous while presenting in front of the class, try to help them out. Do not look away. Do not pretend not to notice.

We at #icare are Kindness Warriors. Refusing to look away is our special power. Today, I want to invite you to join us. Open your eyes; see others. You will find there are wonderful people out there waiting to be seen.

Happy New Year!

By | 2018-01-12T19:43:07+00:00 January 11th, 2018|

About the Author:

Andressa Andrade is a freelance writer who specializes in creating quality content for young audiences. She is passionate about mental health and tries to use her writing skills to raise awareness about it. She has been fighting an anxiety disorder and has been beating it day after day. She blogs at


  1. Lisa Bechtol January 11, 2018 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing, how true are the words our write. Instead of looking for the reasons why if we choose empathy, compassion, kindness, and realize that we can make a difference regardless of our past. Our truth may help just one person. Great article.

    • Andressa Andrade January 12, 2018 at 7:44 pm - Reply

      Hi, Lisa! Thank you so much for your words! I’m happy you liked the article!

  2. Michelle Valenty January 12, 2018 at 8:14 pm - Reply

    Than you for writing this. I to am a “Kindness Warrior” and it is in fact my “super power”. I am an Empath. Since the earliest days I can remember, I’ve had this innate need to reach out to help people. But like you was told, “don’t look”…it left me feeling confused and out if place, as if I didn’t “fit-in” this world of people who “don’t look”. Why was I so different then? Why, when everyone else could CHOOSE” not to “look”, I NEEDED to, I didn’t have the ability to choose not to.
    Throughout the years, I’ve had my struggles…addiction, bi-polar I severe (I stay to the manic side) with psychotic features (I hear voices), anxiety, and in the last few years Domestic Violence/Sexual Abuse, and a Traumatic Brain Injury, caused by a beating 2/2/16. I have serious trust issues and at times ,I sincerely hate people…but I NEED to help them, to love them, be kind to them…quite the paradox.
    I realized, I had found my Divine Purpose…I went through EVERYTHING I did because I was given the gift of Kindness, compassion, empathy…the gifts or superpowers of an Empath…through my Experience, Strength and HOPE I can help the ones that the world chooses not to “look” at.

    • Andressa Andrade January 12, 2018 at 10:05 pm - Reply

      Hi, Michelle! I’m happy you liked my article. Your story is incredible! Many people, in your place, would have grown bitter. But not you. You still choose Kindness, even if the world hasn’t been that kind to you. I admire you so much for that! Thank you for being yourself. All the love. ♥

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