“It’s interesting to sit here, and watch the people,” our curious friend, Don, commented wearing a grin on his face. “That’s exactly what I was thinking,” I replied, amused. It was a family day at a theme park. My husband, our children and I were having a blast. Our friend Don and his wife were with us. While our children were enjoying some of the park rides, we were sitting comfortably, observing the crowd of visitors walking around.
People of all ages, sizes, and looks were at the park that day --Energetic kids, talking loudly in high pitch voices, demanding to go on rides and shouting for foods of all sorts; overdressed elderly women, walking slowly as though they were trying to catch up with the years gone by; vibrant and good looking teenage boys and girls, some of them indulging in romantic hugging and kissing, while the others were boastfully sharing their latest romantic tales.
A young man caught my interest. He was sitting in a customized wheelchair, being assisted by a man who appeared to be his father. My unduly inquisitive mind tried to determine whether the young man had cerebral palsy or a prior brain injury. He was drinking from a sippy cup held by his caregiver. Quite a nurturing image, I thought.
I immersed myself in the people’s worlds, as discreetly as possible for fear of being taken as an impertinent watcher. Clothing color, accessories style, body movements, facial gestures, mannerisms, food preferences, and the choice of jewelry a person chose to wear that day, all subtleties not normally considered in detail, were my delight. It’s certainly amazing the multitude of niceties that one’s eye can capture within just a few minutes.
My observant eye.
Yet my inquisitive mind switched to a more interesting quiz. How much can it be inferred about people based only from their personal objects?
Isn’t that an important part of the forensic sciences after all?
While musing on the subject, I recalled a quite particular experience. Last year, I decided to volunteer at the church resale shop, a few hours a month. I thought it would be a noble and enjoyable time since I like sewing, ironing and making clothing look as neat and presentable as possible --My mother taught me to be meticulous with my clothes: no wrinkles, no holes, no stains were to be spotted.
While unpacking and putting up donated clothes, my curiosity didn’t have to wait to find objects of interest: the donors themselves. I started to wonder about the people who had owned and enjoyed -or perhaps hated- these clothes.
And the game started.
I tried to visualize the middle- aged woman who might have donated the classy black and white, two-piece dress, or the young girl that may have given away the tank top that no longer fit her.
But the game turned odd when I held up an extra-large pair of blue jeans. They had evidently been worn multiple times. It came to my mind that the jeans might have belonged to a young man. Strangely, I had the feeling he was anxious, and somewhat sad. I didn’t know why I was getting that feeling. I disliked what I was thinking, and set the jeans aside, attempting to focus on something else.
An unexpected impulse drew me to check the jean’s pants pockets. I did. A surprising discovery.
There was a small white pill in one of the pockets. I examined it carefully. I was unable to identify the pill as its markings were worn off. As a healthcare worker, I suspected it was a narcotic, most likely a pain killer.
I discarded the pill immediately, and closed my wandering mind to reflect about people’s essence. Their spirit, their soul.
I concluded that whether I was right or wrong in my visualizations about the clothing donors, I had no doubt that we are leaving a print --visible or not-- in everything and everybody around us, or part of us.
Nonetheless, may we ask ourselves: what kind of essence or spirit are we projecting today, or leaving behind for another to find?