Have you ever read a novel that made you stop and think? Not because it resulted in a surprising revelation, but simply because it perfectly described what you see every day.
That was the case recently when I read "No and Me" by Delphine de Vigan. It's the story of a Parisian teenager who befriends a young homeless girl in one of the city's train stations and tries to save her from life in the streets.
Although I recommend the book, this isn't a review.
This is more about the underlying issue. The other side of the Paris we know and love. The homelessness that keeps increasing in spite of all of the social programs in this country. (Les Restos du Coeur, a charitable organization, say that last year the number of people helped reached nearly 1 million).
But you don't have to look at the statistics. You just have to look out the window. And it's of particular concern when the temperatures dip into winter territory.
What's frightening and sad is that after living here a while, we're often desensitized. We no longer see the dirty groupings of blankets near heating ducts or the desperate faces here and there.
I think of this as the Parisian streets light up for the holidays, the crowds multiply in front of department stores and rush hour in the subway transforms itself into rush hours. Passers-by move about as if in a bubble filled with their own priorities and concerns. I scold myself for the times that I've been in my own bubble.
As I tell myself that I will always appreciate the beauty of Paris, I say that I also must make a more important promise: To never close my eyes to that person sitting on the sidewalk.