Feet and back toward the camera, a child lies on the broad sidewalk in front of shops and other businesses in an occupied Polish city, May of 1941. That’s all the image and caption relate with any certainty. We don’t know if he’s alive or dead. The expressions of those around him don’t tell us, even those of the other children. He could be tired of walking or waiting, and so is resting. Perhaps a sibling said something taunting or unkind, or a parent said no to buying chocolate, and so he’s thrown a tantrum. No hand seems to reach out to him, no stranger’s compassion turns to see what’s wrong. It feels like his invisibility is complete, he is illusory, a figment.
And this is where I get lost, become frightened, turn inside myself to find some anchor, for even my grandfather, openly racist and disdainful of others, taught me by example to take a moment, cross the street, kneel at the side of someone’s possible distress.