Natalia unexpectedly interrupted the group of friends who were enjoying a birthday celebration on an open-air terrace. A touch of sadness embedded itself in their jollity and hearts started beating faster.
The first words spoken by this skinny middle-aged woman with haggard features and even a gaunt look in her eyes, froze the spirits of the group on that chilly January evening, in a city that was still recovering from the excesses of the Christmas season.
Her high tone of voice caught the attention of even the distracted diners: she was asking for help from the invisibility that plagues the lives of people who have been uprooted from their homes and whose existence goes unnoticed as we go about our daily routines.
Then Antonio arrived and started singing in the hope of gaining a few coins for his improvised concert; the chorus and intonation were not important, what mattered was the strength of his spirit before he went off, taking his music elsewhere.
Later more came; they didn't introduce themselves but they have names, stories, a past and a future - although I doubt their present is a gift lost in so much consumerism and deliveries from one side of the planet to another - and they all demanded their share of solidarity.
These are daily scenes that find no frame, or place on the postcards that form the album of our memories. These scenes bring us back down to earth with a bump.
We are losing sensitivity, an element of cohesion for the human race; and we mustn't forget that this is what makes us different from animals.
It seems that now not everyone is capable of being affected by violent scenes involving less fortunate beings, of weeping before a situation of injustice or simply being saddened by someone else's misfortune. Yet these scenes can be found around every corner, in every neighbourhood, in the doorway of an elegant building.
Sensitivity appeals to our primitive emotion, one that tells us that humanity exists beyond our closest surroundings, beyond our comfort zone...
It's as if all the enthusiasm and goodwill to others that we display in December is wiped from our calendar of affections in January.
It ought to be Christmas all year round to preserve that attraction towards people who ask for more than charity, because philanthropy never appears on the calendar as it has no expiry date.
Life goes on and we have to realise that so many people have a need, at least, for some affection.