Cellophane people

Cellophane, Mister Cellophane
Shoulda been my name, Mister Cellophane
Cause you can look right through me, walk right by me
And never know I’m there, I tell ya

Amos Hart, husband of accused murderess Roxie Hart, sings these words in the musical ‘Chicago’. Disillusioned, sad and ignored by everybody he reflects on his anonymous life.

Coronavirus is making us more aware of ‘cellophane’ workers. The list that grows daily includes refuse collectors, care workers and – highlighted in today’s paper – lorry drivers.

Have you seen the old man in the closed down market

Picking up the papers with his worn out shoes

In his eyes you see no pride hands held loosely at his side

Yesterday’s papers telling yesterday’s news

Ralph McTell’s ‘Streets of London’ describes other cellophane people – the man who sleeps under the pier, the elderly, disabled woman who lives alone, the determined but struggling single parent.

It is encouraging to see and hear a greater effort to look out for such people who are often conveniently invisible.

When Jesus came to Lowestoft, they simply passed Him by.
They would not hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die;
For men had grown more tender, and they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street, and left Him in the rain.

Studdart Kennedy’s poem ‘Indifference’ suggests that Jesus could also be a cellophane man. Perhaps for many Jesus remains invisible.

Jesus talks about the way we treat cellophane people. He says that when we feed the hungry, give a drink to the thirsty, invite home the stranger, give clothes to the needy, care for the sick or the prisoners we do it to Jesus.

May we have the will and the grace to see both cellophane people and the cellophane Jesus.


G A Studdert Kennedy (1883-1929), was an Anglican priest-poet with an Irish background. He was given his nickname ‘Woodbine Willie’ during World War I because of his reputation for giving Woodbine cigarettes along with pastoral and spiritual support to injured and dying soldiers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: