Tree One: Dignity

Dignity.

Are you confused about what direction to take in life? Maybe you are a recent graduate and you are thinking things through, maybe you are bit older.

Think of this: yoke yourself to the idea that all people deserve dignity.

It might seem that I need to write poetry or clever phrases to convince you of the importance of this, but that’s the thing. It is so obvious that you just get it plainly. You understand it in your feet.

We all deserve to be afforded basic human dignity.

As you think about how this might guide your life, think of all the things that strip that dignity away.

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Think of a person not being able to be the person they are. Think of someone demeaned or threatened because of their race, gender, age, ability, sexual orientation. Just imagine being in their shoes as someone or some thing makes them feel like a lesser human.

The problems are everywhere.

And so are your opportunities to do the work to make things better.

Think of it in terms of career pathway options. You could be a counselor or social-worker helping someone regain basic human dignity as they battle with addiction. You could be a nurse or medical assistant helping someone facing an illness feel whole and dignified. You can be a police officer, who looks a suspect in the eye, and treats them with decency.

You can be a teacher that ensures that every student in the class is respected and given a protected space to grow and learn.

You might not be the richest in terms of your wallet, but the old cliche is true, you will be rich in the heart. The daily work you put in will transform you, as long as you remember that your goal is not to remove the world of problems, but to acknowledge the sacred dignity in each person you serve.

To twist a phrase, you will become someone who has grown a stronger soul.

If you aren’t at that time for a career path, you can still yoke to this idea. It can transform your everyday interactions. The world is full of large organizational machinery that comes crashing down to dehumanize people. If the first thought you have is–and it is more a state of mind–‘I am going to respect the dignity of each person I meet’, the normal confrontations and pettiness subside. People can feel it. They don’t bite as much if someone is respecting them.

It takes bravery, trust, and patience. Again, it is obvious that these things are worth pursuing and developing. It doesn’t mean becoming Mr. Nice Guy, and letting people walk all over you. As every good teacher, nurse, and librarian knows, sometimes, to support the dignity of another, you need to be firm. The important thing is the intention.

This idea is not the property of any political, national, or religious doctrine. All benefit.

Black Lives Matter, Veteran’s Rights, Me Too, Displaced Factory Workers, The Mentally Ill, Prisoners, Immigrants, Senior Citizens. The causes and organizations that focus on dignity run across political lines. Look past the differences and see that dignity is the responsibility of all of us. It’s something worth working on. It is not a fight to win.