There are days where I get a lot done. Sometimes it’s calling non-profit housing to get a move-in date for my friend when they won’t give her any answers, or calling the E.R to get some help when social services aren’t reacting or going to clothing depots for another friend whose mobility is limited. I may stack these up as ways that God is working through me to meet the needs of others in my community. Except these are all examples of people who have had to compromise their dignity to get the things or the information that they need. I do try to think about people’s dignity. I am outraged at how much more dignity is given to me as a middle class person compared to my lower-income friends. But each time someone has to ask for help, each time someone has to tell their hard story to get what they need, they pay with their dignity. My friend Adam (not his real name) reminded me of this on Saturday. We were talking after our church’s annual meeting. Adam was describing the loss dignity he has felt since he lost his job and went down an income bracket or two. He shared how part of our interaction with organizations needs to remind them of the importance of preserving the dignity in those they serve. While I may be helping people, every time they tell me their story, every time they recount their pain, it costs them something. It doesn’t have to be this way. In the book “Letters to a Future Church” Kathy Eseobar pens these challenging lines: “But I have no doubt if all your resources, hands, hearts, eyes, ears, buildings, power, influence, and hope could actually be channeled to restoring dignity in person, after person, after person, the image of God uncovered in people, shinning brighter and brighter, would dim the darkness of this world like never before.” How can we be this kind of dignity restorers? How can we help people in ways that restores their dignity instead of costing them their self-worth? Because the help we are offering now and the way we are offering it, is just not doing enough for the people of Saint John. How can we remind the churches and non-profits in our communities that they too function as dignity restorers?
Who Has Dignity?