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A Call for Dignity
My message is very simple this month. I highly recommend this book: Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict by Donna Hicks. If you want a quick summary of the first half of the book, check out the Ten Essential Elements of Dignity found at the author’s website.
A few things conspired for me to send you this message.
1) I heard a story of a family waiting in a long line at an amusement park to buy some lunch. When it was almost their turn, someone who was not in line cut in front of them and proceeded to order as if nothing was strange about this. One of the members of the family complained. The park staff ignored her. Others in line did not speak up, either. Another person came along to join the person who had cut in line. He shouted numerous racial slurs at the family member who complained. The two who cut in line received their food before the family that had waited nearly forty-five minutes.
This is just one story of injustice. But this sort of incident is becoming way too common.
2) I was greeted by name the other day at my local YMCA. The employee added that there was an organizational effort to learn and remember the names of those who go to the Y. I liked having someone remember my name, even though he admitted it was a member-relations strategy. I liked feeling I was part of a larger community. I wasn’t just some invisible nameless woman in her 60’s.
What was that lyric from the Cheers TV show theme song? “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.” For others, it’s church, synagogue, classes, or a drop-in center.
3) In a fabulous young adult novel called The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin, the precocious protagonist learns from her favorite teacher that “all living things are composed of the atoms of collapsed stars,” which meant that “we were all walking around with bits of Shakespeare inside us.”
For this non-scientist reader, it was quite an “aha” moment to realize we all share the same atoms. So why is dignity on the wane?
Two of Donna Hicks’ essential elements of dignity are underscored in the three examples above.
The first is a violation of “Acceptance of Identity.” If we could approach people as neither inferior nor superior, it sure seems like joy would multiply. The second example illustrates “Inclusion.” Joy came from someone making another person feel like they belonged.
The final example encompasses both “Acceptance of Identity” and “Inclusion.” If we could only keep it in the forefront of our minds that we share the same atoms, how different would our interactions with others be? Here’s hoping we all infuse more dignity in in our days.
A few weeks ago, I received a link to a video from Out on a Limb subscriber, Dee Vogel. It is a five-minute film about confronting our biases and it provides dramatic evidence about the atoms we share. If I were the inspiring teacher in The Thing About Jellyfish, I would make my students watch this one for extra credit homework.
In the second half of Dignity, Donna Hicks describes Ten Temptations to Violate Dignity. Check out this cheat sheet for a quick summary of self-preservation tactics many of us utilize. These have the unfortunate effect of hindering dignity. If you see yourself in this list, please don’t beat yourself up! Let’s just keep striving for dignity.
Prompts for Joy:
Click here for some thought-provoking footage about our DNA.
By no means
do I have joy “figured out.” Please do not assume
that I do! I write Out On a Limb as much as a meditation for
myself in the ongoing pursuit of joy, as for you. I think this
pursuit is a lifelong journey and that the full experience
of joy is, at best, episodic. May we all have more episodes!
Martha Clark Scala, MFT · 721 Colorado Ave., Suite 201, Palo Alto, CA 94303 ·