[dig-ni-tee] noun, plural dig·ni·ties
1. Bearing, conduct, or speech indicative of self-respect or appreciation of the formality or gravity of an occasion or situation.
2. Nobility or elevation of character; worthiness: dignity of sentiments.
3. Elevated rank, office, station, etc.
4. Relative standing; rank.
5. A sign or token of respect
The Dignity Station at Nightstrike (http://bridgetowninc.org/environments/nightstrike/) is the place where guests can come to pick up toiletries, as well as get their hands cleansed with warm water, receive a massage with moisturizing lotion, and a manicure if they desire. While many guests visit to pick up necessary personal hygiene items, others come for the manicure, the kind word, the touch, and the eye contact.
Last week at the Dignity Station, there was dignity enough for guests and volunteers alike.
Monica—This lovely young lady and I spoke about job interviews and a tough economy as I cleaned her hands and painted her nails a shocking shade of pink. She had recently gone through a rigorous interview process with Target and was really hopeful that her previous experience with the store in Alabama would help her secure a position. Monica was friendly, funny, and polite. She wanted to be as little trouble as possible and asked if I thought she could come back to volunteer once she got back on her feet financially. Being able to talk about the feelings you have when losing a job, was a bridge to insight for both of us into the life of the other. My time connecting with Monica was easy, calm, and full of gratitude and respect for both of us.
Junior High Girls—As they sit on the fence between childhood and adulthood, pre-teen and young teen girls are often silly, emotional, and awkward. Often what is uncertainty on their part due to lack of experience, is viewed as judgment or vanity. As I watched a group of 4 girls on a Transformation Trip struggle with how to help the guests at the Dignity Station last Thursday, I saw that they themselves were fighting for their own dignity. That age is such a time of rank…of position…of standing. It is a time when they are trying to determine their own personal worth and therefore trying to sort out the personal worth of the often dirty, sometimes foul-mouthed, and seemingly different guests who’s nails they were painting left them vulnerable and confused. I must say I was impressed and blessed by the one young lady who was very talkative with a guest who is in recovery. She laughed, listened and shared openly. In response he was visibly blessed and smiled more in that brief encounter that I’d seen him smile all evening (he was nearby most of the night).
Brittany—She wanted red fingernails. She wanted to eat. She wanted somewhere to sleep. She wanted a fix. She wanted a bathroom. She wanted a new backpack. She wanted new clothes. She wanted to be hugged. She wanted to not be touched. She wanted to borrow our phones. She wanted us to give her money. She wanted us to know she had money. She wanted quiet. She wanted it not to be so quiet and creepy. She wanted help. She wanted to prove she didn’t need help.
She needed dignity.
And she received it. In the midst of what was a major tweak from something very strong, several of us gave this young lady our undivided attention and tried to help her clean up, provide some warm clothing, find her somewhere safe to sleep, and provide guidance to a few next steps. When Nightstrike was over and all was put away neatly and cleaned up, two of us still sat with her under Burnside Bridge trying to show her respect…the highest form of dignity one person can offer another.
Me—There is dignity in knowing your own worth and position. So many of us wrap our self-worth up in how much money we make, what our title is, where we live, where we went to school, how smart we are, how pretty we are, and on and on and…
Dignity for me is knowing that I am uniquely loved by the Creator of the Universe…while accepting that I am no more loved by God than the richest man in the world, the most pious religious leader, or the poorest of people living on the streets of Portland.
I am offered dignity by virtue of my position as one of God’s “So-Loved”. I am deserving of dignity because I have a spirit, a pulse, and breath in my body…and because of those things…even on my worst day, there is HOPE.
Hope for reconciliation.
Hope for a different outcome.
Hope for a fresh start.
Hope for more love.
Hope for a peaceful world in which to dwell.
Hope for a smile.
Hope for healing.
Those of us with hope should be the picture of hope to someone else. We should willingly give respect, grace, mercy, and love to those who are different than us…without first stopping to determine their worth.
They have been marked worthy by The Divine. Who are you to disagree?