I AM one of “those” people
Several years ago I sat in an ice cream parlor with my 8-year-old daughter. We sat on stools in front of a decorated bar that faced a window to the city street. A few minutes into our treat, a homeless couple walked up to a trash can on the corner and began to search for a meal. They found cold french fries, half-eaten hamburgers, and a number of other delicacies I couldn’t decipher.
It was surreal to watch them feast on trash while we indulged our taste buds. I chose to embrace this teachable moment. My words to my daughter were educational and compassionate. But further reflection convicts me of their lack of impact.
The glass window quarantined us from a formative comprehension of the scene. Properly resolving the cognitive dissonance between our present joy and their present reality would have cost far more than giving them a twenty-dollar bill; but I did neither. And the unique opportunity to bestow a priceless gift of character to my daughter disappeared.
The scene hovered behind my ear for a few months before life caught up to me. Faced with my own inability to shake an addiction, I broke down in despair. It was then that I remembered the homeless couple and realized that the only difference between them and me was that my depravity was more acceptable. My addiction could coexist within this present society.
The truth is, I am “those” people.
I realized the utter brokenness of my humanity, and it changed everything. We are all human. I am no more worthy of dignity than anyone else. “Us and them” is an illusion. It gives a false sense of justification to marginalize others.
If you want a Christian spin on this, it is that we are all made in the image of God. In most religions of history, a wooden figurine or stone statue was crafted to represent a god; to display that god’s image to the world. These idols were crafted by human hands, and they were inanimate. But for the Jew and the Christian, it is the human who stands in the place of that idol, fashioned by God’s own hands, and revealing His image to all of Creation.
For that reason, every person deserves dignity. Denying it to anyone is an offense to our Creator. And I am convinced that every single hurt that anyone has ever caused another is a violation of this one truth.