There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28
May is dignity month in The Salvation Army world. Once again, we at Toronto Housing and Homeless Supports (THHS) will be doing our part by making our missional focus for the month ‘dignity and respect’. Salvation Army Ministries everywhere will be holding events to remind people of the necessity of treating all people, no matter who they are or what they’ve done or haven’t done, with the dignity and respect that they deserve.
It’s important to start with ourselves when we go about the business of treating people with dignity and respect. An important thing to consider in this is the topic of ‘labels’. Labeling people can often lead to judgment, which often leads to mistreatment, which is unfair, disrespectful and undignified. We’d be wise to ask ourselves which labels lead us to judging others, even if those labels are below the surface or even in our subconscious.
Schizophrenic. Alcoholic. Criminal. Crack head. Homeless. Sex-worker. Crazy.
These are just some of the many labels that may get in the way of us treating the people that come through our doors as human beings; as equals. How does it feel when we ourselves are discriminated against by being labeled?
Religious fanatic. Lefty. Socialist. Bleeding heart.
Once we realize that we are also being labeled by others, and as a result being treated differently, it might actually help us not to do the same thing to those we meet. Being discriminated against as a result of a label hurts.
As we read in Galatians 8, we are all one in Jesus. There is no schizophrenic or bi-polar. There is no criminal or crack-head. There is no lefty or socialist. We are all just human beings, created as equals by the Creator.
So as we go about our work today, let’s challenge ourselves not to buy into the labels that have been placed on people by our society. Let’s treat all people, our colleagues, our supervisors, our funders and those who come through our doors looking for help with the dignity and respect that all people deserve.
Let’s continue to strive to be ‘The Hand of God in the Heart of the City’.
Dion Oxford, Director of Mission Integration
Prayer for Human Dignity
O God, we pray for all those in our world
who are suffering from injustice:
For those who are discriminated against
because of their race, color or religion;
For those imprisoned
for working for the relief of oppression;
For those who are hounded
for speaking the inconvenient truth;
For those tempted to violence
as a cry against overwhelming hardship;
For those deprived of reasonable health and education;
For those suffering from hunger and famine;
For those too weak to help themselves
and who have no one else to help them;
For the unemployed who cry out
for work but do not find it.
We pray for anyone of our acquaintance
who is personally affected by injustice.
Forgive us, Lord, if we unwittingly share in the conditions
or in a system that perpetuates injustice.
Show us how we can serve your children
and make your love practical by washing their feet.
– Mother Theresa