Perhaps one of the biggest problems that we face on a day to day as a part of modern human society is how poorly we seem to determine the value of a human being. We greatly value things, cars, clothes… tangible things, things we can hold, things we can purchase, things we can show off.
I stood in the supermarket the other day, with my toddler on my hip and I watched as the two people before me loaded their trolley full of groceries and completely ignore the check-out operator as she scanned and bagged their things. One stood and aimlessly flicked through a gossip mag, the operator had to repeat the total three times before the woman finally looked up from her magazine, sighed and took out her credit card. The other talked on her phone, throughout the entire transaction.
Is this how we treat people now?
Have we forgotten that everything we have, everything we do, every good thing in our lives comes from connections with people. We are constantly connected. Someone makes that coffee that we order on our way to work. Someone is on the other end of the phone, or on the other side of the counter as we run our errands. Someone picks up that plastic bag that we let go on the street. Someone empties that bin. Someone is searching for those coins that you drop, and can’t be bothered picking up. That person sleeping under the stairs, is a human being. There are people around us every day, who are becoming invisible – quite often by no fault of their own. People who are grossly undervalued by the system that we live in…
There are millions of amazing, genuine, sensitive, committed, ethically driven people in the world who are a potential source of brilliance and great vision… People who are stuck in cycles of poverty and abuse. People who are unable to get a good job. People who work for minimum wage doing crap jobs that most of us wouldn’t even consider doing – because we wouldn’t ever have to. There are people living in great political and emotional turmoil right here in Australia – because of the hand that they have been dealt, because of the family into which they were born, because who they are doesn’t fit into one of the tight little pigeon holes that life presents us with. If you don’t fit in, you’re out. If you don’t fit in. You aren’t valued.
At the same time we have millions of over-privileged sexist, racist people who are paid ludicrous amounts of money to do very little of great value to people with needs other than their own. Our world is full of people who abuse their power. People whose agenda is focussed on their own monetary gain.
Our society tends to determine the value of our lives by our race, our gender, our sexuality,our socio-economic standing.
But how SHOULD you determine the value of a life?
Quite simply, can’t (nor should you).
Our value is intrinsic. It is in us when we are born. We are all worthy, every single one of us… even if we are told we are not. Even if we aren’t adorned in designer clothes and fancy titles. Every single person deserves to be seen. If only we could just look up from the phones that are constantly attached to the front of our faces and connect with each other. To see each other. Not for what we wear or what we own – but for the people that we are. Each of us unique and each of us worthy of respect.
A few weeks ago I was at work meetings in the city for the day. I was walking through the swarm of suits that descend from the towers of inner city Perth, on the four block walk to the train station. I was halfway there when the rain began to pour. I was desperately unprepared, having left the house in a rush a little after sunrise early that morning. So I walked in the torrential downpour. Within seconds I was soaked. Within about two minutes I had two young women simultaneously catch up to me and offer me a space under their umbrella, offering me a little reprieve from the winter storm.
Together the three of us walked to the train station. Walking step for step in a rhythm we found together, three strangers, balanced under two umbrellas. When we reached the station. We smiled and went in our separate directions. Connected for that moment as nothing more than human beings.
We seem so busy trying to figure out how we are different from each other and judging each other for differences we dont really understand – whether it be our culture, our religion, our gender, our diet, our parenting style, our sexuality – We seem so focussed on what’s different that we forget about all the things that are exactly the same. And it is those things that really matter. We all feel love and pain and joy and sadness. We all feel lonely and vulnerable and scared. We all want the same basic things. To be loved. To be safe. To belong.
I will always believe that the world is full of far more good than it is bad. But good isn’t always valued as an equal to money or power or fame.
But at the end of the day, good is all that really matters.
We have a choice. We can choose to push past each other to get to the top and then stand there all alone… or we can choose to stop right now. We can choose to just stop the madness. We can choose to hold each other up, to welcome each other in and to stand together as equals.
I know what I choose. Do you?