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Dignity is a Basic Human Right


You never know when you are going to be called upon to act on proving whether or not you believe in this basic humanistic principle. We are faced with these kinds of issues in subtle ways all the time.

Whether they are issues of race, sexual preference or poverty. I came face to face with an issue of human dignity a few days ago.

Here’s what happened. A few days ago I had just finished my grocery shopping at a supermarket. It was about 5:30, the sun was going down, I was comfortably driving in my warm car with the heat on. At a very busy intersection where I came to a stop, I noticed an older gentleman and his dog. The man was holding a sign asking for help.

I admit that my heart immediately aches whenever I see this type of scene. On this particular evening, the outside temperature was 18 bone-chilling degrees. I just wanted to get home to a cozy evening and a hot cup of coffee. I drove right on by without acknowledging the man. Well, I drove by to the next block. Faced with the indignity of this man and his dog, I felt compelled to answer the call of compassion and to do what I could to restore this man’s dignity.

Some Interesting Facts

You may not be aware of some of the most startling statistics about poverty in this rich country we call home. Let’s bring those statistics close and hopefully you’ll take these facts into consideration the next time you see someone living on the streets.

• 2.3 to 3.5 million are homeless at some point every year.
• 750,000 people sleep on the streets every night.
• 30% of the homeless are families with children
• 44% of the homeless population has part- or full-time employment
• Less than 30% of those eligible for low come housing actually receive it
• Contrary to public perception, only 22% of the single adult homeless suffer from some sort of mental illness.

Homelessness vs. Helplessness

Have you ever considered that people don’t want to be homeless? We can never know the bigger picture that brings people to homelessness. Many people may be one missed paycheck, one health crisis, or one unpaid mortgage, rent or bill away from becoming homeless. Do you have compassion or contempt for these people?

Let’s get back to my story. As I parked in the parking lot of the Wendy’s and went inside to buy food for the gentleman and his companion dog, I felt very blessed that I had a roof over my head and food on my table. I feel honored to report that at least for that night, this man and his dog slept with a roof over his head. He had a warm bed, a hot shower and food for both himself and his dog. I prayed for their safety and well being as I left the hotel I put them in. Then, I cried.

I wondered just how many people passed them by? How many turned their heads in disgust? If a homeless person asks for help and you are not able to help, rather than treating them with disrespect, indifference or simply ignoring them, at least tell them, “ I am sorry. I am not able to help today.” Treat the homeless with dignity and respect. They are human, just like you. Remember what Martin Luther King said, “ Everyone has the Power of Greatness. Not for fame, for greatness. Because greatness is determined by service.”


We don’t always think about the service we can provide to those in need. I always remember how Hubert Humphrey explained why Americans could no longer “justify what we have done to debase humanity.” He argued that we “do not have to be lawyers to understand, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ ”

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