Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Finding Human Dignity...with Chicken Tomato Pasta

Sometimes God works in mysterious ways...other times He comes at us with a 2x4 saying "GET IT NOW?"  Human dignity is something I try to talk about on a regular basis when I am evangelizing.  If people (including Catholics) understood the Catholic teaching of human dignity (every human being is made in the image and likeness of GOD), then I think Catholicism might have a better reputation.  Seriously, almost every "rule" in the Church stems from this idea that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit.  They're to be cherished and cared for carefully.

Unfortunately, the teaching on dignity is an easy one to talk about, but sometimes difficult to put into practice.  It's easy to judge, to see someone as inferior.  It's a daily struggle because human nature is to compare.  However by comparing, oftentimes we're losing sight of the truth of human life...everyone is made in the image and likeness of God.  A theme?  Perhaps...but it's safe to say that while I love the concept, most of the time I struggle with practicing it fully.  So God came at me with a 2x4 this weekend.

Over the past three weeks, I've been volunteering at the Bloomington Bike Project.  In return for volunteer hours, they help you build your own bike from scratch.  Last Saturday, we were working on my bike and two guys walked up looking to buy a bike.    I helped them start looking at the bikes we have, but they were strangely evasive about what they wanted the bike for (to get to and from campus, just around town, to work).  Turns out, Marcus and Kevin are homeless.

They hung around for a while helping out.  When the shop overseer told them to pick out a bike to take with them, the guys were astounded.  Apparently, even in a nice semi-rural area like Bloomington, people aren't incredibly nice to the homeless.  Since I wasn't working on my bike, I helped them tune theirs up (crazy, I can tune up a bike now!).  We fixed brakes, raised seats, and replaced broken reflectors.

As we were nearing closing time, I started talking about how excited I was about  going home to eat dinner.  Marcus asked, "Whatcha eatin'?"   One of my fellow Speons (nickname for students in SPEA, my program) had given me fresh tomatoes the night before, so I had cut them up and thrown the tomatoes, some chicken and green onions in my crockpot.  "Fresh tomatoes and chicken?  Can we come?"

At first, I would have been taken aback by his question.  Two strange, homeless men asking ME, a single, female college student for dinner...seriously?  I'm poor...with so many loans.  Get real.  But...for some reason I said yes...without too much afterthought.  (side note: safety first, I was intelligent enough not to invite two strangers into my apartment...I went home and got the food and we met at a park for a picnic).

Imagine my surprise at church on Sunday when the Gospel is about a banquet.  Christ tells us to invite people to the banquet, not because they can repay us, but because they are people.  How often do we look past the human dignity of a person because of what they wear, where they live, who they are?  I know I do on a regular basis.  I walk past a beggar without making eye contact...try to slip unnoticed past someone passing out flyers.  Just because they're doing things we are uncomfortable with does NOT make them less of a person.

It was literally so easy to serve Marcus and Kevin.  A simple yes, and a little less food on my plate this week, but I didn't starve.  Marcus actually asked if I was American because he said Americans aren't this nice.  How sad is that?  If every Catholic did ONE thing each week to acknowledge the dignity of a human who might be doubting their self worth, imagine how much better the world would be.

I don't know if I'll ever see Marcus or Kevin again.  Kevin was moving to Nashville this weekend to live with his mom, but Marcus is in Bloomington for a while.  He has plans to build a business and buy a house.  Do I know if he'll accomplish it?  Nope.  But by simpling listening to his hopes and dreams, I was able to acknowledge his dignity.  It's not hard to make someone feel special.

So I challenge you to find something dignity-building to do this weekend.  Compliment a well-dressed girl/guy on their style, give some time to an elderly woman walking her dog, sit down with your parents and look at old pictures.  Take the opportunity to actually live out the Gospel in your life!

1 comment:

  1. God bless you and I accept your challenge.

    I do think though that was a little too dangerous. Never mind that they were homeless but having lunch with 2 strangers who were bigger and stronger than you at a park (or anywhere else, actually) is something I would not want my wife or daughter to do. Perhaps next time you can bring along a couple of [male] friends, and definitely let someone else know where you will be and at what time - so that they can call for help if necessary.