The Language of Dignity

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” [a] 31 The second is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” [b] There is no commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:30-31

I remember the day I walked into Family and Health Services to apply for help. I was pregnant with our first child. My husband had just gotten out of the Navy after 6 years of service and although he was employed through a temp agency, we had no insurance. My parents offered to help us pay the fees, but I was concerned about what would happen if myself or the baby had any complications. Plus, I knew it was a financial obligation my parents should not have to make. So, I made phone calls and found out that based on our income we would qualify for Medicaid. I knew this is what Medicaid was designed for, but that fact did not diminish the thoughts in my mind that screamed, “You should be able to take care of yourself”. To be honest, my pride had taken a hit. Walking in that door that day was one of the hardest things I have ever done. But I did it because we needed the help.

Asking for help is not easy. We are raised to take care of ourselves. But the reality of life is that sometimes we do need help. But in the asking our dignity can be stripped away. Sometimes by others, but just as often by ourselves. I see this in many of the faces of those we serve at Never Alone. I often have the privilege of hearing the stories of those we serve.

I see the pain as a man talks about how he has always been able to take care of his family. But now he has to take care of his parents and has himself developed medical problems that has lost him his livelihood.

I see the faced stained with tears as she walks in the door. Tears that were shed for thirty minutes before she could manage to find the courage to walk through the door to ask for help.

I see the young woman who walked through the door only to realize she worked with the volunteer on duty. Out of embarrassment, she walked out before the volunteer could realize she was there to be served.

I see the young woman with the look of defeat on her face as she asks for just a couple days of food to help feed the young children in tow. Circumstances beyond her control led her to being short on money between pay checks.

The guests we serve are food insecure. This means they are having to choose between food or paying the light bill, or purchasing medicine, or paying rent. They have enough for one, but not both. And in these moments dignity is damaged.

The Never Alone Team works hard to make sure that we help to restore dignity by the way we interact with our guests and how we take care of our facility. We do not give out boxes of food. Instead we allow our guests to shop from well-organized shelves. The shopping area is set up in four different zones in which our guests get to choose a specific number of items based on family size. The zones are based on how an actual grocery would be set. Goods are kept organized and neat. Why? Because when our guests walk in the door we want them to know that they are worth the time and effort it takes to keep the place looking as good as possible.

We want them to feel loved and accepted.

It is what I call the language of dignity. It is a language of love and compassion that is best spoken with heart. And that is a language I pray we will all learn to speak.

From the heart,