A Wooden Bowl & Dignity

Early on a Saturday evening last fall I answered a knock on the door. Standing there in his Cub Scout leader’s uniform, holding his infant son in one arm was our neighbor, Zeeshan. His 4-year old daughter was gleefully by his side. In his other hand he held out a wooden bowl. “Do you recognize this?” he asked, indicating the bowl. I didn’t. “It came from your tree,” he said.

He had crafted the bowl from a piece of wood from a dead tree we had removed this summer. "Now you can always remember your tree," he said. I was so touched by his loving gesture of kindness!

What did I know about him? He practices a religion different than mine, he was born in a different county (as were my paternal grandparents and my husband’s father), his hobby is wood crafting and carpentry (he made the cabinets when they remodeled their kitchen), he’s a loving father involved in his children’s activities, and he’s a good neighbor who cares about the community in which we all live. Our differences are not problems, they are strengths.

The forces that battled discrimination for decades won a major battle in 1964 with the signing of the Civil Rights Act. That law had eleven sections and prohibited discrimination in voting, public accommodations, public facilities, public education, federally-funded programs, and employment – the section with which I’m most familiar and engaged in the workplace. The Act was the culmination of efforts to gain protection for the basic citizenship rights of African American. In employment it prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex and national origin. Subsequent legislation was enacted to protect older Americans and people with disabilities.

While the Act outlawed discrimination, it didn’t eliminate it. Discrimination must be eliminated because it’s an affront to our differences and our dignity. On January 21, 2017, both Barbara and I marched in Washington DC. The next day I found myself reflecting on one question, “Why did I march?”

Why did I march? There are many reasons why I felt it was important to be there, but most importantly I marched to defend and preserve decency and dignity which I've witnessed eroding in our society recently.

  • The dignity of women
  • The dignity of individuals with disabilities
  • The dignity of people of all religions
  • The dignity of people who immigrated to this country to seek a better way of life
  • The dignity of journalists and scientists who work in noble professions and seek the truth
  • The dignity of all human beings regardless of their various dimensions of diversity

I marched because defending our human rights and dignity is the moral thing to do.

Dignity. It was symbolized in that wooden bowl.

Dignity. It’s about making people matter in our workplaces and throughout the world today.

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