I started learning about dignity last year, it’s a big component of a trauma awareness course I am receiving (and bit by bit, offering to others as well). Of course, it isn’t a new concept, but learning about dignity as it relates to trauma has shifted the way I see my life, the country where I live, and my homeland. I take notice of different things than before. I find the conversation with the taxi driver is just as important and significant as the big event I’m planning at work. The way I lean down as I look eye to eye with the woman who sells her produce in the street is just as significant as any sermon I can preach.
I would say at least a third of the time we go somewhere in a taxi as a family, the driver will ask about where we are from, and share with us his experience of living and working for a time in the US (it makes sense if you think about it, as being a taxi driver requires a big upfront investment, and the only way to get the money for such a thing is to go somewhere else to work). Last week we took a taxi with a young Tsotsil man, who said he spent some time in Alabama. Chris asked how it went, and whether he didn’t suffer from racism. He responded by saying, “Of course. White people and Black people didn’t like each other, and they certainly didn’t like us, but at least there was work, and we got paid well.” He then asked us how our stay has been living in Mexico. As he and Chris exchanged experiences, I marveled at the way they so quickly got to the deep, important work of caring for one another. Work we strive for in our plans, projects, and policies, but don’t always achieve.
This week at a Dr’s office, the waiting room was full, so Chris pulled out some books to entertain our girls. A man sitting beside them was struck by our daughter’s ability to read in both English and Spanish, and started asking Chris questions about who we are and what we’re doing here. When Chris mentioned that he works with issues of migration, the man, who is a teacher in a rural village, told him there are many unreported cases of migrants being dumped off at the border, and not returned home the way they are supposed to be. An indigenous woman sitting across the way chimed in, “How strange, they brought us the whole way home when we were deported six months ago.” She told them her story of crossing the desert, working 3 years in a poultry plant in Atlanta, feeling proud of going from getting paid $8 per hour to $10 per hour during her time there. She wondered if the kinder treatment she received (she didn’t go to a detention center, they brought her directly back etc) was due to the fact that her daughter is an American citizen.
These are the stories we hear almost every day in Southern Mexico. I have been thinking lately about how the sharing of stories relates to dignity and trauma. In the kitchen at my work, a colleague has painted a sign with the quote, “When I care for your dignity, I care for mine. When you care for my dignity, you care for yours. Dignity is lived in community.” When we are listeners and tellers of stories between North and South, we are caring for one another’s dignity. The battle raging that threatens everyone’s dignity in the world right now will not be won by fantasies of retribution or retaliation, or by self-deprecating hatred. It will be won through consistent compassion and care for dignity, others and my own.