My home is Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada. There, I savour the still, early mornings as I walk down the main street to the local coffee shop where I work. I am greeted with a smile by fellow early-risers as the city slowly wakes up and begins a new day. Surrounded by familiar faces, I feel a sense of comfort and belonging, like I have my own space carved out.
Since leaving home and moving to NYC, I have been marveling at the glorious humanity that fills these streets. The life between the concrete walls: minds lost in their own worlds, phone conversations in foreign languages, pencil skirts paired with running shoes, a grown man snoring softly on the sidewalk, his head propped on two water bottles rather than a pillow.
I’ve been realizing that sometimes we find our circumstances, and other times our circumstances find us. Either way, it is crucial to understand that we are not defined by the circumstances we find ourselves in. Rather, we find our value in the basic fact that we are human: gloriously, imperfectly human.
It is a simple yet complicated statement. We don’t have to do anything to earn our value, we don’t have to buy it or prove it. Questions arise: “Wouldn’t the life of the President or the Pope be worth more than that of a mere ordinary citizen?” or “What about the difference between a businessman who inhabits the office on the 57th floor and a 14-year-old boy with a violin on the corner of the street and a hat in front of him, playing and praying for a stranger to drop a coin or two?”
Again, I will say that our circumstances do not define us.
The words of the wise Dr. Seuss echo, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
No matter how small, big, rich, poor, healthy, sick, kind, angry, silly, or serious; a person is a person, and with that comes an inherent value that is so often underestimated or forgotten. At the core of our being, beyond the stained t-shirt or the designer blazer, each of us have our own fears, hopes, disappointments, dreams, heartbreaks, insecurities, and reasons to smile. We each have a unique and beautiful story; and in our bones, in the very center of our soul, each of us has dignity.
It cannot be altered by a lack of income or a fancy title. Where there is life, there is hope. There is a lesson and there is a heart and there is love, even when the hope seems impossible.
I think that this is at the heart of the mission here at the World Youth Alliance—finding hope through encountering the truth of our own dignity. And once we discover this in our own lives, we share it with others so they too may understand just how much they are worth.
“You’re imperfect and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”
Written by Taylor Walsh, a current intern at the WYA North America office.