I’ve been with the World Youth Alliance for a little under a month now, and I have recently discovered the most challenging part of working for this organization. When you work for WYA, the seemingly complex reality of dignity becomes something so simple. You begin to see how the mission of WYA, the promotion of human dignity, is vital to every aspect of life. You see it so clearly. The hard part is the realization that dignity is a concept alien and unfamiliar to the vast majority of the rest of the world. This truth hit home for me after a phone call with a close friend. We were having an innocent conversation when she casually relayed to me an incident of abuse. She told me that “a “friend” physically pinned her to the ground, pulling and beating on her arms and legs. Immediately, my insides clenched. My heart physically ached, and the girl kept talking as though nothing was wrong. I interrupted her mid-sentence with a type of urgency unfamiliar to me, and I asked her why she did nothing. Taken aback, she responded, “I didn’t know that what had happened was wrong.” I have never in my life felt such a heavy sadness. How could she not know? How could this young, beautiful woman not know that she is worth so much more?
The thing is, this young woman is not the only one who is blinded by lies that devalue our worth as a person. She is one example out of thousands of people unaware that they are in possession of intrinsic value. That’s the hardest part about working for WYA – the realization that the truth of human dignity that we strive to promote is one so often misperceived by the rest of the world. The question then becomes, how do we spread the message? How do we share the simple truth that each and every person has dignity? A simple truth has a simple answer. You must simply live out the message in your own life. Recognize that every person you interact with possesses the same inherent worth and value that you do.
The short film Butterfly Circus paints a beautiful example of recognizing dignity in all types of people. I saw the short Youtube video when I was a senior in high school, and it had an immense impact on me. The story begins with a young man named Will who has a physical disability. Throughout Will’s life, he has lived with insults and disgust constantly directed towards him because of his physical ailment. Eventually, he began to believe that he deserved all the ridicule he was subjected to. There is one point in the story where Will is being heckled by two young boys, and he shows no emotion, no reaction whatsoever. A bystander sees what is happening and intervenes. He stops the two tormentors and approaches Will, only to kneel down and say to him, “You are magnificent.” Three words. Three simple words. Again, simple truths have simple answers. Each and every person has dignity – all we have to do is remind them.
Written by Katie Greenwood, a current intern at the WYA North America office.