I believe in the powerful concept of individual worth. I believe that the loss of any individual to death is an indescribable loss of someone precious and the loss of wisdom that we as human beings will never be able to entirely overcome. Each human entity is born and lives though experience, hardship and joy. Even when you try and group people into categories based on shared experience, you limit yourself to such a small base understanding. Even in the same experience, individuals see things differently. There is too much knowledge in the world for any one person, no matter how educated to hold and comprehend. And experience itself is a profound teacher.
I am a thirty three year old woman who was born to religious parents in New England, the oldest of five children. My parents moved the family to Colorado when I was five and then to Las Vegas when I was twelve. I now live in Maine, the wife of a handsome Taoist man and the mother of a five year old son with sensory difficulties. I have lived through moving across the country twice, changing political beliefs, and becoming disillusioned with my church and later returning to attendance. I have owned a home in a huge city that never sleeps and now live in a yurt without electricity where the sidewalks and communities close at eight. In high school, my friends were wonderful and cared for me through the problems that I faced that I feared would overwhelm me- now my best friend is eighty seven years old and I care for her. The person that I am today is almost unrecognizable to my fifteen and twenty five year old self.
Everyday, I learn a new lesson. I learn to be patient and consistent as I watch my son struggle with a task. I learn to accept the help of others no matter how prideful I feel. I have learned to accept the fact that I am not always right, but I am always worthwhile. I have learned that my knowledge and experience enriches others. I learn that I need to understand the life experiences of others to survive in my own existence. At eighty seven, my friend Sarah has lived through the Great Depression, Social Security when it covered waitresses (but not nurses), the raising of five children, a divorce, death of alcohol-abusing spouse, poverty and struggle, diabetes and now the loss of her sight and independence. Her optimism, humor, and insight into a life history that I can never intimately know sometimes boggle my mind (and as a historian, make me very jealous indeed!) When she dies, all of her knowledge will be gone except for the residue that lives on in the minds of her friends and family. No matter how much we try, much of her knowledge will be lost to the world forever. When I fail to remember the individual worth of all people, I also lose a great deal of wisdom and friendship as I shut people out of my social sphere for being ‘too preachy, too snotty, or too mean/grumpy/judgmental.’ The cost of this wisdom is even more profound as I will never know what I have lost.
In our society we write books to glorify or familiarize ourselves with people that we as a society have deemed important. However, books are rarely written about the farmer who provides your food to your local coop, the bishop or preacher in your church who sacrifices his time to help you and others, or the homeless man who sits on the corner with his sign asking for food or work. Yet living with these individuals has taught me more about humanity, ecstasy, caring, and humility than any book could ever hope to achieve. I believe that to change to course to our world we need only believe one thing- that everyone has something to teach us… and all people are beautiful and of infinite worth to God and to humanity.
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