“A Few More Thoughts on Our First UU Principle”
OR “The Dorothys in Our Lives”
Starting in August, I began a series of sermons on our eight UU principles. Although I already gave my sermon on the first one (“[we covenant to affirm and support] the inherent worth and dignity of every person”), I have since that time had a few new reflections on the subject. Here’s one of them:
I find it a lot easier to honor the inherent worth and dignity of the people I know and care about, than the people who just “show up” in my life. And it’s not that I actually dishonor people (because I usually don’t), but I tend to ignore the ones who aren’t important to my plans. Like the person talking to himself as he waits for the bus. The woman I hear at the grocery store using incorrect English. The disabled person at the restaurant wiping down tables. The people in the bar watching a football game on TV and going crazy. The person who waits on me at the check-out stand or sits across the aisle at the airport.
It’s not that I consciously dishonor their worth and dignity–I just don’t notice them at all! But I read something interesting a while ago. It was about a nurse named JoAnn Jones. She wrote about her years in nursing school, and said that in her second month her professor gave her class a pop quiz. Well, she breezed through most of the questions, but the last one stumped her. It was: “What is the first name of the woman who cleans this school?” She didn’t know the answer.
One of the students asked if that last question would actually count towards the quiz grade, and the professor said, “Absolutely. In your careers you’ll meet many people, all of them significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you can do is smile and say hello.”
This was an example JoAnn never forgot, and she learned the cleaning woman’s name: Dorothy.
I’m kind of like JoAnn Jones. I’m busy with “important” things, and I don’t always notice the people that I see along the way, unless they can help me do those important things. In that way, they’re like scenery in a play, or background action–not important to the plot. Imagine my chagrin if, at the end of my life, I discover that they were the story–and I missed it!
Like I said, just a couple more reflections on our first UU principle–with, of course, a measure of
peace and unrest,
tony (and Dorothy)