Inherent worth and dignity

It is always a wonderful day when we get to welcome a child among us. 

 

Every new child reminds us of the promise of life - of the miracle that is the emergence of a new person. How can there have been a time without Evelyn? How can she so beautifully combine the essence of each of her parents and yet be completely herself? What a wonder!

 

Each new child gives us new hope for tomorrow - that she in all her newness and purity will do even better for this world than we have done.

 

But most of all, when I see a small child like Evelyn, I am reminded of the immense worth of each person. From her, we can see life shine forth. Seeing babies, we cannot help but know that there is something in each person valuable beyond measure.

 

And that something is still there when we grow bigger. It doesn't disappear just because we learn to speak and walk and protect ourselves. It doesn't vanish because we've been disappointed or hurt or become angry at times.

 

This perception of universal human worth and dignity is at the core of what it means to be a Unitarian. It is also what sometimes makes it so hard to be a Unitarian or, for that matter, to be any person who is committed to increasing compassion, love, and understanding in the world.

 

As we look around, we see too many terrible things in this world. We see too many cruelties perpetrated by human beings - too much wickedness - we might even be tempted to call it evil. 

 

We can't read or see or hear the news without knowing that human beings have a tremendous potential for ill along with our potential for good.

 

And today especially, we become aware once again that each adult person was once a child like Evelyn. Each person is born with great potential for both good and ill. How we live into those possibilities depends in large part on what happens to us. We know that children who are nurtured - who grow in an environment of kindness and love and acceptance and safety and reassurance - have the greatest chance to become, in turn, people who create such environments - people who are caring, compassionate, generous, and loving.

 

And some of us grow hard and angry and sad. Some of us grow into hurtful people. But deep inside - hidden by scar tissue and walls built against pain - is the glow of life's sacred light. Deep inside is the same wonder that we see in each child.

 

Our challenge is to honour that light within each person no matter how hidden it has become. It is not easy. Putting aside those who do harm, we know that many among us are simply challenging. We're awkward. We can be difficult. We can get angry and defensive. The light can become all but impossible to see.

 

Can we remember that the light is there nonetheless? Can we pause long enough to listen and look for that childlike potential in each person? 

 

There is no promise that doing so will help. There is no promise that it will change things. Very often it will though. Honouring the light is the best way to strengthen it. 

 

We have probably all known times when looking for that best centre in another person brings it forward. Perhaps we remember the feeling of when someone else did exactly that for us and we could feel the light growing within.

 

For some people however, suffering and sorrow and pain have caused the light to be hidden in a way that makes it all but irretrievable. 

 

Our theme for this month at New Unity is "what are you going to do about it?" If you are prepared to make the leap to commit to treating everyone as thought they have such a light within - as though each and every person has inherent worth and dignity - what are you going to do about it?

 

For me, the call is never to give up on anyone - it is a commitment to look hard for that light - to act as though I can see it even when I cannot. Maybe - just maybe - the light will begin to emerge.

 

Friends, we journey together on this earth. We are the only companions we've got. It matters how we treat one another because we have the power to change one another.

 

We can neglect one another and bring out what is worst and most hurtful.

 

Or can love one another to bring out beauty and light.

 

Let us choose light. 

 

Let us choose love. 

 

Let us choose life.