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Remembering Who We Are

 

Flickr Image by: Fabio Sola Penna

It has occurred to me with unusual clarity, over the past month or so, that we really do not have a firm grasp of how to treat people with respect.

People...ALL people...are made in the image and likeness of God. That means people we like and people we don't like. People we've met and those we have not. People who pray like us and people who don't pray like us...or who don't pray at all.

That is a difficult concept to bend a head around. Perhaps it isn't really even possible. But we are supposed to try.

Just six months ago I was hired by a major pharmacy chain. I'd been out of my field for 15 years, so I was interested in polishing up my skills. I have a disability and required some accommodations. I was very honest about this at all stages of my hiring process. They agreed to everything and added a few other ideas. It became quickly apparent that they were either unwilling or unable to follow through on any of these. I was scheduled for too many hours. The store was too busy for me to receive much training. Then, I stopped being scheduled, with no real explanation as to why or when I'd be back on the schedule.

I am fortunate that I was not relying on this position to eat or to house myself or my family. It was paying minimum wage, even though I had a college certificate. And they won't lay me off.

When I started working there, I was told by someone who should know better that “We just can't keep staff!” I doubt they'd be open to suggestions as to why that might be.

Ask a seamstress...a skilled labourer...how much she makes per hour.

There is a famous chain of coffee shops, where a couple of my daughters have worked. Another labour mill. One of my girls lasted 6 months there, and she was practically a veteran. And then there are call centres...

My youngest daughter was ejected from a home in Ireland where she'd been working as an au pair. After several months of work in an unhappy household, it was announced to her that she wasn't earning her keep, although the children loved her. She would have to leave. She was told this one day before she was to leave to come home for holidays. A young woman in a foreign country, and they couldn't keep her for one more day. And they didn't pay her her last week's wages.

We have a medical system in Ontario that, in the main, seems far more interested in numbers than people. “This treatment is far more cost effective than that treatment”....with no mention of effectiveness. In the particular case I have in mind it's irrelevant anyway. The default treatment (antidepressants), is neither effective nor inexpensive, but it's excellent at covering up symptoms.

The latest refugee crisis is another example of lack of respect on SO many levels. Refugees are people in the image and likeness of God. Even the Muslims. Do we just leave them to rot in refugee camps? Would a terrorist actually hang out for years in a refugee camp?

Sure. Screen them. Don't rush the process. Actually no need to rush, as the process had already been started for many people some time ago. Before the election, even.

Remember other refugee crises? I remember the South Asians expelled from Uganda. I remember Vietnamese and Cambodian “boat people”. I've had friends from among both groups. I don't recall any becoming anything but citizens.

I recall how fearful people were when these groups started showing up. Was it warranted?

My own ethnic background is Irish and Ukrainian. I'm not positive that any of my forebears would have qualified as refugees, although it's not impossible. One family squeaked into Canada less than three months before the start of WWI. Neither group has been without its experience with genocide. The Irish have also been subject to prejudice in North America. And Ukrainians have been interned.

So have we learned anything about this in the past 100 years? It doesn't seem so. Prejudice still abounds, even when couched in terms such as “security”, or “terrorism”, or “economics”. Disrespect that showed it self so eloquently during the industrial revolution in sweat shops is still present with many minimum wage employers, who meet only the required levels of decency towards their employees.

People need to remember that we are images of God. All of us. It is hard to mistreat someone, when you recall this. Respect seems to be an easier thing to master.

We need to try it more often.