November marked National Family Caregivers month, Daylight Savings and Thanksgiving. A month to recognize and honor caregivers and, yes, to celebrate the dignity (value) with which caregivers deserve. It is also a month of expressing thanks and, as the days shorten, accepting and valuing the inward direction of thought and emotion that goes with this seasonal transition.
What does dignity have to do with the month of November? Well, to start, dignity means to be worthy of being treated with respect, to be treated as someone with value. When we truly understand this, treating others with respect and value moves to the forefront of our worth.
Feeling safe in the world, something that we talked about during the month of October, helps all of us to find common ground. We begin to recognize a shared identity and when we have common ground, we begin to understand dignity.
Is There Dignity in Nature?
Of course, I feel the need to weave the month’s focus with nature and ask the question, “Is there dignity in nature and common ground?” Living things, such as trees, vegetables and flowers, do not understand the worth of being treated with respect. After all, living things in the environment do not have feelings. I do believe, though, that we need to treat the environment with respect and as something of value.
Without nature, we would cease to exist. By treating nature and its components with respect and value, we begin to see a tree or flower from a different viewpoint. By engaging some or all of our five senses, we end up interacting differently, something jointly shared, a give and take, if you will.
Maya Angelou defined dignity as “a belief in oneself, that one is worthy of the best. Dignity really means that I deserve the best treatment I can receive. And that I have the responsibility to give the best treatment I can to other people.” When I read this, I think about caregivers and care receivers and the balance that has to occur for this best ‘treatment’ for each other to occur.
When We Give, We Receive
This brings me back to something I wrote a while ago about nature and caregiving. I believe the connection to nature and caregiving is profoundly defined within the context of dignity. “By recognizing the reciprocal relationship between self and nature, we recognize the dynamic of the caregiver and the care receiver. While we give, we are also receiving, we just have to be open to both, so that true connection can be abundant.”
Perhaps the mindset with dignity and best ‘treatment’ is the giving of ourselves. And also, the belief that while we are worthy of being treated with respect and as someone of value, it does not mean that we are in control of how others treat us. Bad and evil are always going to exist and it is our responsibility to set boundaries. It is up to us to pursue beyond the bad and evil and respond with peace, love and joy!
As we respect others in this positive way of being, we can be hopeful of helping others to feel worthwhile and begin to see a common ground. After all, we all breathe oxygen and put our pants on the same way, one leg at a time!