Recognizing dignity

Michael is a homeless man, struggling to stay afloat in downtown Portland, Ore., but when we met him at St. Andre Bessette Parish, he was more than happy to chat with anyone and everyone who came his way.

Adam is a remarkably skilled basketball player, a quality bowler, and the most loyal Portland Pickles fan in the entire city. He does not let his intellectual disability hold him back from living a full life.

It is easy to say that two people in difficult circumstances have nothing to offer to society. Marginalized people like Michael and Adam are regularly treated as less than human; however, the greatest lesson that I learned from the Portland Immersion is that this mindset couldn’t be more wrong.

By spending time at the hospitality program at St. Andre Bessette Parish and at the L’Arche program for adults with intellectual disabilities, I formed authentic, loving relationships with the marginalized.

The root of the problem is that society often decides for itself who is worthy of basic human dignity and who isn’t. However, Michael, Adam, and all of the other people that society has pushed to the margins are just as human as any of the rest of us. They feel the same joy, experience the same struggles, deserve the same dignity, and desire the same relationships.