Treating People as People

Last weekend, I went to a talk about human trafficking to learn more about what it is. I’d be happy to share more in person or over the phone if you’re interested in hearing more. But, what I wanted to talk about was one of the three ways the speaker said to combat this global problem. It was to do your best to treat people as people.

Valuing people and making that a normal part of who you are is important for lots of reasons but I don’t think I ever thought about it before and as the week has progressed on, it’s stuck in my mind. Part of the reason I started this blog was to cultivate gratitude and that sense of thankfulness. I really do think that even just by writing down some of these things, I have learned to be a more grateful person or at least to more proactively and outwardly express my gratitude.

That’s all to say, I thought I should share my preliminary thoughts on this.

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Human trafficking is, in essence, the buying and selling of persons. When your culture, your country, your world, or even you personally can stomach the fact that some or all people are a commodity, that feeds into making human trafficking grow.

I spend most of my days as a physician supposedly ‘preserving and amplifying life’… so I thought that I didn’t have this problem. Some examples the speaker gave though were — think about how you treat the person who bags your groceries/checks you out of the grocery store. Do you look them in the eye? every time? What about a server at a restaurant? What about when you see a homeless person or someone asking for money on the street? What do you think in your head or do with your actions that may not reflect that they too are a person?

As with any change you want to make in your life, you can’t do it in one fell swoop. You probably won’t be able to change your interaction with every single human in order to show them they have value to you — this involves (unfortunately) money, time, and other resources that may be limited. You most likely can’t change your culture, country and definitely not the whole entire world — but you can change you. You can start to think about what you do in your life that may be seen as devaluing the life of another and you can work on how to remedy that. It could just be a change in your thought life, not necessarily an action.

For me, this plays out in the slightly more simple things like making sure I learn the name of my shuttle driver and looking at him/her when I use their services every day and saying ‘thank you’ and things like being patient with people in the service industry … but it also plays out in the infinitely more complicated things like respecting the value in people who may have different motives and cultural background to me both in patients who may make decisions that are counter to what I would make or in respecting the value in people that are making decisions for their family based on their idea of what is good (I find this especially hard when people are motivated by fame or fortune — which is not exactly the same as my ideals).

I think the idea that whatever is done to the least of these, is also done unto me (paraphrase of Matthew 25:40) is deeply embedded into me and this idea that we need to do our best to create a personal practice of seeing people as people deeply resonated with me. And by one person doing that joined together with more and more people doing that, perhaps we can change the world… and one day, the trafficking of human beings across borders, away from their home, into slavery, into sex workers, into laborers, into a door closed on an opportunity to live their own life… maybe that will end too.

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