Human beings are human beings. I feel like this is something that we shouldn’t need to be reminded of yet it seems that some people have forgotten. Humans are humans despite race, age, profession, socioeconomic status, or whatever else we use regularly to set people apart. One morning my freshman year I woke up early to work on some homework out in the communal lounge on my floor in the dorms. Rhonda, the woman who cleans our halls and bathrooms, came in a few minutes later wiping tears from her face. The first thing she said to me was, “It feels horrible to have people treat you like you are nothing more than gum on their shoe.”
After I inquired as to what had happened, she told me that she had moved all the items and cleaned the entire room for these girls who were moving out. They took plenty of time to hug and say goodbye to everyone around them, except Rhonda. They did not say goodbye, thank you, or even acknowledge Rhonda. She came up to our floor to gather herself but her feelings were deeply hurt. I took a few minutes away from my work to assure her that we appreciate her and love her for who she is and everything she does for us. Soon after, I gave her a hug and she left saying that she felt much better. It took mere minutes to remind someone that she is a human who is valued and appreciated. No one deserves to be treated as less because of how they make ends meet.
Another human I want to highlight is Anita. She was my crossing guard back in middle school which is how I recognized her again more recently while she was working at a gas station I frequent. Each time I went in, she made an effort to converse with me to the point that I began to look forward to seeing her whenever I went in to get gas. We would reminisce over the days when I was in middle school, talk about how college is going for me, she told me about her daughter; we became friends. Over winter break, I stopped by for gas and realized I never caught her name so I asked her and that was when she informed me that she would actually be moving but was having a going-away party at the beginning of summer if I wanted to attend. She gave me the details and I wrote them down immediately once I got back to my car but I had already left when I realized I had no way of contacting her if the plans were to change. I realized I simply had to remember the details, show up, and hope that she was there.
The day the party was scheduled to take place, I showed up to the pizza parlor to see balloons and a crowd around Anita. Little by little, I found out that most people attending knew her through her work as a crossing guard at a nearby elementary school or from the gas station as well. I had the privilege of meeting her daughter who I had heard so much about and everybody was there to celebrate their love for Anita. This instance reminded me of how far love and respect can go. If Rhonda was celebrated with this same love and respect, the actions of few wouldn’t have as much of an effect to make her feel reduced to gum on someone’s shoe.
We all are simply out here in the world trying to do the best that we can and no one is inherently superior or inferior to one another. We all have skin and bones and we all bleed red, regardless of whatever we show to the outside world. Everyone deserves basic respect and acknowledgement. The best part is that this takes almost no time at all. This could be as small as a smile or a “thank you.” We all need to take care of each other so start small and try to do little by little each day to acknowledge and respect the people that are around you, especially the ones who usually pass by unnoticed. This is a message for all the Rhondas and Anitas and Lexies and you. You are important. You are valued. You are appreciated. You are loved.